MISSOULA – The Zootown stars dominated the Senior Softball West Regional Tournament, out-scoring their opponents 97-12 through seven straight wins. But their red hot bats could only produce one run in the game that mattered the most.
The Hawaii state champs shut down the home team on their way to a 2-1 victory in the championship. The win moves the team from Hilo into the Senior Softball World Series in Lower Sussex, Delaware next week, and it ends a streak of four straight World Series appearances for the Garden City Little League U16 squad.
Hawaii’s Shaylann Grace was the difference in the tight game. The pitcher allowed only five hits in the game, and only three hits after the first inning. She fielded a grounder off the bat of Amy Taylor and threw to first base for the final out in the seventh, stranding the tying run on second base.
Zootown looked ready for another big performance to start the game in front of a large crowd at the Dale Clawson Complex. Grace hit the first batter in the bottom of the first, and Shelby Dunwell followed with a bunt single. Addy Gaub later added an RBI single to put Zootown on the board, but it was the only run that crossed the plate against Grace.
Hawaii did all of its offensive damage in the fourth inning, with a little help from a few miscues. Zootown fielders dropped a couple potential outs in the frame.
With runners on second and third and no one out, Grace accidentally made contact with a check swing. The soft chopper to second turned into an RBI ground-out, tying the game. The next batter, Leiloa Bustamante, doubled on a ground ball that bounced off the third base bag and into left field, scoring the game’s final run.
The loss overshadowed a great start from Zootown pitcher McKenna Bessette. She struck out nine batters, while only giving up three hits and a single earned run over seven innings.
Zootown defeated Hawaii 5-2 in the first game of pool play on Friday, the only time before the championship that the Garden City girls scored fewer than 10 runs in the tournament.