BRISTOL - Kaya Hannon continued her dominance on the mound and Ella McNeff picked up the game-deciding hit at the plate as Pennsylvania edged Rhode Island 3-2 to reach the Little League Softball Eastern Regional championship game Friday at noon.
It’s been an impressive week for Hannon on the mound. She’s allowed just four earned runs in 18 innings for Pennsylvania and has 29 strikeouts.
Confident in her ability nonetheless, it’s not her individual success that has the group from Tunkhannock Little League in the final game with a chance to go to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore.
“It’s just not just my success, it’s the whole team’s success,” Hannon said. “All of our wins are a team effort.”
At the top of the order, McNeff has been a mainstay for Pennsylvania and has driven in three of the 11 runs Pennsylvania has scored. The second and third of her total came against Rhode Island with a line drive single to center field that scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning.
“I struck out the at-bat before, so I was kind of nervous going up to bat, but once I hit the ball I was really excited,” McNeff said.
Rhode Island moves into the loser’s bracket final, with a win setting up a rematch with Pennsylvania in a winner-take-all contest.
The top of the lineup will need to bounce back after the top four hitters went 0-for-12 against Pennsylvania on Thursday, with six strikeouts.
Gabrielle Valletta, Arghennis Disla and Paige Cote combined for the five Rhode Island hits. Valletta and Disla each had a pair of hits and Cote drove in the only RBI of the game for Rhode Island.
While Rhode Island didn’t get much off Hannon, the pitcher knows any of the remaining teams present her with a challenge.
“They’re all strong teams and they all have strong lineups,” Hannon said. “They’re good fielders and they have good pitchers.”
Cali Wisnosky, Sydney Huff and Hannah James all had hits for Pennsylvania.
James has gone 4-for-6 in the three games as the No. 9 hitter.
The bottom three spots of the order have combined for seven hits in the tournament for Pennsylvania, something that has helped them reach this point.
“People have asked us that question time and time again,” Pennsylvania coach Timothy Hannon said. “We have nine solid hitters. We could mix them up and put them anywhere in the order we want and I’d be just as confident. I don’t refer to them as the bottom of the lineup, because some refer to that as the weaker part of the lineup and I don’t feel like we have a weaker part.”