WYOMING, Mich. - Not many Little League All-Star softball teams get the opportunity to finish their seasons on a winning note.
The Gladstone Minor girls (age 9-10), however, accomplished that Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over Freeland in the state title contest.
"After our semifinal game (a 7-0 triumph over Grandville on Tuesday), we knew this would be the last time this group would play together," said Gladstone manager Rodney Schwartz. "I was very impressed with the way the girls were focused. We looked real good in warm-ups."
The Gladstone Minor (age 9-10) girls Little League All-Stars won the state title Wednesday, triumphing over Freeland 2-0.
The team includes: coaches, from left; Paul Trudeau, manager Rodney Schwartz (Manager) and Tim Belanger. Players, from left; Brittany Schwartz (kneeling), Andie Balenger, Tina Olson, Natalie Belanger, Jenna Rubick, Taylor Trudeau, Morgan Letteriello, Jacinda Lippens, Josephine Lippens, Maddie Ahlgren, Taelor Zeise (kneeling).
Winning pitcher Brittany Schwartz fired a one-hitter, allowing only a leadoff single to Leigha Beyer in the sixth inning. She struck out eight, walked none and retired the final three hitters in the sixth.
"Brittany was hitting her spots again," said manager Schwartz. "She used a change-up a couple times and got a girl to ground out on one of those.
"There was a lot of celebrating after we got the final out. The kids kind of ran out on the field and started hugging each other. We were a lot more focused than we were in the last couple games. We hit little bit of a lull in the quarter and semifinal games. Today, we were ready to play ball."
Cat Palaga suffered the loss, despite also tossing a one-hitter. She fanned 12, walked two and hit a batter.
"She had a good change-up, too," said manager Schwartz. "She struck out two of our batters with that. She kept us off balance pretty good."
Brittany Schwartz, whose fourth-inning triple provided Gladstone with its first run, then scored on a wild pitch.
"That was pretty huge," said manager Schwartz. "At that point, we figured we justed needed to get six outs. With the way we had been playing defense and the way Brittany was pitching, we just head to keep our minds in the game. I think both managers knew this was going to be a 1-0, 2-0 or 3-1 type game."
Gladstone had a scoring chance in the first when Andie Belanger reached third base. The area girls, however, were unable to cash in.
Belanger then scored on Schwartz's triple in the fourth. The second-baseman also caught an infield pop-up to end the contest.
"The kids and parents really came together," said manager Schwartz. "This was a real enjoyable all-star season. I'm sure it was memorable for the kids, too. I think they saw that all the hard work and preparation paid off."
With the victory, Gladstone is the third Delta County Little League team to win a state title this season, following the titles won by the Delta County boys Junior (age 13-14) League All-Stars and Escanaba girls Junior League All-Stars.
A welcome home ceremony for the team will begin tonight at 7:30 at the Gladstone Sports Park.