PILOT ROCK — In Little League softball, where teams are as likely to score on a wild pitch as they are off the bat of a hitter, an accurate pitcher can make all the difference. For the Pendleton 9/10-year-old all-stars Wednesday, that difference maker was Katie Bradt.
Bradt lived on the corners of the strike zone against Milton-Freewater in the championship game of the District 3 Tournament in Pilot Rock, striking out 13 batters and guiding Pendleton to a 12-1 victory. She finished the game with a three-hitter and didn’t allow a run until the final inning.
Bradt’s precision pitching started early, but not after the big game rattled her nerves momentarily. She plunked the first batter she faced in the game. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, Bradt took a deep breath.
“I had the jitters, a lot of people have them,” she said. “I just kind of cooled down out there and then we started scoring some runs.”
Pendleton put two runs on the board in the top of the second. One came on a wild pitch — the team would score seven times on wild pitches, errors or walks — and another on an RBI-single by Brooklynn Lunny.
When it was the defense’s turn to take the mound again, Bradt made their job easy for the next two-plus innings. She recorded the next seven outs herself via strikeout.
Milton-Freewater did have its chances in the early goings, though. The designated home team, which was eliminated with the loss, left runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings — twice on third base — with only one out. Despite Bradt’s dominance, Milton-Freewater only went down in order once in six innings.
“We still struggled hitting the ball,” Milton-Freewater manager L.G. Bullock said. “(The pitching) was good but it’s nothing we haven’t seen. We’ve just struggled this whole tournament.”
While Milton-Freewater was stranding runs on the base paths, Pendleton was slowly nudging the game into blowout territory. The Round-Up City girls added another run in the third inning and two more in the fourth before a seven-run payoff in the sixth.
“One of the things I tell the girls is we need to get runs every inning,” Pendleton manager Kelsey Garton said. “Then one of these innings we’ll explode and bust out.”
For the Pendleton offense, Bradt went 4 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs and Megan George batted 3 for 3 and added a walk. Kirah McGlothan and Aspen Garton had 2-for-3 outings, the former also walking twice.
Milton-Freewater’s best offensive effort came in the bottom of the sixth when leadoff batter Hailey Sheridan reached on a throwing error. On a ball back to the Bradt in the pitcher’s circle, she put a little too much behind her throw to first and overshot the first baseman. Sheridan would score on a double by Courtney Cain two batters later.
“We were up 12-0 so one score didn’t mean too much but I was kind of disappointed because I wanted to do my best,” Bradt said of the play. “And that definitely wasn’t my best.”
Pendleton’s next stop this summer is at the state Little League tournament in Enterprise next month. The District 3 champs it will compete alongside the winner’s of the state’s other eight districts for 9/10-year-olds.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.