Midway’s rally girls show up again, clinch first World Series trip since 2011 | Local

For probably as long as they can remember, the girls on Midway’s major softball all-stars have heard tales of the glory years of the Midway Little League program.

Now they can tell their own stories of cluster.

Midway made a bit of history of its own with a dramatic, 6-4 come-from-behind win over Louisiana in the Southwestern Regional championship game on Wednesday at the George W. Bush Little League Training Center. The win clinches the proud Midway’s program first World Series appearance since 2011, as it tries for its 12th all-time title and first since 2004. This is also the first World Series trip for a Waco-area squad since Lake Air won it all in 2017.

Next up: The Midway girls will travel to Greenville, NC, for that World Series event, which is slated for Aug. 9-15.

“Definitely a proud moment for me, the community, for these girls, to get back where it needs to be,” Midway manager Edward Ramos said. “Midway is definitely in good hands, from what I see, even from the younger groups. It’s exciting.”

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Generally, climbing out of the always-tenacious Southwestern Regional delivers a perilous enough journey. This year proved no different. Midway lost to Louisiana in its first game on Tuesday, and then needed a sixth-inning rally to fend off elimination later that night against the Texas East champion, Needville Little League.

Getting another crack at Louisiana in the title tilt was exactly what the Midway players wanted. But those visitors from Eastbank Little League in Kenner, La., came out snapping like a swamp gator. Louisiana pushed to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning. The first two batters of the game, Charlotte Strassel and Mya Thompson, produced a walk and a single, respectively, off Midway pitcher Zaneria “Z” Hughes. Louisiana kept the pressure on by scoring on a fielder’s choice grounder and a pair of well-executed bunts.

Down three runs to a formidable foe in such a pressure-packed game could’ve caused many teams to wilt, especially amid the oppressive Central Texas heat. But these 10 to 12-year-olds from Midway showed an uncommon maturity.

“Yesterday kind of set the tone for today,” Ramos said. “We fell down with our first loss in that first game, and the second game figuring out a way to win one at the end, I think that’s what set in today, to (help us) not get rattled.”

Midway rallied to tie with a three-run second inning. Kaitlyn Lowe jump-started the offense with a leadoff walk off Louisiana pitcher Jolie Lozano. Clara Becknauld followed with a single and then Kyndal Brown drew a walk to load the bases.

Raelyn Degeer plated Midway’s first run of the game on a fielder’s choice grounder. Then Rylee Little displayed her heavy mettle in the clutch when she smacked and RBI single to chase home Becknauld. Midway added its third run of the inning on a Louisiana error.

The score stayed tied until the bottom of the fourth. Midway’s batters seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed, and pinch hitter Hayden Rios continued that trend by belting a key leadoff double. Two batters later, Little came up big again, tagging a double into left that scored a pair of runs. Midway made it 6-3 later in the inning on a Hughes RBI single to center.

“I feel like we hit better, because we’d seen their pitcher before, and we just wanted to go (to the World Series) super badly,” Little said. “So we worked hard, and we won.”

The work wasn’t quite complete yet. Louisiana whittled the gap to 6-4 in the fifth when Thompson led off with an infield single and later scurried home to score on a groundout from Lozano.

Ramos said he knew Louisiana wouldn’t go down without a fight, and added that he wouldn’t be surprised if his black beard starts sprouting a few more gray hairs by tomorrow. But he and his two assistant coaches tried to maintain a semblance of calm in the dugout, even as the score tightened.

“I was just trying to do my part to keep it together, too,” Ramos said. “The lows and the highs of that game, I didn’t want them to see anything from me that they didn’t want to see. I just wanted to stay positive, me and the other two coaches, just try to let them feed off of us. That was our goal going into this game. Let’s not get rattled, let’s stay in it from start to finish.”

Even while everyone was sweating (it’s hot, if you haven’t heard), Midway stayed oh-so-cool, despite Louisiana putting the tying run on base in the sixth. With two outs and two runners on, Midway’s gritty pitcher Hughes induced a come-backer from Louisiana’s Strassel. Hughes calmly fielded the ball and fired to first for the winning out, and the celebration was on.

“I was down there saying prayers,” Ramos said. “But I know what Z brings to the table. She’s a tough pitcher. And I know what defense we put behind her. I just wanted her to trust herself and give us a chance, pound the strike zone and trust your defense. That was the message.”

Added Little, “I was happy and I was excited for Z, our pitcher. And I was just super excited to get that final out.”

Little was definitely Midway’s hitting hero in this one, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs out of the leadoff spot. In the circle, Hughes limited Louisiana to only three hits over her six-inning stint, striking out four while walking two.

After the final out, Midway’s players found a second wind and started jumping around like they had energy to burn, enjoying their celebration. Ramos said he wants them to keep that mindset for a little while, before flipping the page and getting back to work.

After all, the World Series starts.

“Like I told the girls in the huddle, seize the moment. Go enjoy it,” Ramos said. “This is something you can always look back and reflect on and share with your family. They can’t take it away from us.

“Definitely going to enjoy this, and then lock back in. Lock back in to make a run. We’re not going just to go, we’re going to go compete. This is a good group, and we’ve had some good battle-tested wins as of the last few days, so we’re ready.”

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