ANDERSON — The Riverfield All-Stars and manager Seth Kelley have been down this road before.
After losing the team’s first game in the state tournament earlier this month, Riverfield ran the table en route to back-to-back state titles and another shot at the Central Region championship and a trip to the Little League Softball World Series.
A five-run lead wasn’t enough late in the team’s opening pool play game in the regional tournament against Appleton, Wis., on Saturday, losing 6-5 in extra innings.
Kelley’s team bounced back from the setback with a definitive 8-0 rout of Webb City, Mo., on Sunday.
Today, Riverfield faces an undefeated team from North Ottowa, Mich., that has outscored its opponents by 20 combined runs in its first two victories.
A win today wouldn’t secure Riverfield a spot in the semifinals to be played Thursday. A loss, though, wouldn’t take a berth in the semis out of Riverfield’s hands.
Kelley said he hasn’t quite communicated the gravity of this afternoon’s game against North Ottowa because he’s seen how Riverfield has performed in the past under loads of pressure. In the first round of state, his team lost 9-7 to South Bend Southeast, a game he said Riverfield shouldn’t have struggled to win.
“I don’t want to put a bunch of pressure on them, unneeded pressure, and then they go into the game and feel tight and don’t play the game they can play,” Kelley said. “I don’t think Michigan is that much better than us, and I don’t think we’re that much better than them.
“You’ve got to play like it’s just another game, and that’s hard to do, but that’s what you’ve got to tell them.”