“I expected Illinois would rally back. I knew two runs wouldn’t be enough to win the game. I thought if you could punch in five or six runs, maybe you could hold them off and beat them.”
As it turns out, even three or four more runs wouldn’t have been enough for Riverfield.
Neither team got much momentum going in the second inning, and Freeport started rolling in the third, scoring with each of its first two batters, but Duncan got out of the inning without further damage.
After the team’s quick start in the first, though, Riverfield went the next four innings getting just one runner on base in each inning, unable to build on the team’s early lead.
And then disaster struck.
In the fifth inning, after Duncan surrendered two early base runners, she managed to get the next two to pop out. Freeport pitcher Tia Clark came up to the plate and hit a hard roller at the Riverfield second baseman, who couldn’t handle it, and Freeport’s first run of four jogged in. The Illinois state champions scored three runs off the next two batters to take a threatening 6-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, where Riverfield stranded Settles on base after an early double.
Freeport came back and got five straight batters on base off a flustered Duncan, and the runs kept piling on, with sacrifice flies scoring two final runs to leave Riverfield with a 10-2 deficit to make up in the final half-inning.
Although Kelley’s squad made up two runs in the top of the sixth Tuesday against North Ottowa, only to give up the winning run in the bottom of the inning, Freeport had already discouraged Riverfield too much.
Three batters went to the plate, and all three made contact, but all three were thrown out to end the inning, the game and the players’ Little League World Series bid.