A year ago the Olivehurst-Linda Little League softball all-stars fell short at the state tournament and never got to San Bernardino and the Western Regional tournament.
There were eight returning players off the 2018 state runner-up squad who all had one goal in mind entering this summer: Make it to Southern California.
Olivehurst-Linda not only advanced to San Bernardino, it was one game – and perhaps one rally short – of winning the West Regional title and advancing to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland. In the end, Olivehurst-Linda fell 2-1 to Honolulu, Hawaii, ending its run one game short.
“We had the bases loaded with one out in the (sixth inning) and we had a ground out to end the game,” Olivehurst-Linda manager Dan Martin said Friday, while heading back into town. “It was a well-played game by both teams. It was exciting and what a championship game should be.”
Olivehurst-Linda again relied on its ace in the circle, Hallie Prather on Friday. Pitching her fourth game in four days, Prather fired five innings of two-run, five-hit ball to keep Olivehurst-Linda within reach. At the plate, Prather broke up Jennalyn Sniffen’s no-hit bid with the first of the team’s two hits in the sixth-inning.
Prather’s hit was followed by another base hit from Alexa Carino, loading the bases with one out in the inning. Alauna Kelly came up and was hit by a pitch to score the first run that Hawaii had allowed all week in San Bernardino.
“It was nerve-racking,” catcher Morgan Heggstrom said. “(But) whatever the outcome our heads were held high. We were prepared for anything.”
Martin said the team’s perseverance was remarkable.
“That’s what it is all about,” he said. “I told them, ‘When you go back home you’re going to be rockstars.’”
The community completely backed Olivehurst-Linda throughout the summer, including a watch party set up Friday at Yuba Gardens School where most of the players attend. Friday morning the venue was full with community members proudly watching their Olivehurst-Linda all-stars.
Martin said the team hadn’t lost a game until San Bernardino, and was perhaps a hit short of continuing on to Portland.
Prather admitted her heart was racing at the start of the week, but when it slowed down, the game and everyone’s ability settled in extremely well.
“I went out and was myself on the mound,” Prather said.
Prather finished 5-1 in the circle with five complete-games.
“Can’t say enough about Hallie, the way she grinded the last four games is pretty impressive,” Martin said.
Prather said everyone was fantastic all weekend and she felt right at home with her teammates.
“I didn’t even miss my home that much,” Prather said.
In a few weeks when everyone is settled back home in Northern California, Heggstrom said the San Bernardino trip will still feel unbelievable.
“It’s going to be the best feeling in the world,” Heggstrom said.