At the highest levels, pitching dominates the sport of fast-pitch softball. Pawcatuck learned this the hard way in Game Three of the Senior Little League World Series Wednesday in Sussex County, Del.
The team that rolled to a 77-1 run margin in the State Tournament and a series of blowouts in most East Regional games ran into a sizzling pitcher from Manaubo, Puerto Rico. Joceluyn De Leon pitched a no-hitter and struck out 10 to lead the Latin American champ to a 3-0 win over Pawcatuck.
The loss eliminated Pawcatuck (1-2) from advancing to Friday's semifinals. Latin American and host Delaware are both 3-0 and can finish no worse than 3-1 in Pool A. Pawcatuck completes pool play 5:30 Thursday against the Southwest champ from El Campo, Tex. A consolation round game will be played Friday.
De Leon and Pawcatuck's Andrea Chiaradio engaged in a classic pitchers' duel for six innings. Latin America (3-0) scored a run in the first but could not gain a comfortable edge until scoring two in the seventh.
Pawcatuck coach Bob Headley was impressed with the Latin American team's speed and defense as much as he was with De Leon.
"She had great control, but it wasn't like she was unhittable," Headley said. "We've faced faster pitchers during travel ball, but we just didn't hit today. We got underneath the ball or on top of it. She was much better than we've seen in many all-star games, though. I don't think we had a runner get past first base."
Latin America broke it open with two in the seventh. Dayanira Figueroa tripled and scored on Quetsy Rodriguez's bunt. After a walk, Dayanira Diaz singled to make it, 3-0.
De Leon struck out the first two batters in the seventh before Katie Headley, the hero of Pawcatuck's win Monday with a grand slam homer, flew out to center to end the game.
"Andrea pitched a five-hitter, which is good enough to win," Headley said. "It just wasn't our day at the plate. We're not going to make the semifinals, but we want to finish strong and end what has been a terrific run on a high note."