The team from Laurel, Del., has been a very ungracious host to the Pawcatuck All-Stars in the Senior Little League World Series. On the field, that is.
In the 2007 Series at Lower Sussex, Del., Laurel routed Pawcatuck in the Series opener, 9-2. Sunday, Laurel beat the locals in 2011 Series opener, 8-5. Delaware’s District III winner gets an automatic bid to the Series every year, but apparently the host team deserves to be there.
“Laurel was a very good team, and we were down a bit,” Pawcatuck coach Bob Headley said. “We weren’t really ready for whatever reason. The heat index was 103 and we lost a girl to dehydration. You tell the girls to drink but then they leave the water bottle alone. We have to do a better job staying hydrated because the heat index is supposed to be higher tomorrow.”
Pawcatuck largely dominated competition en route to a 12-1 record in District, State and East Region tournaments. Against Laurel, Pawcatuck found itself in the rare position of being down early.
Pawcatuck, the road team, scored two in the first when Andrea Chiaradio walked and moved to third on Ally Curioso's single. Curioso stole second, and Gabi Hoops followed with a two-run single.
The lead wilted in the Delaware heat. Chiaradio, nearly unhittable throughout the tournament, walked the first batter and hit the second. Laurel followed with a double and three singles for the 4-2 lead. It could have been worse if not for Pawcatuck catcher Katie Headley throwing out two runners trying to steal.
“Putting two runners on right off the bat was a tough way to start the game,” coach Headley said. “Then Andrea got hit hard which hasn’t happened to us. To our credit, though, we got right back in the game.”
Pawcatuck took a brief 5-4 lead with three in the second. Jackie Paride singled and Roslin Wilhelm reached on an error. Chiaradio’s RBI single and sacrifice flies by Curioso and Katie Headley accounted for the runs.
Delaware took the lead for good with two in the fifth off Pawcatuck reliever Summer Cipriani, scoring once on a wild pitch, and added an insurance run in the sixth for the 8-5 spread. Julie Wanstall's single loaded the bases for Pawcatuck in the seventh, but two strikeouts ended the game with the tying runs on base.
It was a long first day for Pawcatuck. All 10 World Series teams were introduced in a hour-long opening ceremony before the first games at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
"The opening ceremony was amazing even though the teams were standing in the humid, hot weather," Headley said. "We played the first game right after the ceremony, so the girls were out there in the heat for a while. I know it was the same for the other team, but maybe they’re used to this heat being down here.”
Continuing Pool A play, Pawcatuck meets Emelia, Italy at noon. Monday before taking a day off Tuesday. The European-Middle East champ is historically one of the World Series' weaker teams. The Southwest champ from El Campo, Tex., beat Emelia, 5-1, Sunday.
A 3-1 record will likely be needed in Pool A to advance to Friday's semifinals. Pawcatuck was 2-2 in 2007 to finish third in its pool, missing the semifinals. Thus, Sunday's loss essentially makes this a single-elimination tournament the rest of the way in terms of Pawcatuck entertaining World Series title hopes.
"The girls will be okay,” Headley said. “Our spirits are still pretty high and we have confidence we can win tomorrow."