Chesterfield Little League’s 12U All-Star softball team saw its summer-long, improbable journey end in a 9-1 loss to a team from Oklahoma in Wednesday’s Little League Softball World Series championship game in Greenville, N.C.
Though the championship game didn’t play out as Chesterfield had hoped, coach Bill Fiege could be heard mic’d up on the ESPN broadcast, sharing constant messages of encouragement with his players. Fiege said those messages of positivity were consistent with what he told his team after the game.
“We won our district, we won the state championship, the Southeast Regional, and then we came in second in the country, that’s pretty sensational,” he said. “We didn’t have our best game tonight, we played a juggernaut.”
Chesterfield jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Savannah Wright stole second, then third and scored on an errant throw. Fiege pumped his fist as he hopped down the baseline alongside Wright, willing her on.
The Chesterfield families and supporters in attendance erupted as it seemed the team representing Virginia and the country’s Southeast Region had carried the momentum from its 7-5, comeback win over Texas in the semifinal into the title game.
But Oklahoma’s relentless lineup turned the tables with five runs in the bottom of the second, then built a sizable lead with three more runs in the fourth.
Fiege talked to his team after the game about the “once in a lifetime” experience they all shared this summer.
“You had this experience, the 13 of you together, learn from it, grow from it and take it into your school years, your high school career and the life lessons you learn by having this type of experience,” Fiege told his team. “You had an incredible run, you should be proud of yourselves.”
Before the top of the fourth inning, Chesterfield players ate green “magic grapes,” their secret rally snack that has propelled many a scoring run this summer.
Center fielder Erika Fiege made a running catch in the left-center gap to save what might have been the game-ending runs with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Fiege also pitched in the game, as did starter Jenna Keefer and reliever Kaylee Hodges. Oklahoma recorded 16 hits. Kaylie Mitchell led Chesterfield with a pair of base hits. Wright added a hit and walk. Taylan Starr led Oklahoma with four hits, and Zoie Griffin earned the win in the circle.
Chesterfield advanced to the championship game by winning its pool, beating Missouri and Arizona, both by 4-1 scores to open the tournament. A 4-2 loss to Texas was followed by a victory by forfeit from New York, which had a positive COVID-19 case and couldn’t play.
Virginia blanked New Jersey 1-0 in its first elimination game, then mounted a comeback with a six-run fourth inning that highlighted the semifinal win over Texas.
During one visit to the circle Wednesday, Fiege told his daughter, Erika, who was pitching at the time, to be sure to make the game fun, and that he loved her.
“It’s first or second in the country,” Fiege said of his team’s prospects as they played what, win or lose, would prove the final game of a storybook journey spanning a summer none of the girls from Chesterfield will soon forget.
“Either way, that’s pretty good.”
Fiege added that the “outpouring” of support from the Richmond community this summer has been “sensational.”
“The community rallied around these girls, and we’re just so appreciative of all the support,” Fiege said.