PORTLAND, Ore. - With the national television cameras rolling, Sunnyside Little League left no doubt Wednesday as to which team deserved to be crowned the champion at the Little League Softball World Series.
Sunnyside scratched and clawed its way to an early lead, then broke out the big bats in the fourth inning of a 9-0 win over McLean, Va., in the championship game at Portland's Alpenrose Stadium.
With a boisterous rooting section down the third base line and countless other fans following from home on ESPN2, Sunnyside became the first team from Arizona to take home the 12-and-under softball title. No team from the West Region had won since 1990.
After four one-run games to start the tournament - including a loss in its opening game - Sunnyside let it fly in the semifinal and final, outscoring Puerto Rico and Virginia 19-0.
"It took a while in the tournament to really get our bats going, but we really did the last two games," manager Manny Tapia said. "Tonight, I told the girls to just go out and play like it was any other game, and do what they do best."
Pitcher Jazmine Ayala, whose father and coach, Rene, won the Junior League baseball World Series as a player in 1992, gave up just two hits in pitching a complete game.
"We showed a lot of heart out here," said Ayala. "I knew we could do it if we just stayed together as a team and got some momentum."
Ayala struck out five, leaving it to her teammates to make a number of difficult plays in the field. Sunnyside made no errors in its last two games.
"They got down and dirty behind me, and I appreciate what they did," Ayala said.
In the fourth inning, Sunnyside turned a relatively close 3-0 game into a 9-0 rout. Alexis Anderson's two-run double got the ball rolling, followed by Yannira Acuña's run-scoring triple and back-to-back doubles by Ayala and Arlett Arreola.
Acuña led off in the bottom of the first with a perfect bunt single, followed by a walk and an error to load the bases. Arreola hit a sacrifice fly to right to give Sunnyside an early 1-0 lead. Viviana Orantez scored later in the inning on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
The lead became 3-0 in the third when Orantez scored from third on an errant return throw to Virginia pitcher Rachel Remer.
Sunnyside dedicated the last three games to injured outfielder Destyni Payan, who was hurt during Sunday's game and had to sit out the rest of the tournament. Payan was in uniform for the final, though, cheering her team on from the dugout in her No. 10 jersey.
The entire experience left Tapia overwhelmed as the teams gathered on the field for the closing ceremony. The World Series is held on the grounds of a family-owned dairy in the hills southwest of downtown Portland.
"The crew did such a great job here," Tapia said. "They treated us just like we were at home."