For Bend North softball fans watching the nearly half-hour review process, Thursday night’s Little League World Series Northwest Regional semifinal seemed like a twisted version of déjà vu.
The scenario: The Bend North Majors All-Star softball team in a win-or-go home game in San Bernardino against the team representing Washington. And the game hinges on a controversial call.
It was a repeat of the same situation from last summer — same venue, same opponent — but that one involved the Bend North baseball team.
The coach of that baseball team, Brett Hartlaub, was one of the fans watching from home Thursday night.
“I think all coaches I’m speaking for, when you when you call the appeal, you’re very confident,” he said.
In the final inning Thursday, Bend North brought home the tying run with two outs.
“We thought ‘okay, no problem, we’re going to go to extra innings,’” Hartlaub said. “Then the long pause came. Uh-oh.”
That pause was the review to determine whether the tying runner, Claire Phillips, actually touched third as she was coming home. If she didn’t and was called out, the game would be over and Washington would win.
“The longest review I’ve ever seen, even worse than our review last year,” Hartlaub said.
After Washington threw the ball to third on appeal, the umpires ruled Phillips missed the bag.
“They called her out, and that made absolutely no sense,” said Hartlaub.
Game over — for the moment.
“That brought me right back (to last year),” he said. “When they went to that I started cleaning up dinner, I had to move around the room, I couldn’t be still.”
Bend North softball head coach Kevin Guiney said it felt all too familiar when the review came in.
“Could be the second year in a row that Bend North’s possibly eliminated on a very questionable call that is completely out of our hands,” Guiney said.
But Guiney had one challenge left. He used to review the call. He got it overturned.
“Ultimately, they got the call right,” he said. “Awesome for our young ladies.”
Bend North was still alive — tie game, two outs in the bottom of the 6th.
How would both teams respond to the long layoff? Guiney said he reminded the next batter, Maddie Switzer, to be patient.
“Because this pitcher has a ton a pressure on her, too, and she hasn’t pitched in a half-an-hour,” Guiney said.
Patient, she was. Switzer walked. Then Sylvie Seaton hit a ball up the middle. It went off the glove of the second baseman and into shallow centerfield. Switzer advanced to third.
The ball was thrown back to the pitcher who then tried to get Seaton out as she was advancing toward second. The ball went back into centerfield. Switzer came in to score the game-winner.
Bend North plays Montana Friday night for the regional title. The winner goes to North Carolina for the World Series.
Hartlaub texted Guiney Friday morning, saying he was grateful the girls got their chance. He also wants to send a message directly to the dugout in San Bernadino.
“Just want to tell the ladies if they’re watching what a great job that they’re doing,” he said. “We’re all supporting you back here in Bend, keep it going, play your best, and glad they got it right for you girls last night.”