After a successful regular season, a group of softball players in Cottage Grove aren’t done yet. A group of nine, 10-and 11-year-old girls make up the District 7 Little League All-Star team that will be competing at this weekend’s state tournament in Portland.
“They’re all excited and ready to go. They’re all working their butts off out here, it’s crazy,” said head coach Nicole Rook. “I’ve seen more effort out of some of the girls now then I saw all season long and it was like, where did you come from? It’s been great. They’re totally stoked.”
Rook coached one of the South Valley Little League AAA (ages nine to 12) softball teams this past season. One of two softball teams in this division in Cottage Grove, the team also played against the three East Lane teams. Rook’s team took second in the five-team league.
After the season concluded, the two Cottage Grove AAA teams paired with the local majors team (ages ten and up) to create an all-star team. While Rook wishes there were more girls playing, the small numbers made for an easy selection process.
“Honestly, most of the girls that showed up for tryouts made the team,” she said. “Had we had more than 14 girls that came out, I’m only allowed to roster 14, we would have had to, unfortunately, make some cuts. It was nice, I didn’t have to pick anyone.”
With her team intact, the South Valley squad had a three-game series against the East Lane all-stars for a spot at the state tournament.
“It was kind of bittersweet to me and my coaches and my team because we had actually lost to that coach and that team in the championship game so then we came back and we kicked their butt the first three games and ended up taking it,” said Rook.
In a tournament that stretches from Thursday to Sunday, the team will be one of five teams battling for a state title.
While the number of teams playing is small, Rook hopes that as her team continues to find success that they can grow the game of softball in town.
“It definitely would be nice to see more girls come out and get more interest in it. It is growing, I think the more that we win and they see it,” she said. “It brings more interest and fun to it. So, I mean, and most of the girls come back for numerous years. Once they play they keep coming.”