No. 4: Poland 12-year-old softball team competes in LLWS

Top Athlete: Erin Gabriel

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Athlete of the Year: Erin Gabriel

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“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

That’s how 12-year-old Poland softball player Abby Masluk described her team’s August trip to Portland, Ore., for the Little League World Series.

Poland’s 11-12-year-old softball team earned the trip — the first for a Mahoning Valley team of that age — by sweeping the Ohio tournament then going to Cathage, Mo., to win Little League’s Central Region tournament by triumphing in all six of their games.

Also on the team were Ally Deemer, Claire Testa, Dani Rutana, Maddie Rowe, Kat Wilson, Jenna Schettler, Megan Marsico, Aleah Hughes, Arlia Duarte, Kristyn Svetlak and Cara Kalouris,

Chuck Masluk was the head coach and Dave Marscio was his top assistant.

In Oregon, Poland went 3-1 in pool play to qualify for the World Series semifinals. Their wins were against Texas (5-4), Puerto Rico (7-4) and Canada (7-1). Poland lost to California, 1-0.

In the semifinal game televised on ESPN2, Poland faced off against defending champion Georgia (Warner Robins) and lost, 1-0. Georgia’s pitcher Avery Lamb struck out 12 and limited Poland to one hit, knocking Poland to the consolation game on the final day of the tournament.

For Poland players and their families, it was quite a ride that lasted most of the summer.

“Our goal coming in was to make the final four and we did that,” Chuck Masluk said of the World Series. “We can’t even put into words how proud we are of these girls. I was pretty pleased with the way our team played.”

On the tournament’s final day, Poland played Oregon in the third-place game and fell, 5-4.

“Losing this consolation game is pretty insignificant when you put it next to the run we made this year and all the amazing things this group accomplished,” Marsico said.

Georgia defeated California in the title game, which shows just how close Poland came to finishing on top.

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