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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
It would be easy to consider the Tallmadge age 12-and-younger All-Star team's run to the 2014 World Series as a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for the community.
But the 2016 team sure came close to making lightning strike in the same place twice.
The Tallmadge Little League Major Division All-Star team's stellar season came to an end after falling to Grandville, Mich., 4-2 in the quarterfinal round of the Little League Central Tournament, which concluded July 29 in Indianapolis.
That same Michigan squad ended up winning the tournament and advanced to the Little League World Series, which is scheduled to take place Aug. 11 through 17 in Portland, Ore.
Tallmadge finished 1-2 at the tournament. The All-Stars fell to Grandville 3-1 in their first game of pool play and then defeated a team from Nebraska 5-3.
"It was heartbreaking," said Tallmadge head coach Nick Dadich, who guided the 2014 team to the World Series. "We had the tying run on second. We outhit [Grandville] in both games. I thought we outplayed them in both games. We made errors and they capitalized on them."
The 2014 team featured players Dadich knew for what seemed like forever. The same couldn't be said about the 2016 squad.
"I've only known these girls for six months," Dadich said. "They worked extremely hard to get to this point."
Two years ago, this same group of players, who were 10 years old at the time, saw their season end in the state championship game.
Fortunately for them, they weren't denied this time.
"Our goal was to win a state championship," Dadich said. "In 2014, this team lost to Canfield. It was a big revenge game to beat Canfield [9-4 at the state tournament last month]. Tallmadge Little League has always been known for baseball and softball, but there hasn't been a lot of state championships in the last 15 years."
Prior to the 2016 and 2014 softball squads, Tallmadge's last state champion in Little League was its baseball team in 2003.
While Dadich and his players would have preferred a trip to the West Coast, the veteran coach will gladly take what his team accomplished.
"Out of 1,200 teams in the United States, we were one of 54 teams left," Dadich said.
"That's a great accomplishment.
"Little League is much different than travel ball. You have to play within the confines of the city boundary. In travel ball, you can have players from different cities.
"Some leagues have two or three cities playing for the same team. Our team is just Tallmadge and I think that's why the city takes such pride in it."
Tallmadge's starting right-handed pitcher was 12-year-old Samira Dadich, who is the coach's daughter.
Other 12-year-old players were Danielle Schultz (outfielder/catcher) Lynae Foster (starting catcher), Kelsie Horner (starting second baseman), Halle Kalaman (starting shortstop), Samantha Miles (starting left fielder), Lauren Adolph (starting center fielder), Brookyln McKnight (starting right fielder), Lani Gray (first baseman) and Kaela Skubic (outfielder).
The rest of the team featured 11-year-old players Gia Casalinova (starting third baseman and leadoff batter), Kat Carter (left fielder and left-handed pitcher) and Maya Dexter (first baseman).
"Kat played a big role off the bench running the bases," Dadich said. "Maya and Lani platooned at first base.
"I'm really proud of the nonstarters for their attitudes. They always kept the first team sharp and they made the first team work as hard as they could."
Dadich's assistant coaches were Nick Casalinova, who was the team's first-base coach, and Shannon Adolph, who is Lauren Adolph's mother.
"Shannon played for Tallmadge when they won [the Little League World Series]," Dadich said. "She was the mom we needed in the dugout. She was the calming voice, but she also could be stern with the girls when they weren't doing their jobs."
Dadich also had two coaches from the Tallmadge 10-and-younger team join him in Indianapolis.
They are Matt Dexter, who is Maya Dexter's father, and Paul Becks.
"They were allowed to help us in practices," Dadich said. "We were lucky to have them out there. They took time out of their jobs to help us out."
Dadich also gave praise to Mayor David Klein and Joe Salerno, who is the president of Blazing Systems.
"Mayor Klein had a parade for us after we won the state title," Dadich said. "The money Joe gave was beyond generous. I also want to thank many friends and members of the Tallmadge community who donated. It just shows what a great community Tallmadge is. When they find their passion, they rally around it really well."