By Adam Dunivan
WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- The 18U NJ Heist Elite boasts not a single 18-year-old on the team at this year's Colorado Sparkler tournament, and yet the squad's play has most definitely indicated they are not in over their head playing against older competition.
In fact, the team of all 2021's and 2022's keeps blasting their way through the competition and did so again on Friday at the Tepper Fields. A 9-5 win over the SoCal Athletics-Gonzalez in Mt. Elbert A Bracket play has the Heist Elite in the bracket winner's game Saturday at noon against the Illusions Gold Villegas (Austin, Texas).
"(Being young) is a great experience because we all can gel together," said Heist Elite's Madison Weir, herself a 2022 from Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair, N.J.
The Heist Elite went 4-0 in their pool play and took down two SoCal Athletics organizational teams on Friday, having earlier in the day defeated SoCal Athletics-Jendro/Dempsey 12-2. Weir made the most of the pitches she saw with three home runs on the day, and the team's power stroke was on display throughout the afternoon to aide in the advancement.
They needed all those runs against a pesky A's Gonzalez team that had battled back from losing its first two pool play games to contend in the upper-most Sparkler bracket. Julia Yukniewicz's first-inning grand slam spotted Heist a 4-0 lead, but the A's responded with a run in the second inning and three runs in the third to tie it at 4-4.
In the bottom of the third, it was Taylor Hill's two-run triple that regained the lead for Heist, and after Nola Mountain's sacrifice bunt for SoCal made it 6-5 in the top of the fourth, Heist Elite responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning followed by Wier's big blast in the sixth.
"I've been going through a little slump but now I feel I'm out of it," Weir said.
Emily Arnold came into the pitching circle and silenced the SoCal bats, setting her team up for another tough challenge as the young team attempts to reach Sunday play.
Weir said that at this point in the tournament, adding runs when holding a lead becomes even more crucial.
"Now that we're getting further in, we're a pretty young team and our goal is just to compete with who we're facing," Weir said. "We just have to keep pushing hard and through everything."