By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – After taking some flak and fending off a rally, the Texas Bombers might have wondered if there was still some wobble to cope with against the Lady Dukes on Wednesday afternoon.
But at the Colorado 4th of July 18u TV game, the Bombers regained all the positive rhythm that got the unit off to a good start, and before too long they had a 13-3 run-rule victory over the Lady Dukes in five innings at the Christopher Fields complex.
Mia Scott hit two home runs and drove in four runs; Baylea Brandon also homered, and Demi Elder punched in three more runs with a double as the Bombers won the Triple Crown TV game for the first tie in three tries. Starting pitcher Sophia Simpson escaped without too damage in the one troubling inning on the occasion, notching seven strikeouts.
After jumping ahead 8-0, the Bombers got a little sideways with each other on some fielding plays, opening the door for the Dukes (Cary, NC) in the bottom of the third inning. The inning ended on a tag play at home after a ball went to the backstop, and the three runs the Dukes plated would be it for the rest of the night.
“I thought we lost focus there defensively, stopped communicating and maybe got comfortable with that lead. We relaxed, and they put together some small stuff to force us to play defense, and we didn’t do a real good job,” said Bombers head coach Scott Smith. “Sophie settled in, got us some strikeouts. I told the group, this was significant because we were trying to do something for the first time.
“To do it the way we did, run-rule fashion … take that one inning out of it, I thought we played really well. Offensively, we were seeing it. We had a good plan and stick to it, and the scoreboard showed it at the end of the game.”
If Simpson (a University of Texas commit) was at all troubled by the third inning, it certainly didn’t last. She struck out the side in the fourth and rang up the next three batters after giving up a leadoff single in the fifth.
“My team did exactly what they can do; it’s expected, nothing new, and we should always hit like that. I should have done better, but it was a good game,” Simpson said. “I either think I can strike the next girl out with a changeup or rise ball, or I let my defense go to work because I know they have my back. Striking them out is something I feel I should do every time.”
Maci Bergeron (LSU) drive in two runs as the Bombers batted around and put up seven runs overall. In the fifth, Scott’s second home run built the lead out to 10 runs, also bringing home Elder (Texas Tech).
“I just go up there and try to see the ball well,” said Scott, also a Texas commit. “It felt good; I don’t really get excited, but it was great.”
For the Lady Dukes, Aminah Vega had three hits, including a home run, and Jalia Lassiter had two hits.
By Savvy Rafkin
ARVADA, Colo. – Don’t take your foot off the gas pedal.
That was the mindset that Aurora Lescody and Team Ohio Red 16U entered their final pool play game with on Wednesday night and the mindset they intend to carry into bracket play beginning on Thursday afternoon at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
With three wins already under their belt and their hardest competition ahead, Team Ohio knew Mojo – Vickery was not an easy team to beat.
In a three-inning bout at Harold D. Lutz Sports Complex in Arvada, Mojo – Vickery dropped the game 18-0 in two and a half innings. Team Ohio jumped into action early, stacking six runs in the bottom of the first inning and riding the momentum into their 12 run second.
“We had this team circled in the beginning of our pool play because they’re one of the better teams here,” Team Ohio head coach Shawn Bray said. “Obviously they didn’t show that game, but we watched them in pool play yesterday and we knew they hit well. They were up for this game, they were prepared.”
Bray was pleased with the team’s performance. Suffering only one strikeout and executing twelve hits, two of which were home runs, is a display any coach would be proud of. Bray attributes the successful game to the hard work and focus of his players.
Even though Team Ohio is placed favorably in the standings, the team is focused on staying humble, mostly because the team chemistry hasn’t always been this dynamic.
“At the beginning of the season, our bats weren’t out as much,” Lescody said. “When we came to Colorado, it was like a click. We were all just coming back and snapping back as a team, and this is what happens. I think when we play a lot of games in Ohio, we play a lot of games and know the competition, so when we get a fresh start with girls we don’t know, we aren’t as nervous and we know we can beat of all of them.”
And even though Team Ohio will be walking into bracket play undefeated, not getting comfortable is the key to winning.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of good competition; we definitely cannot take our foot off the gas pedal,” Lescody added. “We have to keep going and we have to keep fighting. That team we just beat was one of the number one teams and they’re really good, so we need to keep going at it how we are.”
By Adam Dunivan
DENVER -- There wasn’t much that 18U Game Day Gold could do wrong on Wednesday afternoon at Waddell Park.
In fact, hardly anything or anybody got in the way as Annelise Garcia and her teammates outscored their two Pool F opponents, 33-4, in the 18U Sparkler Open division of the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Behind the dish and at the plate, Garcia’s confidence was fully on display in an 18-3 victory over American Thunder Simons, and after the game the catcher did not hesitate to say she was just as confident in her younger club mates as she was in her own game.
“We had a lot of momentum from our games (Tuesday) … we finally found those holes and it all just came together,” Garcia, who graduated this past spring, said. “We had a good week before coming here to Colorado, so it was good to see the hard work pay off.
“I have a lot of trust in this team, especially on defense. We’re young, but I don’t think you can tell that when we get up to hit.”
By racking up 18 hits to beat the Thunder -- who had earlier made the Pool F winner’s game with a 9-3 victory -- the Game Day Gold lineup proved it was eager to swing at anything close to the zone. Yet, it also showed some patience in getting aboard via walk four additional times.
And there were some big hits, too. Garcia homered in her first at-bat and then tripled in her second one. Also with doubles in the game were Keira Cahalan, Isabella Lester and Kaydence Kinder, and Lainie McClintick and Kinder added to the team’s home run count in the fourth and fifth innings.
For Kinder, the performance at the plate was a source of pride after she was forced out of the batting lineup in the prior game due to injury.
“After that first at-bat, I felt really strong and just like, OK, I can get over this injury and be able to figure it out,” Kinder said. “You can see the confidence from everybody. It’s so cool to see everybody cheer for each other and also be proud of each other.”
Despite getting down big early in the game, American Thunder Simons did get some runs across the plate in the third and fifth innings. Dasia Triplett’s two-run double in the third frame was the highlight hit of the afternoon.
Both teams get back on the fields on Friday morning, with Game Day Gold entering the Mt. Elbert A bracket and American Thunder going to the Mt. Elbert D bracket.
By Savvy Rafkin
ARVADA, Colo. – While defense in softball is important, the better offensive team is almost always bound to take home the win.
And in the Wednesday afternoon 16U Sparkler Open Tournament game at Lutz Field in Arvada, the Suncats – Lopez 2022 and Impact Gold – 2023 Wright contest came down to the battle in the batter’s box.
Impact Gold (Canton, GA) was the first team to get on the board, sporting a single run in the top of the first inning, which would be the only time the team would hold the lead. Impact Gold ultimately fell to the Suncats 7-4.
Despite allowing one run in the first, the Suncats (Sacramento, CA) jumped on Impact Gold in the second inning and added four runs to their scorecard. And according to Suncats head coach Andy Lopez, a big offensive performance is nothing new for his team.
“We seem to start off pretty strong,” Lopez said. “They’re an aggressive team and we do our best to put the ball in play and put the bat on the ball.”
And putting the bat on the ball was an understatement for the Suncats. The team knocked four balls out of the park. Katie Marsh, Neva Adams, Avery Cordell, and Danyelle Leyone all left the game with a homer in their pocket.
Although passing the bat is essential in a ballgame, getting crucial outs is what keeps a team in the lead.
When Impact Gold hit their stride in the top of the sixth inning, the Suncats had to keep their defense tight to stay in the lead.
“We had a pretty good lead, and stayed pretty confident,” Marsh said. “We handled it pretty well. I was confident if we did give up those runs our hitters would be able to come back and make up for them, and we did.”
After taking home the victory over Impact Gold, the Suncats improved to 2-0 in pool play at Triple Crown's Colorado 4th of July event.
Miami Express 18U rallies from eight-run deficit to defeat NW Nitro Mace in 18 Sparkler Open pool play
By Adam Dunivan
DENVER - Judging by game scores from Tuesday alone, it was obvious both the Miami Express 18U and NW Nitro Fastpitch-Mace squads brought their heavy lumber to the Colorado 4th of July Sparkler Open tournament.
In the first three innings of their winner’s bracket matchup Wednesday at Waddell Park, there would be no slowing down. NW Nitro jumped out to an 8-0 lead after just one and a half innings, but Miami Express rallied to bat around in the bottom of the second and again in the bottom of the third, eventually leading to a 14-11 slugfest victory that put them at 3-1 overall this week.
NW Nitro tried to rally from a 12-8 deficit, too, but a legitimate inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the fifth for the Express’ Heather Arnett stole back any momentum Nitro had gained after cutting the score to 13-11.
“(The rally was great. We all just started with base hits and hard hits even in the infield and we just never gave up,” Arnett said. “I was a little worried at first, but I just knew if we started hitting, that we could do it. We’re a great hitting team and we can score runs when we need to.”
Both teams had scored 20-plus runs during Tuesday’s action, and while both squads had competitive wins to start Wednesday’s action, it was Nitro who surged to a big lead. Haylee Johnston hit a three-run homer in the first as part of a five-run inning, and the Oregon-based team scratched for three runs in the top of the second.
But Express was just getting started. Doubles from Alisen Pierson and Kete Ediger were the big hits of the bottom half of the second -- Ediger’s gap ball drove in two -- but Arnett also drove home a run in the frame and the team executed on the base paths to forge a six-run output.
The six-run third was even more impressive in that it all came with two outs. Izabella Zeller hit a two-run double, the next three batters reached base, and Ediger came through with another two-run double.
“Whenever I went to bat in those situations, I just told myself, you need to get a base hit, and that’s just what I tried to do, “Ediger said. ““I just think it shows we’re a great team and we compete no matter what.”
A home run from Nitro’s Abigail Carsley in the top of the fourth made it 12-9, but Zeller got that run back for her team by driving home Pierson on a sacrifice fly. After Nitro plated two runs in the fifth, Arnett hit a ball to the fence and flew around the bases, her pop-up slide at home met with a raucous cheer from her teammates.
“I was thinking (home run) … like, ‘I’m not stopping,’” Arnett said.
Zeller’s relief pitching was instrumental, but so too were a couple of stellar defensive plays from Braxton Stainbrook at third base. Stainbrook also reached base three times with two hits and a walk.
By Adam Dunivan
COMMERCE CITY -- Life was a beach for Yazzy Avila on Tuesday afternoon.
Perhaps with a day off on Wednesday from play at the Colorado 4th of July Tournament, the happy-go-lucky New Mexico State commit will make her way to a local sandy destination (yes, those do exist in Colorado) and soak up some rays.
Avila and her teammates with the Firecrackers ELP 18U Farris squad were living large in their second game of Power Pool play at Pioneer Park, rolling up hits and scoring runs with relative ease on their way to a 14-7 victory over Newton Rock Myers.
After a 9-8 victory over Nebraska Quakes Prime earlier in the day, Firecrackers ELP emerged as the only team in their pool to go 2-0 on the day.
“I feel like as a team we came out and we brought the energy … I was happy with our offense that we were hitting and playing well against these good pitchers,” Avila said after her team closed out the game following a rain delay. “It’s real good pitching. From the very first pitch, we jumped on it and were getting hit after hit after hit.”
Firecrackers ELP scored 11 runs in the first two innings against Newton (1-1), taking an aggressive approach at the plate and not missing many opportunities to put the ball in play.
In the first inning, they racked up five singles and the hit parade kept going in the second frame with five more. Avila’s two-run single -- her second of three total hits for the game -- scored Michelle Diaz and Sydnee Bowlin to make it 6-2. Diaz’ second hit of the inning, a double, scored Aylani Ottley to bring the lead to 11-2.
While Newton Rock Myers got two back in the bottom of the second, the Firecrackers responded with two more runs in the fourth inning. With Diaz’ two-run single the big swing of the frame.
Peyton Farris worked through traffic to pitch nearly a complete game, but Kynlee Bowlin came in and managed to shut the door in the fifth and final inning.
In all, the Firecrackers tallied 14 hits.
The team will pick up again on Thursday afternoon in facing the So Cal Athletics Jaquish/Marinakis 18u NTT and Originals-KC.
“Hopefully we just all bring the heat and keep hitting the way we do,” Avila said. “I want to do is win, and I want to face the best pitchers.”
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA - When it comes to offense in softball, it’s always better to get some later than never.
That was certainly the case for the Arizona Hotshots-Captain team Tuesday afternoon at the Aurora Sports Park in 16U Power Pool play at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Facing a 1-0 deficit that seemed to get bigger as the innings went along and with very little to show for their first five trips to the plate, the Hotshots struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth — capped by a three-run home run by Sara Van Wickler — and a short time later had a 5-2 victory over the EC Bullets Wiggins to finish off a 2-0 day.
“I’m proud of the way that we finished, it kind of made up for the drought we had there at the beginning,” Hotshots coach Steven Captain said. “I’m just glad they stayed patient. They are tough and they know we had plenty of time, so they stayed patient and took advantage of it.”
A drought definitely described the offense for the first five innings, as the Hotshots — a team based out of the Phoenix area — struggled to get things going after scoring seven times in an earlier 7-0 win over Impact Gold Jazz. Captain’s team had just two hits in the first five innings against Bullets starter Kenleigh Spence and only got one runner to second base against the right-hander in that span.
Spence, who retired the first eight hitters of the game, was cruising along when she gave herself the lead with a solo home run to center field in the top of the fifth inning, but things changed in the sixth, which opened with Captain sending up Madison Muehling as a pinch hitter.
Meuhling made the move pay off when she dropped a triple into the corner in right field, which was followed by a walk. Tayler McCombs lifted a fly ball to left field that wasn’t deep enough to score the run, but Meuhling made it home to tie the score when a chopper from Jordan McMahon (who had one of the two hits in the first five innings) to second base was too hard to handle.
Adriana Coira’s RBI single gave the Hotshots their first lead, and Van Wickler followed with a three-run blast on the first pitch that landed over the center field fence and launched a massive mob at home plate.
“I’m not really a home run hitter, so when stuff like that happens every once in a while, when you get the bat on the ball perfectly, it’s just the best feeling,” Van Wickler said.
“I went 0-for-2 in my first two at-bats and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I think I was thinking too much. This time, as soon as I came up to the plate, I saw that one pitch that I liked. I didn’t even think it was a home run, I was just hoping for an RBI.”
With the lead secured, the Hotshots needed only three more outs to seal the victory, and Natalie Rodriguez got them. The submarining right-hander allowed a run on back-to-back hits — with Elyse Kresho driving in the run for the Bullets with a double — but got a strikeout and pop up to first base to end the game.
Rodriguez allowed two runs in three innings of relief that followed a strong start from lefty Joslyn Sagote, who pitched four scoreless innings with six strikeouts. Hotshots pitchers allowed a combined two runs over two games on the day.
“I’d say we hit our potential really well and we know that we are a good defensive team,” Sagote said. “I’m going to give my all every time on the mound and do everything I can for the team.”
Captain said his organization missed participating in the tournament last season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is thrilled to be back, especially given how well it has played in the opening two games.
“The pitching has been spectacular and the defense has been spectacular for us so far,” Captain said. “We are happy to be here, and we want to keep competing and see what happens.”
By Savvy Rafkin
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – When a national tournament shows up in your backyard, there’s no choice but to play in it.
Or so says 14u Prodigy Easton Hunt coach Brad Hunt.
“We make this an annual event,” Hunt said about the Sparkler Juniors tournament, part of Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July event. “There’s no reason why we should miss this with it being in our backyard. We talk about it every year how lucky we are to have a tournament this large in Colorado.”
Taking the field for the first contest in pool play on Tuesday night against Batbusters Sommerville 07, Hunt was pleased with how the team performed on the way to a 12-6 victory at Rolland Moore Park.
Despite the first game jitters, Prodigy (Colorado Springs) jumped on the Batbusters (Hilmar, CA) early in the game that went four innings. In the first inning, the Batbusters put up one lone run to Prodigy’s three.
“We went in here kinda nervous to be honest,” Prodigy player Cayla Baker said. “It’s a big tournament and all these out-of-state teams and whatnot. There’s so many teams and this is against a team we’ve never played before and it’s pretty crazy.”
In the second inning, Hunt’s team made their final pull away on the scoreboard with two outs, leaving the team leading 9-1.
After Prodigy’s big inning, the game came down to who had more offensive momentum.
Rising to the challenge, the Batbusters rallied and closed to within 9-3, starting a dogfight until the bottom of the fourth inning when Prodigy finally walked away with the win.
Even though this was only the first game of pool play, Hunt and his team are excited to see how things continue to progress. With an offensive display as strong as the one Tuesday night, both coaches and players are hopeful their success in the tournament will continue.
“I think as long as we keep the energy up and we’re talking and playing how we normally play and just having fun and if we’re ahead and not playing down to our competition, that’s how we’re going to win,” Baker said.
Prodigy Easton Hunt dropped their final game Tuesday to the Indiana Magic Gold 07 Smith team, 11-1.
THORNTON - New Jersey high school softball just ended a week ago. It was anybody’s best guess as to how the NJ Cheetah’s 18u – Mauro would gel in the opening days of the Colorado 4th of July. Two resounding wins on Tuesday answered all the questions.
The Cheetahs raced past the San Jose Lady Sharks, 13-3, in its first game in Colorado and held off a late surge from the Factory 18u Premier, 7-5, to stay undefeated.
“Coming out here, you really never know,” said head coach Gerry Mauro. “I didn’t know what to expect here in the 18u Open but I think the kids stepped up. What we’re trying to teach these girls is to play their game. It doesn’t matter if we’re here, over in Aurora or wherever. And I think they did that today.”
Already with an explosive offensive output in its first contest, the Cheetahs were eager for more against Factory.
Jackie Masone started the contest with a single, setting the Cheetahs off and running. Five straight New Jersey players reached base, allowing three runs to scamper across to set the tone.
“It was very important to get off to a hot start,” said Morgan Joseph. “You’re always looking for ways to grab momentum and keep it going.”
Hitting second in the New Jersey lineup, Joseph racked up four base hits for her team on Tuesday, including two bunt-singles.
“I just think about what is going to best help my team,” Joseph said. “That’s my job.”
Joseph’s attitude and aggressiveness led to three runs scored for the speedy right-hander.
“The aggressiveness is my favorite part of the game,” Joseph added. “It’s what makes it fun.”
While the Cheetahs were busy scoring runs on offense, starting pitcher Madison Lowry was busy keeping Factory off the scoreboard.
Not only did Lowry keep Factory to just two runs in four innings, she also helped herself out with three hits, a run scored, a double and four RBI.
Both Lowry and relief pitcher Elizabeth Gosse enjoyed a stellar defense behind them. Across seven innings of work, the two pitchers only combined for four strikeouts, leaving the defense to manufacture the rest of the outs.
“There’s a bunch of great girls out there,” said Gosse. “They go all out for every play. As a pitcher who likes to produce a lot of ground balls and pop-ups, that’s amazing to have behind me.”
Entering the final frame, New Jersey claimed a 7-2 advantage. Factory wasn’t quite done producing runs, though. Five consecutive singles pushed across three runs and had many Cheetah fans in the stands thinking negative thoughts.
Gosse wasn’t worried.
“I knew my defense was going to make the outs,” Gosse said. “I might’ve been nervous in the back of my mind but I’ve learned to quiet that down and focus on what needs to be done.”
Sure enough, Gosse forced a groundout to second and dialed up one last strikeout to seal the deal, 7-5.
“Coming out with two wins is invaluable,” said Mauro. “You can see their spirits. They’re in good spirits and they’ll carry that with them into the next game. That is so huge and so important to us.
“The key for us will be to keep them focused. Against my better judgment, I’m going to let them have a little fun tomorrow. Our job is to try to maintain that focus, try to keep them calm and light.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – This is in no way, shape or form a joke – Knock, Knock!
Yes, two powerfully launched home runs from Sophia Knock accounted for five runs for the 16u Indiana Magic Gold squad on Tuesday afternoon, and all the production was ultimately needed as the Magic held off the Lady Dukes Lamar/Lynch by a score of 11-9 at Horseshoe Park in the opening day of 16u Power Pool action at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Ava Sullivan added a three-run blast in the third inning, and starting pitcher Kylie Eads survived a rocky dismount as the Magic (Bloomington, IN) went 2-0 overall to earn a spot in the winner’s half of one of Friday’s brackets. Kaitlyn Gwin added two hits and two RBI, and Natalie Burns reached base three times and scored three runs.
Knock’s home runs helped pad the lead early; the Lady Dukes (Cary, NC) had jumped to a 1-0 lead on a first-inning home run from Alexis Morgan.
“It shows us how important it is to stay together and not show any weakness,” Knock said. “You have to work together to get the outs you need to win the game. It feels great to (contribute); I want to help out my team and get us in the right spot where we need to be.”
The Magic stormed to an 11-2 lead, with Eads (a University of Southern Indiana commit) asked to stay in the circle and stay in the fight as one of just two starters on the roster. Head coach Misty Boteler and her squad did their best to elevate Eads’ mood when the Lady Dukes scored six runs in the fifth, and the pitcher came through in the sixth, getting three straight outs after Morgan hit another solo homer.
“You need to know you can’t assume you’ll always end up winning, You have to take advantage of your situations – that team almost came back and got us, and you have to respect the other team,” said Sullivan, who had grounded out into a double play in the at-bat before her home run. “I was feeling good, I’d already hit two home runs (earlier Tuesday), and I hit into the double play. I said, no big deal. Second at-bat, let’s just wait on it a bit, and I hit another home run.
“I’m proud of how (Eads) finished. She came through her frustrations, and that’s what we needed from her. That’s why we won the game.”
“We told her we had confidence,” Boteler said. “We proved it on the field and at the plate as well. She’s a workhorse and got it done.
“It’s all about our game plan, which is about attacking, go big and go hard, don’t back down. Our first two opponents are probably two of the best teams we’ll see, nothing against anyone else. It’s quality competition, and a great way to start. We wanted to come out here and set the tone, understand we are here to play.”
Morgan also doubled for the Lady Dukes and scored three runs overall. Briyana Wright hit a grand slam in the fifth; Raylee Leiman had two doubles, scoring a run and driving in another.
By Adam Dunivan
COMMERCE CITY - Low and away, strikes all day.
That was the mantra for Texas Glory 18U-LA Naomi pitcher Macy Funderburk as she took to the circle against Arizona Hotshots-Delsante on Tuesday afternoon in the Power Pool bracket of the Triple Crown Colorado Fourth of July tournament.
And after a tournament opener at Pioneer Park that featured a six-run rally and a 14-11 win, the team needed a more smooth ride the second game of pool play.
Funderbuck delivered, and the offense rolled with two big innings in a 7-2 win.
“I was trusting my spins,” said Funderbuck, an uncommitted 2023 out of West Monroe High School in Louisiana. “At first (my pitching) started out a little rough, but then I just started throwing and had the confidence I needed. Everyone had my back, too.”
Head coach Ronnie Naomi praised Funderbuck’s ability to spin a ball, and for the most part the Hotshots had trouble connecting. Though the Hotshots spread out seven hits, the Texas Glory defense came through to limit big damage while Funderbuck also found the right pitches at the right time.
As an uncommitted student-athlete, Funderbuck knows the exposure of this 2021 version of the TCS July 4th tournament is something she wants to take advantage of.
“I love to trust my defense, that’s really all I can do,” Funderbuck said. “(The tournament) means a lot. It’s a lot of exposure, especially because of my age and the grade I’m going into. It just means a lot.”
After a close couple of first innings, Noami’s team put their foot on the gas pedal for five runs in the third inning. With 2021 Southeastern Louisiana commit Sarah Diaz (two hits, two stolen bases, two runs scored) and future college teammate Maddie Wilson (two walks, two runs scored) atop the order, the squad had baserunners for the bottom of the order to work around the diamond.
In the third, hits by Lauryn Packard, Michaela Doiron and Funderbuck and a bases-loaded walk from Elaina Kreamer forged the big inning.
“We had a great week of practice, and we did some things out of the box a little bit this week, but they took to it,” Naomi said. “I told them they balls are probably going to fly a bit but if we get base hits we’re probably going to win a lot of games. We don’t need the big hit, but the timely hit.”
The Hotshots dropped to 0-2 in pool play, but the team didn’t leave Ingram Field without some highlights. Notably, Adriana Armstrong came in to close the door in the third inning and threw three more scoreless frames.
The pool that both teams are part of include three 2-0 teams and three 0-2 teams after the first day. The California A’s-Gendro Premier and Lil Rebels RC out of Las Vegas also won two pool games.
“We got out to a lead (in the second game) and were able to rely on great pitching and great defense,” Naomi said.
THORNTON – Texas Threat head coach Julie Wyrick may have brought her youngest team to Colorado but after back-to-back victories to open the 2021 18u Open campaign, her squad is playing like veterans.
Opening with a 4-3 victory over The Bat Company, the Threat backed it up with a resounding 18-2 win over Intensity Midwest – Ganeff.
“By all means, today met and exceeded my expectations,” Wyrick said. “We’re a very young team with plenty of 2023’s and only a few 2022’s. A lot of these kids have never been here.
“We were going to tread lightly and see how it went. We played a very good team in the first game and the kids came out and really competed. That really energized me. I felt like if we were going to give that effort all week, I can’t ask for more than that.”
Right from the first pitch in game two, it was clear Wyrick was at least going to see the same intensity she’d seen earlier that morning.
Each of the first three batters reached safely and although Texas would leave a pair of runners stranded, it remained evident they posed a significant scoring threat.
Starting pitcher Dy’Osarithz (Sari) Travis surrendered a pair of runs in the bottom of the opening inning but quickly found the right gear to cool off Intensity.
“I have to credit coach Julie,” explained Travis. “I tend to get in my head a lot and she told me to settle down. I always stay in the air when I’m not pitching great. She told me to get down and get faster. It worked.”
In the second and third frames, Travis was downright untouchable. Facing the minimum six batters, she struck out four and allowed her offense to go to work.
“I just kept going back to my curveball and it kept working,” Travis said.
“Her screwball was filthy too,” added Wyrick. “I called a couple of screwballs there and thought to myself, ok she’s working now.”
The Threat had tied the game in the top of the second when both Annie Beckendorf and Erin Plunkett crossed home. However, Texas looked to break things open in the third and fourth innings.
Jaccie Burton led the third off with a single and set the scoring train was in full motion
In total, nine players came to the dish, including Kaylin Jackson who launched a deep two-run home run to centerfield.
“The pitch before the home run, she came inside,” Jackson explained. “I thought if she did that again, I was really going to swing hard. She did, and I hit one over the fence.”
Jackson would finish 4-4 with four RBI, three runs scored, a home run and a triple shy of the cycle.
“I was seeing a lot of inside pitches today,” Jackson said. “I don’t usually see that many pitches inside. I was able to locate well and put the bat on the ball.”
Following a five-run third inning, Texas kept the pedal to the metal with an eight-run fourth inning that included Jordan Iverson’s first home run, a three-run shot, since joining the team.
“To unleash the bats like this is breath of fresh air for us,” said Wyrick. “Our roster is light so getting everyone involved isn’t too difficult but to get experience playing in Colorado is huge. We know how to play in Texas but Colorado is a whole different ballgame.”
Wyrick and company certainly are off to a torrid start but everyone knows this week is a marathon, not a sprint to get to Sunday’s championship game.
“It’s up to us as teammates to keep each other energized,” Travis said. “When they’re up and cheering loud for me, it always juices me up. We’ll all have to do the same.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – Some nickel-and-dime moments allowed the 16u Firecrackers Brashear/Smith team to get an early foothold Tuesday in power pool action at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
And when the big hits came, the squad cashed it in with win No. 2 on the day.
Home runs by Abby Newcombe and Andrea Gonzalez provided the cushion against the Illinois Thunderbolts at Horseshow Park, backing up a stellar effort from starting pitcher Bridget Nemeth in a 5-0 victory. Helping pave the way to a spot in the upper half of Bracket H for Friday’s next games was the sight of the Firecrackers scoring two runs on nothing but walks and wild pitches – runs you can score just by putting on a uniform and having shoes.
But those early runs certainly eased the mind of Nemeth, who scattered seven hits over seven innings, striking out eight with no walks.
“It’s good to score early; we’ve got some fast kids who run the bases well, and it was awesome to see them get on and score,” said Firecrackers coach Mike Smith. “We had been talking to Abby about trying to hit the ball hard up the middle; she tends to pull everything. I was hoping for a hard ground ball up the middle; she went left-center but got a hold of it. In this game, it’s all about making adjustments.
“She’s a strong kid, and that gave us the cushion, to where in the last couple innings we didn’t have to worry about checking runners, just get outs and play defense.”
Newcombe wasn’t thrilled with her at-bats in the team’s first game Tuesday, but her stroke was just right on the home run, which came with two outs in the bottom of the fourth.
“Last game I didn’t hit too good, so this game I really wanted to step in there with a lot of confidence. I was super aggressive,” said Newcombe, who said the team’s spirits needed some lifting after a rough time last weekend in a different event. “It helps us with our confidence to win both games today. It feels great to be back.”
Nemeth allowed baserunners in every inning, but she had the ability to truly dial in when a scoring threat emerged. She kept the Thunderbolts’ offense in check, with only one out being recorded from the outfield, and that came on a runner being thrown out at third after trying to extend a double.
“When runners are in scoring position, I just try really hard to focus. You don’t want them to get on base, but once they are there, you try to keep them from scoring,” she said. “And really, all I try to do is get ground balls; you don’t need strikeouts, and I know my defense behind me can make the plays.
“It was nice to get some runs early, made it a lot easier to pitch, and I’m thankful my teammates came through there in the first inning. And, those home runs were awesome.”
Nemeth, a six-footer, also made five plays on grounders back to the circle, fielding her position extremely well. It was the kind of all-around performance that her coach was glad to witness.
“Bridget was in control the whole game. She was able to throw the offspeed pitch to keep them off-balance,” Smith said. “She got a lot of strikeouts on that. For her, it’s about hitting her spots and replicating pitches, and she was really on today.”
For the Thunderbolts, Anna McClimon had three hits, including a double to lead off the seventh inning. Kamya Brown had a hit and two stolen bases.
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – One of the big head-scratchers in modern sport is the struggle softball has when it comes to securing a spot on the Olympic event schedule. While the sport will take place in the upcoming Tokyo Games, there’s nothing assured about its return anytime soon.
In its own way, Triple Crown’s inaugural International Challenge certainly displayed the staying power of the idea of competing for one’s homeland, with 23 teams taking part in three days of passionate action at the Christopher Fields complex. Sunday wrapped up with Team USA Blue just getting past Team South Korea in the gold medal game, with another nailbiter playing out in the bronze medal game as Puerto Rico beat Canada Red.
Above and beyond the scoreboard, however, was the sense of pride and meaning so many of the attendees drew from the occasion. Softball became a setting where new relationships and connections were made, where the desire to compete and win didn’t come at the expense of respecting the other team that was trying just as hard to succeed.
Manny Travieso, the heart and soul behind the International Challenge concept, took notice that the event seemed to generate a ripple-effect of emotion for coaches, players and parents.
“As a coach, I know there is a lot of talent in the US,” said Travieso, who was part of the coaching staff for the Puerto Rico Olympic team. “And there are just so many players who would never get the chance to play for their national team, so I said let’s figure this out. This event might be the only chance they have to get that experience.
“And then, there are those players who I wanted to get seen by their national teams. Seven days ago, there were seven girls who went to Israel and got dual citizenship so they could play in (a world championship at) Prague. We hadn’t played a game yet! When you put everything together between girls who have amazing talent and can’t play for a national team, and girls who deserve to be seen by international coaches … it can only elevate the sport.”
While it makes sense that players would dive into this moment, it was no less impressive to see parents and grandparents soaking it all in. One mother of a South Korea player was moved to tears; where her daughter was usually the only native of the country on the roster, now there were many more.
“I’ve never seen parents cry that way, but they were so proud, and I can only imagine what the future holds,” Travieso said.
And to that question, plans are already being discussed and debated for the 2022 International Challenge. One idea is to have a senior and junior division, as you had 14-year-olds all the way to 18’s in the mix this time.
“That would allow more players to participate. The Philippines had just one team, an amazing team, but they had enough for more,” Travieso said. “Once it got out on social media, coaches were seeing how this could grow. We first thought about 12 teams, we got to 23 and we didn’t really try that hard. You can feel the positivity, and I wonder if when they go back to their travel team, if they will be bored. This had yelling, and cowbells and maracas … we want to grow it smartly and continue to get international coaches to see the players and hopefully change the game.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – Once the tempo and tone of Triple Crown’s Elite College Camp took root Monday at Aurora Sports Park, it felt at once very familiar and somewhat alien, all at the same time.
With the pandemic shelving moments like this for a year-plus, memories of players digging up grounders and cheering each other on are foggy, but everything regained its focus on the ASP fields, with coaching staffs from numerous top-notch D-1 programs running drills and elevating skills.
It’s a keystone moment in the event schedule ahead of the Colorado 4th of July tournament, which included other college camps on Sunday and a fleet of organizational workouts later Monday, where players could again show their stuff in front of active recruiters.
About 1,500 athletes took part in the college camps, with hundreds more involved in other workouts.
“The key is constantly growing the game. Improvement comes in a lot of forms; attitude and effort, but also work ethic,” said Florida head coach Tim Walton, who had the joint moving crisply in the four-hour session. “To have an opportunity to come to Colorado and work with a bunch of young aspiring D-I softball players is fun. It’s a chance to give back, but also to learn and meet new people.
“I feel the individual work ethic actually improved (during the shutdown), so it’s getting back to the team aspect. How to understand one person isn’t the team. All the things we trained for during the pandemic were individual, so how do you come back and get better as a team? Every good coach is never satisfied, always recruiting and always watching … always watching. We’re always looking for great players.”
Addison Lund, 14, of the Tennessee Mojo-Abernathy squad got a big jolt of positivity at the clinic, after she drilled a long home run to center field and later doubled during the scrimmage portion of the session. The third baseman thrived on the proximity she enjoyed with one of the nation’s leading coaching staffs.
“Knowing that they are here for recruiting, and also to help us get better, it was great to know I could do that in front of them. Hopefully, they’ll keep an eye on me as I go on through high school,” she said. “Hitting like that, right there, takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. Getting on their radar, showcasing my skill to them, getting better as a player … you have to get outside the game to get better.
“They were very one-on-one. If they saw something wrong with your mechanics, they pull you over and talk about what to fix, and drills that can help you with getting better. I really liked that. And if you did it again, they’d talk to you and insure that you understood and could do it in a game.”
Another athlete who got the needle to jump was 12-year-old Alaina Griffin, who made a remarkable diving catch on a liner to second base and finished the double play, earning applause around the stands and a fist-bump from Walton.
The day started with some anxiety, she admitted, but it offered exactly what she was looking for in a clinic.
“That felt really good. They are teaching us so much, and it’s exciting to show them what you can do,” said Griffin, who plays for Team NC out of Charlotte. “I wanted to have fun, work hard, hustle and get better. I always get nervous before these kinds of things … they taught me a lot in the four hours we were out here.”
Oregon head coach Melyssa Lombardi and her staff delivered another valuable session, evidenced by the number of players asking to pose for photos with Lombardi at the conclusion. She said being back at the Colorado 4th of July was a treasured return to the familiar.
“COVID was tough on all of us, so to get back and feel some normalcy … to be back in Colorado for a tournament we’ve all been coming to for many years and to do an Oregon camp with some teaching, I feel happy and thrilled to be doing that,” Lombardi said. “I think players have been pretty resilient. How they handled COVID, either with a lot of resources or not very many, they were able to continue on and work on the game they love.
“This is a great week. Happy to be in Colorado and watching games all day long. To see the athletes on their teams and get after it is great.”
WESTMINSTER – Puerto Rico’s 0-3 route through pool play might’ve left a few faithful fans leery about the team’s chances in the 2021 International Challenge.
Back-to-back wins to start Sunday’s bracket play, however, reinvigorated an already raucous crowd.
Even with its semifinal loss to eventual Gold Medal Champions USA Blue, 5-3, Puerto Rico still had something to fight for in the Bronze Medal match against Canada Red. Playing for pride and for country, Puerto Rico wouldn’t let the opportunity go by the wayside, walking off Canada in dramatic 7-6 fashion.
“I had faith in the girls,” said head coach Eve Soto Suarez. “We had a rough day yesterday going 0-3 but today they came hungry.”
Right from the first pitch, everything seemed to go as planned for Puerto Rico. Tatiana Roman led the game off with a single and the home team was off and running. A sacrifice bunt from Kathryia Garcia moved Roman to second, allowing Ana Roman to bring her in with a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
The home side needed far less pragmatism to put up runs in the second and third innings with solo shots from Makayla Nieves and Lillyana Travieso. Altogether, the offense was firing at all cylinders for ace pitcher Macey Cintron.
“I was trying to hold things down for my team,” said Cintron. “They had already put a run on the board and my job was to keep the lead.”
Keep the lead intact she did. Through the first five innings, Cintron surrendered only a single hit and gave up one free pass.
With everything falling Puerto Rico’s way, it seemed as if the persistent rain throughout the game hit the ground to the same rhythmic beat of the drums celebrating every step closer to a Bronze Medal.
Suddenly, a sharp staccato cut through the chorus of cheers in the top of the sixth inning.
Eight straight Canadien batters reached safely to begin the frame, including a trio of iced-cold home runs for the team from the Great White North. In total, Canada plated six runners to spark a string of celebrations of its own, leapfrogging Puerto Rico, 6-5.
However, Soto Suarez’s squad wasn’t about to let one minor misstep ruin what had otherwise been a memorable weekend. Reverting to the same formula as the opening inning, singles from Reagan Torres and Makayla Nieves as well as a sacrifice bunt from Juliana Nieves and an intentional walk setup Travieso with an opportunity to end the game with one swing of the bat.
“My job was just to hit the ball hard, anywhere,” explained Travieso. “If I walk, oh well, the bases were loaded.”
Travieso did indeed hit the ball hard but time and time again could not put it between the foul lines. Agonizingly, the at-bat carried on.
“As I got deeper and deeper into the at-bat, I got more and more excited,” Travieso said. “And with that, I also got more and more calm in a way.”
“When I saw her in the box, I saw her so peaceful,” said Soto Suarez. “At that moment, I knew she was going to get the hit.”
On the fourth 3-2 pitch of the at-bat, Travieso prevailed. Her double down the left-field line brought home two runs and brought her team an International Challenge Bronze Medal.
“My grandparents are from Puerto Rico,” explained Travieso. “We’re a big baseball family. I’ve played softball my whole life. I don’t know Spanish very well so the only way I connect with my heritage is through softball. It was special for me to wear the uniform and represent my family watching in the crowd.”
“This is just the beginning for us,” Cintron said. “We’ll keep going from here.”
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – With dozens of nationalities represented at Triple Crown’s inaugural International Challenge fastpitch event, there were certain forces that transcended any border, such as the tension of a well-played, extra-inning contest.
That’s how the gold medal game at the Christopher Field complex played out Sunday, with Team USA Blue and Team South Korea locked in a classic nailbiter under stormy skies on the eve of the Colorado 4th of July tournament. In the end, an infield out and wild pitch brought home the deciding runs for USA Blue, which eked out a 4-2 victory to claim the championship.
Momentum swings and the sweet anxiety that comes with a quality game rippled throughout the contest. USA Blue pitcher Kylie Chung went all seven innings and struck out 12 batters, allowing two unearned runs on two hits and two walks. Laurel Moody hit a game-tying solo home run for USA Blue in the top of the fifth inning; she drove in a run in the seventh on a groundout, and Chung added a run on a wild pitch after reaching earlier on a fielder’s choice.
It’s been a whirlwind weekend for Chung, who will play collegiately at Stanford. She flew home to catch her high school team’s playoff game Saturday (in Westlake Village, CA), then came back to Colorado to push her squad into the winner’s circle Sunday.
“The game often gets away from people, so I try to slow it down in big moments and hit my spots. I was able to come through for my team today because I was ready when things began to speed up,” said Chung, who mixed her strong fastball with a willingness to go with breaking pitches in any count. “I felt really confident; my catcher Addie (Mettler) and I are on the same (club) team, so we are already on the same page.
“When my high school team pulled out a win at regionals, there was no way I was going to let them go to the state championship without me. I knew I had to fly back and be there for my team. And (for the International Challenge), the people on my team … there’s no way I would have met them by random chance. This is a mix of people, and I’m so glad I got to meet them and make new friends.”
South Korea took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on a single from Katelyn Park, and with starter Kiera Buchar looking strong in the circle, an upset looked more than possible (USA Blue had gone undefeated through the event). But that’s when Moody calmed the vibe with a long home run to left-center.
“I was looking for my pitch, and I wanted to play for my pitcher, who was throwing really well,” Moody said. “The home run, just got my pitch and hit it, looking for something down in the zone. We really played together, played for each other and picked each other up. We had a lot of good at-bats.”
Paige Dimler (Arizona commit) singled and scored in the fourth inning on a hit by Mettler for the game’s first run; Dimler also made a great throw from center field to ring up a runner trying to extend a hit to a double. These were the type of little moments that made USA Blue ultimately too tough to take down.
“It was about being there for each other. At this level, they know they are good, but you still have to execute,” said USA Blue coach Ben McKinney. “Not everyone had their best game, but they knew they had the support of the bench, and everyone played hard. We know to put the ball in play … championships are won by putting balls in play. It worked out for us.”
“I want to say thanks to Triple Crown and (event director) Manny Travieso, because this is an amazing event and is just going to blow up big.”
WESTMINSTER – For a team that just met less than 48 hours ago, Great Britain is starting to find its rhythm in the 2021 International Challenge.
Despite dropping its first contest of the tournament, Great Britain has rebounded with two victories over the Middle East, 7-5, and rallied past the Dominican Republic, 7-6, in walk-off fashion.
“We just met two days ago,” said head coach Tohn Hughes. “We’re out here now playing for each other and playing for our country. It’s a big deal for everyone and it’s brought everyone together.”
Great Britain’s Saturday didn’t begin with the most positive of starts. The Dominican Republic, eyeing its first win of the tournament, exploded for three runs in both the first and third innings. Both Graciela Dominguez and Laila Aponte laced home runs, giving the Dominican’s the early advantage.
Hughes' girls weren’t going to go away quietly, though. Morgan Salmon replied to the Dominican Republic’s home run bonanza with a two-run shot of her own in the first frame to get Great Britain on the board.
Trailing 6-2 entering the fourth inning, Hughes turned to keys over to pitcher Bailey Gertsch. Gertsch who was coming off a stellar performance against the Middle East, picked up right where she left off.
In four innings of work, the Dominican Republic only mustered two hits while Gertsch mowed down the rest.
“My best pitch is my changeup,” explained Gertsch. “I love throwing those because everyone expects it to be right down the middle and at the last moment, it just drops and leaves everybody chasing.”
With Gertsch reasserting Great Britain’s reign in the pitching circle, Hughes' offense went to work at the dish.
Two runs in the fourth and another RBI from Salmon brought the Brits all the way back within one, 6-5, with just the seventh inning to play.
With the top of the order due up, Hughes knew exactly what needed to be done.
Carys Lynch led the frame off with a single, leaving no choice for Salmon but to lay down a sacrifice bunt. The defensive pressure proved too much for the Dominican’s as an error left runners on the corners with no one out.
In stepped Imogen Gie.
“I heard my dad out of the corner of my ear,” said Gie. “Get [the bunt] down on the ground and move the runners over!.”
But the fake bunt and steal worked out a bit better than Gie had scripted. The chaos Great Britain created allowed Lynch to reach home safely and also planted Salmon on second.
All of the sudden, Gie’s at-bat turned into a clear-cut walk-off opportunity. One that she knew she wouldn’t waste.
“In my first two at-bats, I had flown out to the right-fielder,” Gie said. “I was late on the ball twice and knew I had to be on top of it this time. I saw my cookie pitched, wanted to jump on it and get the win for my team.”
Gie’s double to the gap in right-center gave plenty of time for Salmon to cross home and solidify Great Britain’s win, 7-6.
“This was a total team win,” said Hughes. “We’re a big team and I was able to use every single player today. As a coach, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
While Great Britain’s International Challenge may have started a bit rocky and understandably so, Hughes and company seem to have found a groove, a purpose and a common goal to fight for this weekend.
“I’ve never been able to experience anything like this before,” Gertsch said. “It’s so much fun!”
“It’s truly an honor,” added Gie. “It’s different when you have a flag across your chest and it’s exciting to be out here.”
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – When trouble is brewing on the softball field, sometimes the only solution is to dive into the problem.
It’s an approach that certainly worked for Tara Vandewater, catcher for the Israel White team that was looking for its first win at Triple Crown’s International Challenge on Saturday at the Christopher Fields complex. After having a pitch tick off her mitt and bounce away in the first inning, Vandewater sprung to collect the ball and then flung herself back at home plate, just in time to tag out a Team Italy baserunner steaming in from third base.
The key out showed the passion Israel White was bringing to the moment, and the squad followed through with a solid 9-1 victory over Italy that was called via run rule after five innings. Vandewater also singled in the game’s first run in the bottom of the first, and singled and scored in the fifth.
“It went off my glove; I’d say it was an error on me. I knew I had to be better back there and do the most I could in that moment,” she said. “I watched a lot of the (Women’s College) World Series and everyone was in love with (James Madison pitcher) Odicci Alexander … I wanted to take bits and pieces of the energy of the World Series and be that spark plug. (When hitting) I’m trying to see pitches early, see it well, swing it hard.”
One interesting thing about the Israel White roster is the geographic range. Vandewater is from Nebraska; there are other players from Seattle to Alabama, from New Jersey to southern California.
“It’s great; the staff of Israel softball as well as the older kids have really taken advantage of the moment, (inspired) by our religion and ethnicity to bring us together and be proud of what we stand for.”
“All these girls are gamers, and they’ve come together so quickly. The first time we met each other was last Tuesday,” said head coach Mike Gross. “They have a passion for the sport and the name on their shirt. So engaged and so involved with each other.”
Israel White scored four runs in the second inning, with a two-run single from Sophia Sklar keying the frame. Italy got on the board in the fourth after Hannah Aguilar doubled and came home on a double steal, but Israel White countered in the fifth with extra-base hits from Scarlett Shanedling and Cara Levy. The game ended on an RBI single from Aly Gross.
In the circle, Ella Yerkes pitched all five innings for the winning side. She was touched for three hits in the fourth inning but came out in the fifth and retired Italy 1-2-3.
“In those (important) moments I’m just focused on hitting my spots, staying in the pitch and not thinking about other things,” Yerkes said. “It’s just me and my catcher, throwing strikes.
“This has been really cool. Everyone has been super awesome; we’ve clicked fast, and it’s been a great experience meeting new people.”
“I had a pitcher warming up just in case, but Ella got us ground balls and strikeouts, huge ones, when we really needed it,” coach Gross said. “She was painting corners, and the umpire was calling it … when she found that slot, she was excellent. I just met her Tuesday, so I’m not exactly sure what she throws, but she was dynamite today.”
Aguilar had two doubles for Italy, and Carmella Muccilli had two singles.
WESTMINSTER – After sidestepping Italy, 9-3, Japan held off a late charge from the Netherlands, 3-2, to begin the tournament 2-0.
“Our dugout has been a lot of fun to start this thing,” said head coach Shannon Mortimer. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well they’ve gelled since getting together in Colorado. We’re just vibing right now.”
Japan didn’t have to wait long for its spark offensively. Bella Foran kicked off the contest with a triple to left-field, igniting the Japanese dugout. Two batters later, Ella Murchison drove Foran home to give her team the lead.
With the help of starting pitcher Grace Fujino, they would never look back.
“I think what helped me most today was my curveball and knuckleball,” Fujino explained. “My curveball allowed me to keep my pitches off of them while my knuckle kept them off balance.”
Fujino’s poise in the circle had everyone guessing. The 2022 grad who plays her club ball with SCT- India Chiles breezed through the first seven batters she saw.
Her command was so intoxicating, even the Netherlands coach forgot to substitute a player in the bottom of the third frame, ending the inning and keeping a two-run lead intact for Japan.
“Her composure on the mound is awesome,” said Mortimer. “She’s very confident in her abilities. Her knuckle is absolutely nasty and that’s what kept them off-balance all afternoon.”
Back at the dish, it was Jenaca Seki’s solo shot in the top of the third inning that gave Japan its two-run cushion.
“It was high and inside,” Seki said. “All I was trying to do was get my hands on top. I was able to line something out of the park.”
An inning later, Mari Takeda Bajan kicked off the fourth with a double that led to a run.
Though the Dutch countered with two solo home runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Mortimer’s squad remained undeterred.
“Focused is the operative word,” added Mortimer. “They’re focused. They want to win, they want to compete and most importantly, they want to honor Japan.”
With time running out in the fifth, it was up to Takeda Bajan to take the reigns and close things out for Japan. In Fujino-like style, Takeda Bajan went three up, three down and struck out the final batter of the afternoon to solidify her team’s second win of the day, 3-2.
“A lot of us do things on the quiet side,” Mortimer said. “We had a couple of zoom practices before this so I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go but I think they all bonded over a common purpose.”
“The best thing about this tournament is being able to play with other girls that look like me,” said Takeda Bajan.
Team Japan may not have fully known each other a week ago but after two wins on Friday, they are well on their way to making sure everyone at the International Challenge will remember who they were.
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – For a lot of teams at the inaugural International Challenge, one looming question had to center on just how quickly would a group of strangers, albeit one bonded by nationality, figure out how to play together?
For Team Philippines, the chemistry and camaraderie has taken root straight out of the gate, as the squad won both its games Friday at the Christopher Fields complex, topping Great Britain (16-4) and then the Dominican Republic in the nightcap, 10-2. There will be just a handful of other 2-0 teams when pool play continues Saturday at 8 a.m. Championship brackets are set to begin at 3 p.m.
Against the DR, Team Philippines jumped ahead 6-0, and then responded to its only rough inning with another four runs in the third, with the game called due to time after the top of the fourth inning. Olivia Kam hit a two-run homer early, and Brooke Perez did solid work in relief of Kam to keep the DR offense on ice.
“We’re not surprised; we were fortunate to get together and have a practice (earlier), and that prepared us to come together quickly,” said Philippine coach Jennifer Stewart. “I loved the energy, and they’ve just jelled, and that’s been the best thing. We want to be super geeked up, but not cocky. We want to stay humble, play our game and just have fun.”
The good times are easy when the offense goes double digits on back-to-back games. Allyssa Alano, a St. Mary’s College commit, had three hits, a run and two RBI, doing a nice job of understanding her role when hitting second in the order.
“Our team is like a family, and we are working together. For me, the job was to move the runners over, but if it was bases loaded like it was a couple of times, I want to get the ball in the outfield or at least put it in play,” Alano said. “We expected to go out hard because we’ve been working at it; we didn’t know much about the other teams, so we just figure all the teams are going to be good.”
Kyra Chan had two doubles and scored twice from the leadoff spot; Baylee Howley-Bernardo drove in two runs with a double, and Kobie Hura (Rutgers commit) reached base twice, scoring a run and driving in another. Isabella Kam (Dartmouth commit) drove in two runs as well.
“First game started a little rough, but we came together and brought the energy. This game, we were on fire with the bats so we wanted to jump on top quickly,” said Olivia Kam, who made a nice easy swing on her home run. “The pitcher left it right there; I was waiting for a mistake, and I took advantage.
“We all get along so well. We weren’t forced to do any team bonding, and that has helped us play better.”
Emily Albelo singled and scored for the Dominican in the third inning, one of just three hits for the team.
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER -- One game in, the Canada White team was one loss down in Friday’s action at the inaugural International Challenge, with one last chance to get it right.
That’s when the player wearing No. 1 for the squad, Jorde Chartrand, cured the concerns.
Chartrand allowed just two hits and struck out 13 batters in six innings as Canada White posted a 4-0 victory over Team USA Red at the Christopher Fields complex. That helped ease the sting of an early loss to South Korea, as Chartrand worked out of some early trouble and kept USA Red off the board thanks to her baffling changeup and an ability to spot the high fastball and make it constantly tempting to batters.
All the offense for Canada came in the bottom of the second inning, with Makalia Schneider driving in two runs on a well-struck single to right-center to get things started. A single from Avery Terpsma brought in a run, and a double from Hailey Bethune earned run No. 4, which was more than enough for Chartrand.
The Central Arkansas signee from Saskatchewan worked around a hit, two walks and an error in the first inning, which ended on a bang-bang grounder to shortstop. The defense didn’t have to do much the rest of the way.
“It’s all about adjusting to what’s going on in the game, and it’s a different environment from Canada to Colorado. Focusing in on your catcher then is pretty important,” Chartrand said about the first inning. “I was feeling pretty comfortable, getting to playing with everyone. The offense gave me some insurance, which was really helpful, knowing that they had my back and I had theirs.
“You not only want to represent your country and do well, but also just win and compete with these bigger teams and countries. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Canada White head coach Ashley VanBoxmeer appreciated how her team moved past the loss to South Korea and gave itself time to make a push in Game 2.
“You want to come back strong after a not-so-hot start, but they rebounded. This is a team of all Canadians who are young,” she said. “They haven’t played in a year and a half because of COVID, and we told them to leave it all on the field. Jorde struggled some in Game 1, but she came back and gave us what we needed.”
Schneider, who just finished her freshman year in high school, showed the savvy of a grizzled veteran in her at-bat in the second inning. Much of it was spent with two strikes as she fought off numerous pitches; she eventually measured up the perfect swing, driving the ball to the gap and getting two runners home with ease.
“I was thinking abut what I need to do mechanically, looking at the release point and being aggressive. A couple swings were maybe mistakes, but I was looking for the outside high pitch so I could drive it and get the runners home,” Schneider said.
“This is really nice. I like having the Canada leaf on my chest. It’s exciting to play for this team, and excited to see how we do in this tournament.”
“We always say, ‘Pass the bat, Pass the bat.’ Be a spark, and she was a spark for us. We’re learning, and we see how those big swings get you fired up,” VanBoxmeer said. “It was a fighting at-bat, and to win it gives her team confidence … the next one wants to step up and pass the bat as well.”
Team USA Red won its first game Friday against Mexico White, and in Game 2 got a stellar relief effort from Brianna Lopez (Corona Angels), a University of Hawaii signee. She went four innings and allowed three hits while notching eight strikeouts.
Weather permitting, games will continue Friday, with bracket play taking over Saturday and championship day wrapping up Sunday before the start of Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Proving that the sports world is hungry for a return to normalcy, and also on the hunt for something special, Triple Crown Sports will welcome a record 1,000 teams to Colorado’s Front Range for the 4th of July (Sparker/Fireworks) event, slated for June 25-July 4, 2021.
Stretching from the northern communities of Fort Collins and Greeley all the way down the I-25 corridor through Denver to Colorado Springs, the 4th of July tournament has rebounded fiercely from the pandemic-related disruptions of 2020 to once again welcome age groups 12u through 18u. The nation’s most competitive and high-achieving club programs will arrive in droves as the TCS fastpitch division puts 33 complexes and 155 fields in motion.
The event has long been a prized destination for college coaches and programs as they look for talent to fortify their rosters. Showcase games as well as tournament play will put athletes in front of more than 500 coaches; added value comes through a series of camps and clinics directed by the coaching staffs from national D-I powerhouses through NAIA and JUCO programs.
New to the 4th of July menu is the TC International Challenge, which kicks off the excitement from June 25-27 at the Christopher Fields complex in Westminster. These 23 teams were built on rosters that give players a unique opportunity to represent their nationalities and will be another recruiting highlight on the schedule.
Tournament officials are gearing up for two powerful convergence moments during the event, on the evenings of June 30 at Christopher Fields and July 1 at Aurora Sports Park. Both nights will feature all-star and power pool games to be broadcast by FloSports along with multiple vendors, food and merchandise options – thousands of people are expected to attend each location.
Other key numbers revolving around the Colorado 4th of July event include:
“Even as the pandemic sidelined so many teams and kept Triple Crown Sports on hold for months, we kept in contact with our customers and resolutely prepared to make the 2021 4th of July event everything it could be,” said TCS fastpitch event director Stephanie Klaviter. “To welcome back so many loyal customers and break participation records is enormously exciting. We’ve missed the competition and the opportunity to help grow the sport, and we will put all our effort into making these 10 days a powerful, memorable experience for players, parents and coaches.”
“We are pleased to welcome Triple Crown Sports back to our community. There is no question about the significant economic effect that tourism brings, and tournaments such as the Colorado 4th of July add a large boost to our city at a time we so desperately need it in the aftermath of COVID,” said Juliet Abdel, president and CEO of the Westminster Chamber of Commerce. “Attendees spend dollars in gas, food, lodging and retail. This is pivotal to key areas of job creation, revenue for the betterment of our community’s infrastructure needs and our economy, which will ensure business doors stay open and families are taken care of.”
“Loveland is thrilled to welcome back the Colorado 4th of July tournament for 2021,” said Chris Bierdeman, group sales coordinator for Visit Loveland. “With the majority of the pandemic restrictions now lifted, we look forward to sharing the beauty of Loveland and northern Colorado with the thousands of players, families, coaches and staff visiting from all over the U.S. The economic impact from an event of this magnitude for a small city like Loveland is huge — that is especially true for our hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions, which really struggled over the past 14 months.”