By Adam Dunivan
AURORA -- The Triple Crown Colorado Fireworks fastpitch tournament is typically one of the most fun events of the summer for the Birmingham Thunderbolts '01 Dorsett team, but it was difficult not to play without some heavy hearts this week while they were in the Metro Denver area.
When the team got the chance to rise above some difficult circumstances, however, they performed with flying colors, capturing the Fireworks 16 Power Pool championship with a perfect 12-0 record after defeating the LTG Lions-Henderson/Lively by a 12-3 score in five innings Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park.
Head coach Keith Dorsett was moved by his team's efforts in the wake of the loss of someone close to Thunderbolts player Kassidy Wilcox this past Monday. Wilcox's sister, Alex, passed away from complications of ovarian cancer, prompting Kassidy to fly back home to Alabama before the tournament started.
After the championship, Dorsett collected a trophy and a T-shirt for Kassidy, and the team certainly indicated the whole week had more on the line this time.
"This was definitely for Kassidy and her family," Dorsett said. "I know they're at home and they were watching, and we miss them a lot."
"I thought we just had a little bit of extra motivation behind us with Kassidy being gone and with Alex being so close to all of us, and it wasn't like a 'have-to' but it was more doing this for them," said rising senior Brylie St. Clair, who collected four hits in the title game. "Us going 12-0 was just us showing them our love."
Facing some top pitching talent through the week, the Thunderbolts managed to score 99 runs in their 12 contests using speed and power. On Sunday, they outslugged the Aces Express 16U Futures by a 16-13 count to get to the championship against LTG, based in Elk Grove, California.
It was speed that led to four first-inning runs, as the Thunderbolts put pressure on the LTG infield, but Hannah Borden's three-run home run in the second inning really put a charge in the team as a whole.
The Thunderbolts scored multiple runs in each of their four innings of at-bats, collecting 14 hits.
Borden hit so many home runs this week, Dorsett said he lost count. Team supporters said she had 10, while Borden admitted to nine.
"Whenever I get in the box I'm just trying to get a hit for the team and do whatever's best, so I try and relax and not think about things," Borden said. "We really showed discipline and just play our game and do what we can."
LTG was led by rising junior Payton Toto, who blasted a solo home run in the second inning and had a two-run single in the third to account for all her team's runs. The Lions had eight hits, but the Thunderbolts were strong in the field with no errors and a couple of stellar plays from second baseman Carlie McCondichie.
"We knew coming out here we had to hit every game," Dorsett said. "I want to say we faced eight (Southeastern Conference-bound) pitchers, and averaged eight or nine runs a game, so it meant everything.
"I've had three or four of these girls since they were 9-years-old and I told them going into this game, PGF is a big tournament but this one has been around a lot longer and to me, this tournament means a lot."
Both teams are scheduled to appear at the PGF Premier Nationals in Huntington Beach at the end of the month.
by Bradey King
After months of long practices and preparation, the Athletics Mercado’s hard work paid off Sunday as they went undefeated in the Sparkler Juniors 12u Open division in Colorado Springs.
“This same team here, minus a few pieces we’ve added, finished fifth here last year, as a first-year team. So their goal all year was to come back and win it and they definitely did that,” said head coach Rick Hovermale. “This team is special; we’ve been handpicking this team and training them for four years.”
In all games but one, the Athletics run-ruled their opponents, going 11-0 overall. Both the Athletics and the Texas Blaze hadn’t been beat all week, but the long ball power from the Athletics ultimately sent them past the Blaze, 16-3, in five innings. The Athletics launched nearly 25 home runs throughout the week, five of those coming in the championship game.
With 82 teams in the 12u division, the Sparkler Juniors is a bigger stage than what these young athletes are used to; however, they didn’t seem fazed.
“It feels the same. I just had to pitch like always and I knew my team would back me up,” said Alexa Rosales. Rosales was a stud on the mound all weekend, posting a lot of strikeouts and a perfect record.
In the first inning, Priscilla Llamas did her job as a leadoff, hitting a single to right field to reach base. Llamas stole two bases and eventually crossed home plate on a RBI single from Jiselle Hernandez. The rally continued as Skye Johnson smacked a two-run bomb to put her team up 3-0.
Blaze answered back by plating one run in the bottom of the first, but Athletics quickly took back the momentum in their next at bat. Alyssa Hovermale led off the inning with a solo shot out of the park.
“Just working everyday has really helped me be on time. Base hits is all I really work for, today was my first home run ever,” said Alyssa Hovermale.
The Athletics offense exploded in the third inning after a Blaze error followed up by Karis Ford and Jasmyn Burns launching back-to-back home runs. Hovermale kept things rolling with a single of her own and Llamas drove her in to score. The inning concluded, but not before another error and a 2-RBI single from Rosales plated three more to make the score 11-1.
The Athletics tacked on a few more runs in the fifth beginning with a perfectly placed slap from Dakota Potter. Ford’s bat stayed hot, as she knocked in Potter on a ground rule double. The game was in the hands of the Athletics and Johnson sealed the deal with a three-run homer, her second of the day.
“It felt great. I was just playing for my Grandpa so I was just thinking that whatever happens, I’m playing for him,” said Johnson, whose grandfather recently passed away.
This young and talented Athletics Mercado team heads back to California with a well-deserved Sparkler Juniors trophy in hand and a week of fun memories with their teammates and families.
“I just need to make sure they stay humble and keep working,” added coach Hovermale.
By Kyle Koso
Dynamite starting pitcher, lockdown closer … Carley Brown stalks excellence in the circle for the 18u Firecrackers Brashear squad.
She performed at the height of her abilities Sunday in the Fireworks Power Poll bracket for the Triple Crown 4th of July tournament, sealing the title with 3 2/3 innings of stellar relief as the Firecrackers held off the TC Stars Gold, 8-2, at the Aurora Sports Park. Brown also closed out the team’s win Wednesday in the ESPN3 TV Power Pool game, closed Sunday’s opener against the Louisville Lady Sluggers, and started Sunday’s semifinal effort, which became an 11-2 win over Athletics-Mercado/Smith.
The normally potent Brashears offense had been muzzled by the Stars for several innings, so the verdict was still up for grabs when Brown came in. She gave up a single right away but didn’t hesitate to dig in, eventually allowing just one more hit in her appearance.
“She didn’t really hit it that hard, and I knew I had hit my spot. I got an unlucky break there, but knew I could get the next girls out,” said Brown, who is headed to BYU to play collegiately. “My offense came through, and I knew I could give up a hit or have a baserunner without it being a tie game or anything. We talked about winning this a lot, how to carry ourselves and how to embrace the moment and how to take care of business here.”
That offense burst came after the Stars had build a small lead on solo home runs from Arianna Cordova (Otero JC) and Elicia Espinosa. The Firecrackers put a runner on with one out on an error in the fifth inning; with two outs, Jacey Bourgeois (Long Beach State) drilled a two-run single to push her team up 4-2, and Alyssa Graham (San Jose State) knocked in two more with a single to provide breathing room.
The Firecrackers had let a few opportunities slip away earlier, on a line-drive double play in the first inning and a baserunning hiccup in the fourth. Confident from the start, the team figured it had the talent base to break through eventually.
“As a team, we always have trust in each other and never really fear the chance. Every time at the plate is a new opportunity, and we just pushed ourselves to do what we know we can do,” Bourgeois said. “I hadn’t been feeling good all day, but I knew this was the last game of the tournament, and I was pushing with everything I had left for all my teammates.
“Carley has been throwing amazing this whole week; she did her job and had her teammates backing her up.”
Head coach Sean Brashear reminded his team that winning this event was an important step to fulfilling their ultimate ambitions, and that’s to have a season none of them will ever forget.
“We felt confident we could score; we’ve done it all week, but (the Stars) were doing a good job of keeping us off-balance,” Brashear said. “We had some good at-bats, and they were holding their ground. This is a hard lineup to get out three times through the order, so I was hoping they wouldn’t get too frustrated and be sure to have a good approach and center some balls, hit them hard, put pressure on the defense.
“Carley was big for us; this week, the way it played out, Carley was the girl. I have to give her a lot of props, because she owned the moment.”
For the Stars, this edition of the Fireworks event marked the deepest run ever by a Colorado team. They came back from a 7-0 deficit in the semifinals against Aces Express Gold McCorkle, riding two grand slams to an 11-7 victory.
by Michael Roley
As weird as it sounds, sometimes a loss can be a good thing.
That very well may have been the case for the Firecrackers-Kimura 18U squad at the Colorado Sparkler tournament. The Firecrackers (CA) lost 5-1 to the New Jersey Heist Gold on Saturday afternoon during Mt. Elbert I bracket play. The win solidified the Heist’s spot in the championship and forced the Firecrackers to win another game Saturday, which they did by a score of 14-3 to advance to Sunday’s championship bracket.
Fast forward to Sunday’s title game, and that defeat seemed to be a thing of the past for the Firecrackers. They played with a purpose and left little doubt in a championship rematch with the Heist, jumping out to a quick lead and never surrendering it in a dominant 13-0 win to claim the Sparkler 18U Open championship.
For the tournament, the Firecrackers finished 9-2 for the tournament. And it was those defeats, namely the one to the Heist, that served as catalysts for their title run.
“I feel like we needed that (a loss) to get here,” Samantha Fowler said, who is set to play at Long Beach State.
“It just taught us what we needed to do right,” said starting pitcher Jessica Lopez.
The Firecrackers wasted no time flexing their muscles in the championship game. Lopez worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first, ending the inning with a strikeout. Then, in the bottom half of the first, the Firecrackers bats went to work.
Leadoff hitter Sofie Adams got the ball rolling with a solo home run, and from there it was all Firecrackers. Laura Henriksen ripped an RBI double to right-center to put runners on second and third. That set the stage for Fowler, who blasted a three-run home run to left that put the Firecrackers ahead 5-0.
The fast start was critical in setting the tone for the afternoon and was a difference from their prior matchup.
“I feel like we came out with a lot more energy and we jumped on their pitching,” Lopez said.
Lopez, who is set to play at Fullerton Community College, threw five shutout innings while allowing just three hits. Eight of the 15 batters she retired came via strikeout, with many swings-and-misses. Fowler said that a high number of strikeouts isn’t an unusual occurrence when Lopez is in the circle.
“My curve and my rise were really working today,” Lopez said.
The hit parade continued in the second. Adams, who reached base in all four of her at-bats, delivered her second hit in as many innings before Ileana Rivera ripped a two-out single. Catcher Maiya Lopez then smoked a three-run home run to extend the Firecrackers’ lead to 8-0.
The Firecrackers plated another run in the third on an RBI double from Danielle Ramirez. Then, in the fourth, Makenzie Kimura hit an RBI double in a four-run inning that all-but cemented the eight-run mercy rule heading into the fifth.
In a week-long tournament with nearly a dozen games played, it’s difficult to pinpoint a turning point or an exact moment where things came together. However, the Firecrackers were able to point to one, a 10-run inning in their 13-5 semifinal win over Nor Cal Legends earlier in the morning as a sequence that made their confidence soar.
“That second game where we scored 10 runs in one inning,” Lopez said. “That’s when we were like ‘Oh wow. Our bats are alive.”’
Both Fowler and Lopez said the Firecrackers saved their best for last, playing their most complete game when it mattered most in the championship. And now they’ll travel back to Southern California with their suitcases a little heavier with the first-place trophies they earned. And with that, plenty of memories and lessons learned will go back with them, too.
“For me, we shouldn’t take anyone lightly and we should always keep the energy alive and never settle for anything,” Lopez said. “And we all have each other’s backs no matter what.”
by Andy Hansen
Aurora, Colo. – Tulsa Elite 18A (9-2) captured the 2018 Colorado Fireworks 18 Open championship with a 15-7 victory over Finch’s Aces Premier – Spina (8-2) at the Aurora Sports Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Aces jumped to an early 7-0 lead after scoring two runs in the first and five runs in the second. Julia Loffredo scored on an RBI double by Gianna Colalillo and then it was Colalillo scoring off of Megan Hanily for the 2-0 lead.
Eilana Seminara blasted a home run to lead off in the second, and back-to-back singles by Kassidy Peterson and Rileigh Glynn and a Loffredo walk loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly by Colalillo scored Peterson and a Julia Martine double scored Glynn. Hanily would score two more runs on a hard-hit single. After midway through the first inning, the Aces led 7-0 and it appeared the game might be out of reach for the Tulsa Elite.
Not so fast. The Tulsa Elite responded and in a big way scoring seven runs of their own in the bottom half of the second.
“We had already played them earlier in the tournament and had scored a lot of runs on them then,” said lead-off hitter and Tyler JUCO commit Jazmine Dodd. “We were telling everybody in the dugout to calm down, we knew we could score runs off of them and we will come back.”
The comeback started with Mackenzie Goins who opened up with a double and teammate Hallie Harper would knock Goins in on an RBI single. The offensive onslaught continued with Heidi Bogle, Shandria Jackson and Jordan Hausher all scoring runs. Dodd blasted a two-run double as Tulsa Elite tied the game 7-7 after two.
“I told them that there was a lot of game left,” said Tulsa Elite head coach Roy Bogle. “We had six full innings to go and to get up and hit the ball like we know we can. They responded really well.”
A two-run bomb over the centerfield fence by Kaila Cartwright and a wild pitch scoring Harper would give Tulsa its first lead of the game 10-7 after the third inning. Cartwright would come in and relieve starting pitcher Jordan Hausher late in the second. From the third inning on, Cartwright would keep the Aces batters at bay, only allowing four hits and no runs.
Tulsa would tack on a run in the fourth with Goins scoring Dodd and four more in the sixth to put the team up eight and securing the championship.
“We were playing for each other today, we really wanted this,” said Dodd. “This was our third time playing here and we knew we had a really good shot at winning. It’s an honor for me and our organization to get the Tulsa Elite brand out there at a national event. For the seniors it was the last year for us in Colorado, and it is an honor for us to take home the championship.”
The two teams had met earlier in the week with Tulsa Elite prevailing 7-4 at Highline Park. The Elite, playing out of Sapulpa, OK, finished the Colorado Fireworks 9-2 and the Aces, from Flemington, NJ, went 8-2.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Bogle. “To come to the pinnacle of softball and win it is very special to me and this program.”
by Thomas Hoffman
The Mizuno Storm won two consecutive one-run games just to earn itself a spot in the Sparkler Juniors 14u Power Pool Championship. No such heroics were needed against Lady Lightning Futures, however, as the Storm capped off a championship run Sunday with a tidy 10-2 victory.
“We kept the pressure on all week long,” said coach Ronnie Holtorf. “We were aggressive at the plate, on the bases and came up with some huge clutch hits. By the end of the week, I think we were starting to get in team’s heads.”
Following a narrow 1-0 victory over American Pastime, the Mizuno Storm faced a Lady Lightning squad that was coming off a thrilling shootout win, 10-8, over American Freedom. Eager to set the tone early, Holtorf tabbed his veteran and winner of the 2016 12u Sparkler Juniors, McKenna Feringa, to start in the circle.
“All three of these pitchers are the backbone of this team,” said Holtorf. “They all pitched great this week and today was no different for (McKenna).”
Feringa kicked off the contest with back-to-back strikeouts. After a two-out double, the lefty forced a groundout to end the inning, sending her offense to the plate.
“Today was a combination of two things,” said Feringa. “I had to trust my spins and let my defense work behind me. I knew I had a great defense and when I trusted what I was throwing, things started to click.”
Mizuno wasted zero time capitalizing on scoring opportunities in the bottom of the first inning. Lead-off hitter Rylee Holtorf drew a walk, and after two straight stolen bases, came around to score on a BriAnna Brooks single.
“It’s part of our mentality,” explained Logan Cole, who finished with three stolen bases on the afternoon. “Once we get on base, we give our best effort to get home as quick as we can.”
Feringa quieted Lady Lightning again in the second inning and promptly led the bottom half of the frame off with a single. Four batters later, Cole’s RBI single gave the Storm a 2-0 lead.
After a quick third inning for both defenses, tensions began to rise in the top of the fourth. Lady Lightning loaded the bases with two outs, seeking a game-tying base hit in a crucial moment. Fortunately for the Mizuno Storm faithful, Trinity Nichols’ line drive hit the runner on first base square in the leg, ending the inning.
“You have to be lucky to win tournaments like these,” said Holtorf. “We’ve had our fair share of lucky moments in this tournament. Credit to these girls, they took advantage every time.”
Sensing the air leaking out of Lady Lightning’s tires, the Storm erupted for a huge bottom of the fourth inning. Sending 10 total batters to the plate, Mizuno combined for six runs, including a two-RBI single from Feringa, breaking open the game, 8-0.
“We could sense a little fatigue from (Lady Lightning),” said Feringa. “I was able to stay patient enough to find my pitch and deliver in a big moment.”
Despite playing its seventh game in two days, Lady Lightning showed no signs of throwing in the towel. The Lightning pushed two across in the bottom of the fifth, keeping the game alive for at least one more inning.
“That’s a tough team,” said Holtorf. “I’ve watched them all week and they never give up, ever. You have to give them credit for their resiliency.”
Needing only two runs to seal the championship, the Storm leaned on Viviana Martinez. With Rylee Holtorf standing on second after a double, Viviana matched Holtorf’s effort with a double of her own but the speedy Martinez wouldn’t stop there. Two consecutive errors from Lady Lightning gave her the window of opportunity to round third and slide head-first into home, sealing the 14u Power Pool title, 10-2.
“We’ve wanted to match what (Feringa) did here two years ago for some time now,” said Cole. “Leaving here as champions is a great feeling.”
“To come back here two years later and do it again with this amazing group of teammates is incredible,” Feringa said.