LOVELAND, Colo. – The Colorado Sparkler Juniors is regarded as one of the top 14u tournaments in the country each summer. To finish 10-0 and knock off another undefeated team in PS33 Academy in the championship game is downright impressive.
That’s exactly what All-Out 04 from Tuscaloosa, AL did Sunday afternoon at Barnes Complex on its way to claim the 14 Open Gold Championship 13-9 in front of a raucous crowd of family and friends, many of whom drove 18-plus hours to be in Colorado for the tournament.
“It means everything for us to win this,” said head coach Brett Smith. “Coming here from Alabama and not really having any expectations against 138 teams and then to go undefeated. I am so proud of my girls.”
Instead of chants of “Roll Tide” coming from the Alabama faithful it was “Lets Go Scoot”! That’s right, Trinity “Scoot” Wilkinson had herself a game scoring five runs, two doubles, a single and a home run.
“Trinity Wilkinson is probably one of the top 14u players in the nation. She may not get the recognition she needs, but this kid hit about eight home runs this week and batted over 565. She has been very huge to our success,” said Smith.
All-Out combined for 20 hits in the game and trailed 5-3 heading into the fourth inning. With two outs the Alabama team recorded five runs on eight consecutive hits to jump ahead 8-5.
“We preached all week to score every inning. We knew it was going to be a shootout with this team. They hadn’t gave up many runs all tournament, so it was key for us to score every inning we could.”
The team added one more run in the fifth off a deep home run over the centerfield fence by Wilkinson to lead 9-6 after five.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game, but I kept telling my team that we can do this,” said Wilkinson.
All-Out would give themselves a little bit more cushion adding one run in the sixth and three more in the seventh. PS33 looked like they were going to make it interesting in the bottom of the seventh scoring three runs, but a stellar defensive effort by All-Out ended the game.
Starting pitcher Mimi Gooden threw all seven innings and held the PS33 offense to one of their lowest outings of the tournament.
“It means the whole world to my team to win this especially our pitcher (Mimi Gooden). She pitched her butt off and our offense was locked in. I am so proud of our girls,” said Wilkinson.
By Dan Mohrmann
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Two days after Fourth of July celebrations dwindled down in the Pikes Peak Region, 2006 Texas Glory RWB decided it was time for more fireworks. And the girls wasted no time in lighting them off.
A six-run first inning set the tone as Glory beat Texas Glory Adkins 14-3 to claim the 12u championship at the Sparkler Juniors Tournament at the Skyview Complex in Colorado Springs. The two teams are rivals in their home state, increasing the stakes for the championship game in each dugout.
“It was definitely intense,” RWB coach Ryan Hooker said. “Our girls were fired up. They’re a great team and we battle all the time. The last two times we got them but the time before that, they got us. There’s a lot of great kids on both sides.”
Adkins took an early 2-0 in the top of the first inning thanks to a two-run home run from Lucy Crowder. RWB was able to hold off any more damage before getting its first go-round at the plate.
With a runner on base in the bottom of the first, Emilee Prochaska took an aggressive hack at the ball and almost immediately after contact was made, her fist went into the air in celebration. Her two-run bomb tied the game and made RWB feel a little at ease after giving up those two runs in the top of the inning.
“We were (worried),” Prochaska said. “But I knew we would come back. We’re a fighting team.”
And that fight continued to show in the first inning. Lyndsey Hooker reached base on a walk and then Hallie Day firmly put momentum with RWB with a two-run blast of her own to make it a 4-2 game in the blink.
“It felt good,” Day said. “It was my first one (of my life) so I was very proud of myself. It adds a lot because this whole thing, we all earned it and it was a team effort.”
Taylor Roberts – the starting pitcher for RWB – added an RBI single to push the lead to 5-2 and force Adkins coach Ben Slade to make a pitching change. He placed Crowder on the mound in place of Kiersten Fincannon, but at that point it felt like there was nothing slowing down RWB.
Luciana Moreno scored on a wild pitch before Adkins was able to get out of the inning.
A fielding error by RWB in the top of the second inning allowed Samantha Garcia to score for Adkins, but that would be the final run to cross the plate for them.
RWB went right back to work in the bottom of the inning. They had scored two runs before Grace Weaver ripped a two-RBI double to the gap to push the lead to 10-3. Moreno and Roberts each drove in runs before Prochaska drove in her third run of the night with a ground-rule double to put RWB up 13-3. Another run made it a 14-3 game and Coach Hooker sent Sadie Beck out to pitch and close things out in the third.
A quick strike out and groundout put RWB on the verge of winning. One runner reached, but it wouldn’t be enough as one more groundout to short sent the RWB dugout into a frenzy.
“It’s huge,” Hooker. “These kids, anything we ever ask of them, they do it. They just keep fighting. Coming into the bracket we won three in a row then lost a tight one this morning and they just kept rallying. I just asked them to keep their composure and stay within themselves and they did. And now they’re Sparkler champs.”
Which just means more luggage to take on the way home. But in this case, there’s no problem finding room to store it for the drive back.
By Adam Dunivan
ARVADA, Colo. -- Jay Russell's Factory 16U Gold has been a factory of wins at the 2019 Colorado Sparkler. Just three more victories, and they can call themselves champions.
The San Diego-based team with Florida Gators-inspired threads have overcome a tough start to the tournament and will be riding a five-game win streak to Sunday's Mt. Elbert Championship Bracket play after beating the So Cal Choppers VC by a 6-2 count at the Lutz Fields in Arvada. A four-run fourth inning was more than enough as pitcher Auriel Yeager kept the Choppers bats from getting anything solid.
"For the most part, clutch hitting and awesome pitching ... our pitcher Auriel stepped up and has been pitching lights-out every single game," said Russell, whose team is stacked with mostly rising seniors. "We're on fire right now and really just performing to our potential."
Yeager was calm and collected in the circle, cutting corners in brilliant fashion as she held the Choppers to single runs in the second and fifth innings, both runs coming with two outs on the board.
Meanwhile, a two-run first inning for Factory Gold proved to be an efficient start, and Jacquie Clark's two-run single as part of that four-run fourth capped off the scoring for the win. Also in the fourth inning, Jessica Moore's sacrifice bunt attempt was misplayed for another run and the team also utilized a double-steal to nab another one.
Clark said that playing with the lead was huge, and that adding insurance runs was vital as well to getting The Factory past yet another really tough team.
"It felt really good getting those runs in, knowing we had those insurance runs and being able to go back out onto the field and just knowing we only needed to get those three outs and then it was done," Clark said.
The Factory's defense was off-and-on, but they did turn a couple of double plays including one in the sixth inning that seemed to seal So Cal's fate.
They'll resume play at 8 a.m. on Sunday as one of eight teams vying for that ultimate prize.
"It's pretty special to be part of that championship bracket, because there's, what, 1,000 teams here?" Russell said. "Now hopefully we can just close the deal."
By Adam Dunivan
ARVADA, Colo -- With Saturday's accelerated play at the 16U Colorado Sparkler, and with elusive spots in the Sunday championship bracket on the line, the margin for error was quite small for the 16U Originals Threat in its Mt. Elbert Bracket A winner's game at Lutz Field.
And fortunately for head coach Kevin Murphy, his team had his back in the third inning of what turned out to be just a four-inning game against the Salt Lake Vision. A lineup card issue was brought up right at the beginning of that momentum-swinging frame, but the Originals didn't let that rattle them in a five-run inning that eventually led to a 7-4 win.
"Even I can be a little dumb sometimes," Murphy told his team after.
Honest mistake, coach. And in reality, the Originals made enough plays, capitalized on some Vision mistakes and got good enough pitching from the get-go to emerge victorious.
"We took advantage of some mistakes, and really they were the ones on their game," Murphy later said of his girls. "They played well. They hit well and they took advantage of the errors. Everybody has been playing well and I couldn't be more proud of this group."
It was the sixth straight win for the Kansas City, Missouri-based organization and now they find themselves in the eight-team Sparkler Mt. Elbert Championship Bracket. That begins Sunday morning at 8 a.m. MDT, with the championship game set for 2 p.m.
Not bad for a team that had only two pitchers to start and are now down to just one -- Antonia Muniz.
"With the one pitcher, it's lit a fire in us a little bit because we want to help her as much as we can," said teammate Hadley Uribe, who smacked base hits in all three of her at-bats. "On defense, we don't want to make any errors because we want to do this for her. We all love each other and we're all really best friends and we just want to play for each other."
The O's threatened to get some runs from the start by loading the bases in the top of the first inning, but didn't strike until that third inning after spotting the Vision two runs. Uribe drove in a run with her second hit of the game, but an error got two more runs home to make it 3-2. Irelynn West and Kinlei Boley each drove home runs with base hits, as well, to make it 5-2.
The Vision got back in it with a run in the bottom of the third when Taylor Weber got a two-out, bases-loaded base knock but the O's defense helped keep that to just the one run and then Muniz got a strikeout to get out of the jam.
In the fourth, it was speed again that led to more O's runs. Rylie Boyer beat out a sacrifice bunt attempt after a pitching change, and her base hit gave way to another Uribe hit to right field. A throwing error then allowed Boyer to cross the plate with ease.
"Making sure we were playing aware and just looking for extra bases and not just settling for what we think we're going to get," Uribe said. "Looking for the next thing."
The Vision didn't give up, scratching across a run and getting the tying run to home plate before the game ended with a fly ball out to left field.
By Michael Roley
There wasn’t anything flashy about it.
And there didn’t need to be.
The East Coast Firecrackers (New Hampshire) ground its way to a hard-fought 5-3 win over the California Firecrackers-Humble in a matchup of two teams who sported the same team name but hailed from two different ends of the country.
“It was gritty,” head coach Tori Constantin said. “We’ve been playing a lot and this game was later in the day for us. But we’re finding ways to get it done. Our bats are progressively getting better. It was a good team win.”
It was a game where both starting pitchers, Madie Fornwalt of East Coast and Terra Goetz of the California team were largely in control. East Coast struck first with an RBI double from Fornwalt. But the California Firecrackers came right back in the fourth with two runs of its own on a two-run base hit by Alexis Clancy. Both team’s defenses were steady behind the pitchers. And this made for an efficient contest in a game that began nearly an hour later than it was scheduled.
“That game kind of felt different,” said Fornwalt, who is committed to play at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. “Plays were routine and a lot of them seemed effortless.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the East Coast Firecrackers were able to put traffic on the bases. Fornwalt continued her big game with a two-run double to bring her RBI total to three for the game. This hit also put East Coast ahead 3-2, a lead that would prove to be insurmountable.
The scoring in the inning wasn’t finished, however. Hannah French followed Fornwalt with a double of her own that plated two more runs and extended the East Coast lead to 5-2.
Both teams played a quiet sixth inning before things got intriguing in the top of the seventh. Clancy came up to the plate to lead off the inning. After a tough at-bat that featured multiple foul balls with two strikes, Clancy found a pitch she liked and blasted it over the fence in right-center field. All of a sudden, the score was 5-3 and momentum began to shift slightly to the California Firecrackers’ side.
After inducing a flyout to left field, Lily Gallardo hit a rocket through shortstop and reached second on an errant throwback to first. The tying run came to the plate for the California Firecrackers. The tension at Waddell Park grew slightly. But not for long. Fornwalt struck out the next batter and then got the next one to ground out to shortstop to end the game.
“It’s really stressful and I was a little tired so it’s kind of extra too,” Fornwalt said. “I enjoy it. It’s nice and it’s fun."
The East Coast Firecrackers advanced to play another game in Mount Elbert B Bracket play. There wasn’t much rest for them either as they were slated to take on Lady Stros Gold Morgan in a game immediately after their win over the California Firecrackers.
They began the day with a 10-3 win over Newtown Rock Gold-Baker. On the tournament, they are 5-1 in the 18U Sparkler. And nonetheless, after traveling roughly 2,000 miles, they are enjoying their experience in Colorado.
“It’s awesome. This is the softball element,” Constantin said. “I’m glad we could come out here and experience this.”