Teams came from nearly every state in the country to Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July softball event last week, with satisfying memories of competition and camaraderie being tucked away by thousands of players, coaches and parents.
One team that definitely will keep 2021’s event close to their hearts is the 16u Alabama Thunderbolts, who raced through the Sparkler Open division with a 10-0 record, including a win in the title game of the Mount Elbert bracket. We reached out to Chris Sherman, team manager and recruiter, for some details on the team’s accomplishments in Colorado.
“Our expectations coming in were to win it; didn't know if we would be able to go 10-0 or not because we were not very familiar with a lot of the teams that were in our bracket,” he said. “But we definitely felt that if we played the way we are capable, we had a chance to have a lot of success. There were a lot of good teams in the open division. Our kids did a great job taking care of business. And we are thankful to Stephanie (Klaviter) and Triple Crown for the opportunity and a doing a great job hosting the event.”
There were a couple of hard-earned and stressful moments along the way; a 3-2 victory Saturday over the SoCal Athletics Mauga and a 5-2 win in Sunday’s semifinals versus Southern Force Premier-Warman.
“Our toughest game was Saturday versus SoCal Athletics Mauga. They were well-coached, played great defense and made us earn everything,” Sherman said. “They had us on the ropes, but our kids did a great job figuring out how to win a close game. We fell behind 2-1 in the top of the sixth after walking the No. 10 batter then giving up a single to allow them to jump on top 2-1. Ryley Harrison entered the game in the circle for us and picked up a strikeout for the first out.
"The Athletics tried to lay down a bunt, which Harrison fielded and tossed home for the second out of the inning; catcher Ansleigh Smith hosed the runner out trying to advance to second on the same play to end the ending. Taylor Hunt led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Abbie Sherman moved her to second on a bunt followed by a single by Alana Spann to tie the game. Then Edy Gavin came up with a big walk-off single to give us a 3-2 win.”
Some notable names and stats for the Thunderbolts included:
* Opponents outscored 83-18.
* Pitchers had a 1.25 ERA with 99 strikeouts.
* At the plate, the team hit .401 with six doubles, 19 triples and 22 HRs.
* Alana Spann (2023) with a .550 batting average, two doubles and six RBI. Edy Gavin (2023) had a monster week with a .487 batting average, seven HRs, two doubles, a triple and 13 RBI. Ryley Harrison (2023) led the way in the circle, with 32 IP, only 12 hits allowed, three earned runs, 66 Ks and a 0.65 ERA. At the plate she hit .360 with two HRs. Makaley Boswell (2023) hit .480 with four HRs, 12 RBI and nine runs scored, also pitched one scoreless inning while also playing SS, 3B and 2B. Caitlyn Gavin (2023) hit .360 with 3 HRs. Savannah Money (2023) added two HRs, Alayna Lowery (2022) hit two HRs and Ansleigh Smith (2024) added a one HR.
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – Closure didn’t come in its normal fashion to the 18u Power Pool bracket at the Colorado 4th of July event, as one team needed to close the doors on their cars and get moving home.
Travel constraints for the Lady Dukes Lamar compelled the team to opt out of the title game Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park, which left them and the Texas Bombers as co-champions of the tournament. With the Bombers having beaten the Lady Dukes on Wednesday in the 18 TV Power Pool game, they got to take home the first-place plaque.
The Dukes had about an hour left of wiggle room, and no one wanted the pitchers to get all warmed up just to have it end without a real result.
“We’d love to play them again; that’s a good team, and I imagine we will battle them again someday,” said Bomber coach Scott Smith.
For the Bombers, the day still included some valuable lessons, as they fell behind 7-0 to the Lady Magic-Munoz in the quarterfinals before finding a way to post an 11-10 victory.
“We got lazy in that one game, and that maybe taught us a lesson about how to come out and play,” said Maci Bergeron, who is headed to play collegiately at LSU and hit a grand slam as part of the comeback against the Lady Magic. “Being down like that, we showed we have some fight in us.”
“We had a plan, and like every plan, once you get punched in the mouth like we did, the plan goes out the window,” Smith said. “We had to use all four pitchers in that game; we burned up a lot, but I challenged them and we found a way to take the lead. We went up actually, they tied it back up, and we found a way to win.”
The Athletics Jendro Premier claimed the 18u Supplemental Power Pool title with a 7-3 victory over the Lady Hustle Gold-Marshall.
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – Don’t be surprised if random objects start shifting in the direction of Lyndsey Llantero.
The just-graduated senior from Pacific Grove High School in Monterey, CA., was the center of gravity for the 18u Salinas Storm-Troy squad on Sunday, going 4-for-4 in the championship game against Tennessee Mojo Sewell and driving in six runs as the Storm rumbled to a 12-7 victory at Tepper Field. That earned them the Mount Elbert bracket title in the 18 Sparkler Open division, a deserving reward on a day that required four games and no shortage of endurance.
Llantero began with a two-run double in the first. In the sixth, she singled and scored on a heads-up base running play when a throw went to second base, and she capped the day with a triple-power insurance policy, a three-run homer as the Storm built a substantial lead.
“The pitches were easy for me to see, easy to make contact with, and I was just happy with the progress I made this week,” Llantero said. “The important thing is to focus on the game and not really the score. You have to lift each other up, because it’s not about who is doing good and who is doing bad. I’ve never been to one of these tournaments before, but I was excited with the results … you couldn’t have expected anything better.”
To Mojo’s credit, they held the lead for much of the contest and scored twice in the bottom of the seventh – all this with just nine players in uniform and a couple clearly hobbling through aches and pains that are part of a full week at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Keeping that brave effort from knocking the Storm from their own goals was the relief pitching performance of Savannah Bravo, who came in for the Storm in the fourth inning and held tough, even after Mojo’s Caroline Hemphill homered to push her team ahead, 5-4. Bravo then pitched two scoreless innings as the Storm took the lead, and in the seventh, she closed by spearing a line drive to the circle that led to a game-ending double play.
“To me it was like every other situation in those tough games; I just had to push harder for my teammates and do the work,” Bravo said. “It felt amazing. I love pitching, it’s my passion, and this was fun. As a team, we work so well together, and we can do anything. We all pushed through for each other.”
Mia Lemmon drove in two runs with a double in the seventh for the Storm; Sophia Verdegal hit a solo home run in the fourth, and Marley Panziera added two hits, two runs and an RBI. Storm head coach Troy Seva’aetasi smiled as his group celebrated Sunday’s accomplishments, which included two one-run victories earlier in bracket play.
“We had a very effective rotation. The plan was to rotate our pitchers and catchers as much as possible; my best pitcher is also very good at shortstop, but she sacrificed that position for the team,” Seva’aetasi said. “Staying fresh was the key; 12 games is no joke in this tournament. Savannah is our horse; she came in as a No. 2 or No. 3 and built her way to a consistent pitcher. She had a lot of innings; we all got Wednesday off and she pitched in a showcase. They tend to throw her a lot in those, and that’s because she throws strikes, gets groundballs and popups.
“Lyndsey, we’ve been waiting for that. She can hit 12 or 15 out in practice; for us, if she’s not hitting it out of the park, we think she’s slumping. But that 4-for-4 was a really good day.”
For Mojo, Brooklyn Stewart had a home run and three RBI; Delany Buchanon had two hits and walk while gutting out a lower leg injury, and Lisa Heller had three hits.
In the Pike’s Peak bracket of the 18 Sparkler Open final, the Arizona Storm Westover took the title with a 15-2 victory over Firecrackers AZ.
By Alissa Noe
ERIE -- Alabama owns Colorado’s Fourth of July Sparkler Juniors softball tournament.
Through a large field of teams from every corner of the country, just two made it to the 14U championship game on Sunday afternoon at the Ballpark at Erie. Both came from the Birmingham Thunderbolts Premier organization. Each squad traveled a distance of over 1,300 miles to face friends, but the Kaplan Bolts got the better of the Burns Bolts in the end with a 7-6 final.
“This organization is about development, so the players that we have in the 14U age group, we believe, are some of the best in the country,” Burns Bolts head coach Quan Green said. “It’s a testament to our coaching staff, parents and players believing in what we preach.”
From start to finish, either of the two Bolts teams could have walked away victorious. The Burns Bolts got on the board first, then the Kaplan Bolts took a 5-1 lead by the end of the second inning. The Burns Bolts closed that gap completely in the top of the third frame, tying things up at five all.
The Kaplan Bolts earned a 6-5 advantage in the bottom of the same inning off of a wild pitch, and their defense held firm until the top of the sixth, at which point the hour and 45 minute time limit had already passed.
“It was awesome. We really had a blast.” Kaplan Bolts coach Justin Kaplan said. “This group, they’ve gotten punched and every time they get punched, they seem to punch back. It’s been truly awesome to watch. It’s a group of kids that just absolutely loves playing softball together and it shows every time they come out on the field.”
The Kaplan Bolts needed just three outs in the top of the sixth inning to put their friends away, but the Burns Bolts weren’t ready to go home just yet. Following two walks and aggressive base running, the Burns Bolts managed to tie the game back up at 6-6. They scored the crucial run after the Kaplan Bolts’ first baseman dropped the ball to allow the runner to take her base.
That mishap allowed Gaby Mizelle to cross home plate safely, but the Kaplan Bolts ended the frame just seconds later when they got the runner out at third.
“We were able to put it away because we knew that our offense had us,” Kaplan’s pitcher Lillie McWhorter said. “We faced it like this during the first game and we just knew that if we had faith in each other and that we made contact with the ball, it was going to go (our way). We just had to put runners in scoring position and that’s what we did.”
All the Kaplan Bolts needed was one run to walk away with the championship banner. That’s exactly what happened.
Ellie Partrick began the bottom of the sixth with a smooth base hit. Edith Kaplan followed up with a sacrifice bunt to advance her teammate to second base. Abi Bunt—who led with three RBIs—shot the ball into the center field gap to bring Partrick home and to end the game without going into extras.
Now, both Bolts will get to travel 1,300 miles back home with some serious hardware to boast about.
“Just seeing it go through and knowing that Ellie’s going around, it was just one of those feelings that hits hard in your heart. With the dugout staying hyped and giving you that hype to just do whatever you need to do is big,” Bunt said. “We’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives. We see them at practice in two days.”
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA -- Quiet is not something the Ohana Tigers Gold Limardo 16U team does, but when it comes to hitting, pitching and defending, they’ve got it covered.
Playing their fourth game on the final day of the Colorado July 4th tournament — and 10th of the week — the Tigers put it all on display in a 6-1 victory over NW Bullets-Duman at the Aurora Sports Park that landed them the 16U Supplemental Power Pool championship.
There was an unexplained ukulele, an outstanding performance on the mound from 2023 right-hander Ashley Sawai, an opportunistic offense led by 2023 infielder Jordyn Lawhon and something constantly going on in the dugout, but it all came together to cap an epic 8-2 week with a victory.
“Our dugout is never quiet, there’s always something going on,” Sawai said after she scattered seven hits and struck out six in a complete game effort. “We’re kindof a goofy team, so we have props to help us. We have cowboy hats, sunglasses and pompoms, a bunch of crazy stuff. We have a ukulele and it just came up this morning for some reason, so I was like ‘ok, let’s go with it.’”
Likely because of all that, coach Darrell Limardo’s Cerrito, California-based Tigers certainly were anything but tight in their fourth game of the day, which started with a 13-2 win over powerful Epic 04 Premier Smith, continued with a 9-0 shutout of Illusions Premier Schrader before a 7-2 victory over Explosion Hagberg/Schimmel that landed a spot in the championship game.
After three well-played innings with the Bullets — who defeated Turnin 2 Marra 13-5 and Georgia Impact Gold Caymol 13-6 to get to the title game — the Tigers broke through with two runs in the fourth.
2023 outfielder Janelle Pineda — who reached base all four times she came to the plate — singled and scored when Lawhon laced a double just inside the third base bag that rolled all the way to the fence. Lawhon moved up on Rylee White’s single and scored on Tanner Baldwin’s sacrifice fly.
Lawhon added another single in the sixth and her two-out line drive up the middle in the seventh inning drove in Pineda and Eva Leivas with some insurance runs. Brooke DeSmet and Isabel Ortega also plated runs for the Tigers.
“With two outs, I usually always clutch up,” said Lawhon, who tied with Hayley Gano for team-high honors with three hits on the day. “We had runners on second and third, so I had to get them in.”
The extra runs were nice, but with Sawai in command for the entire game, the two were all that was needed.
A potent Bullets offense — which had tallied at least 12 runs in four of its last five games — was held mostly at bay until the sixth inning. A Kati Slater single followed by a double by Annabelle Navarette put two runners in scoring position with one out, but Sawai got a strike out and coaxed a pop up on the infield to end the threat.
The only run Sawai yielded came in the seventh inning when Hope Bodak singled and came all the way around to score on Elena Castanon’s single that was bobbled in right field. A catch over the fence by Gano in right field sealed the championship.
“The biggest thing for me in pitching is hitting your spots,” Limardo said. “Even if your speed is a little slower, it’s all about hitting your spots and the defense will control the rest for you. She (Sawai) hit her spots, had velocity and everything.”
It was the best game Sawai pitched all week and it came at the right time.
“I was in a slump the first two days, but I just had to keep working,” Sawai said. “It was mental, I wasn’t in rhythm even though we were still winning. Mentally, it just wasn’t there. This was my best game of the tournament.”
Limardo got a little emotional when talking about the fortitude of his team.
“I’m going to tear up a little bit; for me, it’s about teamwork and working for each other and that’s exactly what they just did,” he said. “I can’t stand here and say ‘oh, it was this girl or that girl,’ it was every single one. They did a fantastic job.”
Added Lawhon: “We played together as a unit and that was the best part of the whole week.”
This particular Ohana Tigers team played at the Colorado 4th of July tournament for the first time after the coronavirus pandemic canceled their trip last season.
They want to come back, even after getting a taste of Colorado’s wild weather that made for a tournament filled with adjustments.
“It was a lot of fun, I really liked it and I hope we come again next year,” Sawai said.
By Savvy Rafkin
LOVELAND, Colo. – With ten games down at the Colorado 4th of July 14u Sparkler Juniors tournament, the eleventh was the one the OC Hustlers 06 and Epic 2k7 Gaither were waiting for.
The OC Hustlers didn’t have an easy start to the week in Colorado. While reaching the championship game in any tournament is quite the feat, the Hustlers accomplishment proved to be all the more impressive after going 1-3 in pool play.
But pool play is only pool play, and six wins later, the team was sitting in the first base dugout, ready to go. Once the coin was tossed at Barnes Softball complex, records didn’t matter. It was the championship game, and it was time to play softball.
A quick three out inning left Epic going into their first offensive appearance hopeful to jump on the Hustlers quickly.
But with a scoreless first inning, both teams quickly realized it would be a battle to the end, just like the road to the championship game.
The Hustlers took the tough competition as a challenge and scored one in the top of the 2nd inning with teamwork from Ashley Capelouto and Darian Rycroft to get the run across. One run quickly turned into two and the Hustlers found themselves at a 2-0 lead.
And the lead would hold. In the third inning, the Hustlers stacked on another four runs to the score while Epic only added two.
Widening the margin once again, the Hustlers scored five more runs at the top of the fifth inning, pulling away from their opponent for good.
The Hustlers took home the Bronze bracket title after an 11-3 game. With nine hits and only three strikeouts, the lineup certainly saved their best performance for last.
“This group right here, they never quit,” Hustlers coach Rick Aldrich said. “It’s awesome. We came into bracket play 1-3, and it’s tough. It’s almost like they go ‘okay, now it’s time to play. That’s out of our way, now it’s time to play.’ They did everything they were supposed to do and it’s awesome. I’m very proud.”
By Kyle Koso
COLORADO SPRINGS – After knocking on the door for five innings Saturday night, the 12u Beverly Bandits-Norwood team likely had bruised, blistered knuckles.
But those hands were raised in the air in celebration eventually, as the Bandits scored six runs in the final two frames to polish off the 12u championship game of the Triple Crown Sparkler Junior tournament, 6-1, over the Georgia Impact 08.
With weather delays and previous games running long at the Skyview Complex, patience might have been an issue for the Bandits, something made even more acute as they fell behind 1-0 immediately and simply couldn’t break through. Runners would get to third base, and hits would percolate through the lineup, but Impact starting pitcher Jordan Young mixed her fastball with a great changeup and kept the scoreboard clean.
Finally, in the top of the sixth, the Bandits solved the riddle. Emma Bruggenschmidt doubled in Molly Southall, and Reagan Kerns hit a two-bagger that brought in two runs as the squad took the lead. With pitcher Maggie Krause throwing strong, the Bandits had their recipe for a championship.
“It’s the never quit attitude that this team brings to every tournament, day in and day out. They are fighters,” said Bandits coach Scott Norwood. “I tell them before each at-bat, look for one pitch, and if it’s not there, don’t do it. It’s about your focus at the plate.”
Norwood used sacrifice bunts to advance runners early in the game; he chose not to with runners on first and second and no outs in the sixth. A fielder’s choice made it one out with runners still in place, and it looked like the inning might get away from them, but three extra-base hits were more than enough remedy.
“I get a little antsy at bat sometimes, but I tried to clear my head and not be as nervous and have confidence in myself while I’m up to bat,” said Kerns, who hit a screaming liner in the first inning that was caught for the final out, preventing the tying run from scoring. “Maggie gives it 110 percent all the time and is so reliable. If you get an opportunity, she holds on and does great.”
“My defense helped me a lot, and my teammates helped me stay calm,” said Krause, who allowed fours hits and one walk to go with eight strikeouts, including the final two batters. “I tried to take deep breaths. I knew my offense would come, because my teammates always come through for me.
“We feed off each other. When one person gets a hit, the others keep it going.”
Sadie Binkley’s double brought in the fourth run of the sixth inning; in the seventh, Southall hit a single to bring home Courtney Norwood, and Addie Norman scored the final run on a wild pitch. Southall had a big day from the leadoff spot with three hits, and Bruggenschmidt had two hits and a walk.
With a high national profile and the expectations that come with it, the Bandits were proud to take their place in a long line of tile winners at national-scale tournaments. Players hail from six different states and don’t get a lot of practice time together.
“I’ve got faith in them, and they have faith in each other. A great group of girls,” coach Norwood said. “Kids and parents, they know what we need to do to get them to the next level. And the work involved … they will have to travel, with long days and nights, sweat and tears.”
The Texas Bombers Rogers National team won the 12u Silver Bracket title on Saturday night as well.
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA -- Madison Conley has sent double-digit softballs over the fence this week at the Colorado 4th of July tournament, but it was the one that got away that turned out to be key for her Epic Premier Smith team in Saturday's 16U Supplemental Power Pool victory.
With her team in a tie ballgame with I-5 in the fifth inning at Kennedy Softball Complex, the 2023 slugger — who leads the 16U bracket at the tournament in home runs with 10 — launched a ball to deep to center field.
But this one wouldn't make it out, as I-5 outfielder Rayne Corona nabbed it as she fell over the breakaway fence in center field for an out. Because she landed out of the field of play, however, the Epic Premier runner on first base got to advance to second. Danni Sottile followed with a base hit to drive in the go-ahead run in what turned out to be a 7-4 victory.
"I was disappointed and not disappointed, because it was a good catch, but I know that it did go over," said Conley, who also had a run-scoring single in a three-run third-inning rally and also leads the 16U division in RBI with 23.
Corona's play was certainly the defensive highlight of the game and it preserved a 4-4 tie, but Epic Premier coach Tony Smith had to appeal to the umpires to make sure his baserunner advanced.
After a consultation on the rule, the umpires allowed Braedyn Sheofee — who was pinch running for 2024 catcher Beth Damon, who opened the inning with her third single of the game — to move up.
"The rule says that any time a catch takes you out of the playing surface, it's an automatic advancement," Smith said. "That was huge, because Danni came up and got a base hit right after that. The umpires had to check with the UFC, but the call went our way."
Indeed Sottile — who knocked in a pair of runs earlier in the game — came through with a grounder up the middle to put EPIC Premier in front.
"We needed a run to get on top, so I was trying to get it," said Sottile, a Northeastern State commitment. "Close games keep us motivated and keeps us pushing. When we get way up, we kindof fall back, but when it is a close game, we keep high energy."
EPIC Premier had seen a close game get away earlier in the week — a 15-14 loss to So Cal Athletics Marinakis in which both teams had double-digit innings on offense — but tacked on some key insurance runs against I-5.
Conley led off the seventh inning with a solo home run that landed so far beyond the fence that Corona could only turn and look.
It was the latest in a series of bombs off her bat in a memorable week.
"I'm really just staying back and looking for base hits," Conley said. "If it goes over, I guess it goes over."
The next batter, 2022 Kylie Kuykendall, followed suit with her fourth homer of the week for a three-run lead and reliever Addisyn Peterson made it stand up with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning.
Valencia, California-based I-5 also showed a power stroke in taking an early lead, as first baseman Casey Edwards homered in the first inning to drive in herself and Savannah Gatewood and hit a solo shot in the third inning.
I-5 starting pitcher Savannah Arreguin also drove in a run on the first of her two hits.
Smith was pleased with the fight shown by his team in addition to the power surge that has produced 20 home runs thus far going into Championship Sunday, as well as a .453 team batting average that is fourth-best in the 16U group.
"We have 20 home runs so far in five games, which is keeping us in it," Smith said. "When you have that kind of hitting and score those kinds of runs, you get a little bit of pitching and defense and it'll keep you in a lot of games."
I-5 had to turn around and play the AZ Hotshots Day, while Epic Premier advanced to an 8 a.m. contest on Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park against a yet-to-be determined opponent.
WESTMINSTER -- Midway through California Cruisers’ 2021 Colorado 4th of July campaign, head coach Alan Caouette needed to make a change. Not in the lineup, in the coach's box.
“We needed a different energy,” explained Caouette. “Sending a different third base coach out allowed me to focus on calling pitches.”
Caouette’s gamble has more than paid off. Since the change, the Cruisers have rattled off five straight victories, including a 7-0 effort over GA Power – Tunon that vaulted California into Sunday’s 16u Power Pool Championship Bracket.
“The bats have really come alive,” said Caouette. “Earlier in the week, the bottom of our lineup was really producing. Recently, the top of the lineup has come alive and it's given us a much-needed spark.”
The top end of the California lineup went right to work in its crucial contest against the Power on Saturday afternoon at Christopher Fields in Westminster, Colorado. Though leadoff hitter Siena Stickney flew out to centerfield on the first pitch of the game, her hard-hit ball was a sign of things to come.
A walk from Leilani Gonzales setup up Chloe Lesko for the opportunity she’s been waiting for all week.
“I’ve been a big target for pitchers this week,” Lesko said. “I’ve been getting walked and hit numerous amount of times. I’ve been hit at lead five times.
“I just went up there with the idea that if this was my last at-bat, I didn’t want it to go down as another hit-by-pitch, walk or an out. I was really just hunting with a vicious swing at the plate.”
Whatever Lesko was hunting, she found it, killed it and will keep it on her mantle. A no-doubt, two-run blast gave the Cruisers a quick lead, 2-0.
While Lesko drew two more walks on the afternoon, California wasn’t quite done with the first inning yet.
Starting pitcher Avery Relph hadn’t even touched her glove yet before lacing a triple to right-center field. Later coming around to score via Kennedy Hobson’s inch-perfect suicide squeeze, Relph was part of a five-run inning that drained the life out of GA Power.
“We’re not going to hit home run after home run,” said Lesko. “We just went into this past few games thinking we need to jump on it early and not let the opposing pitcher throw her pitch. Instead, find ours.”
Lead in hand, the California faithful might’ve forgiven Relph if she was a bit blasé with a sizable lead. Not so. Relph, a heavy pitch-to-contact arm, was rock solid across all five innings of work.
“I predominantly throw my drop-curve all the time,” Relph said. “I like to throw it inside to try and jam the hitters to let my defense work. My defense does a great job behind me. They are always working back there in every single spot. They work so hard and I couldn’t do it without them.”
Relph did surrender more base hits (three) than strikeouts (one) but it was all part of a masterful game plan that saw the lefty pitch five shutout innings to keep the Power guess all afternoon long.
“My goal was to use some of our other great pitchers yesterday and this morning to have [Relph] ready to go for tonight,” said Caouette. “We knew her drop-curve was going to give these hitters some trouble. She really doesn’t give anyone a chance to get any power behind it. She was awesome.”
California would add runs in the third and fourth innings from a sacrifice fly from Kelly Fyhrie and another beautiful squeeze from Relph to help herself out. Though with the stellar defensive effort from Caouette’s squad, the Cruisers all but assured themselves a spot in Sunday’s Championship Bracket.
“I’m so proud of everyone,” said Relph. “I’m so proud that we could do this, that we could make it this far and who knows might happen tomorrow?”
Relph and company await its opponent for Sunday’s 8 a.m. matchup at Aurora Sports Park. With such an early start on the final day of an already grueling week, Caouette knows just what he’ll be looking for tomorrow morning.
“They’re picking each other up like a sisterhood,” Caouette said. “They hang out together all the time. If they show up tomorrow loose and having fun, I’ll know we’re going to be alright.”
By Alissa Noe
ERIE -- All it takes is one great play to alter the course of a great game.
On Saturday at the Ballpark at Erie for the Sparkler Juniors 14U tournament, Addison Duke gave the San Diego Power Surge the boost it needed when she launched herself over the center field wall to rob the Ohio Lasers of a two-run home run in the bottom of the third. That crucial out prevented the Lasers from increasing their lead in a matchup that eventually ended 8-7 in favor of the Power Surge.
“She was the first person I went to when the game was over because it was an amazing catch,” head coach Scott Berndes said. “We would not have won without that catch. If that (ball) had gone over, I think we would have lost.”
The Power Surge’s early deluge of offense served them well in the first inning as the team secured four runs in three consecutive at-bats, including a two-run bomb from Susanna Pate. Her first homer of the tournament couldn't have come at a better time, because the Lasers' offense responded with precision in the bottom of the same frame to close the gap to 4-2.
“I feel like it just brought our energy up and really got us into the game,” Pate said. “We felt it from there. We were like, ‘We can do this. We got this game. We want this game.’ Usually, we’re a pretty strong hitting team. We’ve got lots of power hitters and then we’ve got our slappers for speed. I love our hitting. It’s so fun.”
As the game progressed throughout the next few innings, the Power Surge and Lasers traded blows as neither team managed to gain a solid lead early.
Duke's third-inning leap of faith put an end to the Lasers' rally, as they had taken a 6-5 lead on a triple from Ava Chevalier followed by a Delana Landefeld double.
“I knew it was deep from the beginning,” Duke said. “So I said, ‘Just get to the fence and you’ll take it from there. If it’s over, just catch it because you have to do whatever you’ve got to do for your pitcher. She’s doing all she can for you, so do everything you can for your team.’ It was amazing because I knew I had it. I had it all the way.”
The Power Surge defense fended off the Lasers the next four innings until their offense found life again in the top of the sixth with the help of a Laser error.
With two down and a runner on, Itzel Soto stepped to the plate and hit the ball hard to the Lasers' shortstop. Soto was able to reach base safely due to a fumbled catch attempt at first base. Pate, on third, didn't waste the opportunity to give her team the 7-6 advantage by sprinting home to safely beat out the throw.
Kiki Sandoval brought Soto home in the very next at-bat with a double of her own. The Power Surge's 8-6 rush ended there, but their defense got the job done one more time in the bottom of the sixth.
The Power Surge improved to 6-1 at the Colorado 4th of July tournament and will get a bye for the single elimination tournament on Sunday in the same location. Now, the Power Surge sit just two games away from the championship.
“Fingers crossed,” Berndes said. “These girls will get us there. The girls just love to play and the fact that they might not get to play another game, hell, that makes them mad.”
By Dan Mohrmann
COLORADO SPRINGS – A fast start can mean all the difference in a big tournament atmosphere. That’s why Texas Bombers coach Albert Ramirez was so happy to see his team plate a high quantity of runs early in its 14-3 win over the Cal Nuggets in the Sparkler Juniors tournament at the Skyview Complex in Colorado Springs.
Having been involved in a highly competitive atmosphere on a regular basis, Ramirez knows that jumping out quick can mean all the difference the team is trying to work its way towards a tournament championship.
“Time is on your hands,” Ramirez said. “You have to score quick because you never know many innings you’re going to get into.”
The Bombers got their momentum rolling on an RBI double from catcher Abigail Orosco (Suarez) in the top of the 2nd inning. Three hitters later, with the bases laoded, Rae Ramos singled in three runs to break open a 4-0 lead for the Bombers.
“Being together as a team, it’s really important to pick each other up,” Ramos said.
That’s exactly what they kept doing.
The Bombers added four runs in the top of the 3rd to push the lead to 8-0 before the Nuggets finally found some offensive rhythm of their own.
Nish Mehta ripped a 2-RBI triple to score Allie Marcelino and Ava Lee. Mehta scored that same play as a throwing error gave her a clear path to home.
But that was the only damage that would be done on their end.
The Bombers kept taking their hacks and good things kept happening. Both Orosco (Suarez) and Ramos drove in three runs and they each scored once. For the game, the team had an overall batting average of .594.
What’s most impressive is that only hitter managed to strikeout. Even if the Bombers were hitting successfully, they were still putting the ball in play which can be crucial in a tight tournament game.
Combined with Jenise Ramirez, Allison Hernandez and Reahna Cuellar throwing a combined five innings and allowing just four hits and two earned runs, it was a solid performance by the Bombers.
“They were really consistent with their pitches<” Orosco (Suarez) said. “I really trusted them. They usually get us out of the innings. They’ll do anything.”
With the win over the Nuggets, the Bombers improved to 6-0 in tournament play. They’ve scored a combined 59 runs in their games and hope they can keep scoring with such efficiency.
“A lot of them try to get underneath the ball to drive it,” Ramirez said. “We kept telling them to cut the ball in half and see it out of (the pitcher’s) hand. That’s what we preach. These girls are really good hitters and they displayed that today.”
They displayed it all tournament. The big hope is that they can keep the bats hot for four more games in order to come away with a tournament win.
By Dan Mohrmann
COLORADO SPRINGS – The Diamond Fury coaching staff was tired of watching good pitches cross the plate. Heading into the bottom of the 3rd inning, they stressed that good pitches should be swung at.
The players received the message.
Bella Fails saw the perfect pitch and took a mean hack, sending it over the left field fence for a 3-run home run. That sparked a six-run third inning that lifted the Fury (Pearland, Tex) to an 8-3 win over Tulsa Elite in the Sparkler Juniors softball tournament at the Skyview Complex in Colorado Springs.
“I had one strike and then I saw my favorite pitch and I went for it,” Fails said. “Obviously it worked. It was great.”
Short of the 3-3 tie against Oklahoma Freedom, the Diamond Fury haven’t struggled to score runs in the Sparkler. They lead their pool with 33 runs scored and have shown a promising tendency to score runs at will. Fails led the team against Tulsa with three RBI’s, all of which came on one swing. She also scored twice to account for half the runs in the team’s win.
A win that was balanced with a solid pitching performance from Madelyn Guzman.
She didn’t give up a hit until the third inning and surrendered just two earned runs while striking out six hitters.
What made her so tough to hit was simply her command of her pitches. She retired the first three hitters she saw, and the first base runner got on via a passed ball on a dropped third strike. But as long as she was throwing the way she wanted and using her best pitches, she was always going to be tough to hit.
“My screw and my riser are my (top) pitches,” Guzman said. “Being focused helps me a lot as well as knowing I have my defense behind me.”
The Diamond Fury has big hopes of coming away from the holiday weekend with a championship win and coach Jayce Roundtree knows that a crucial component of the tournament win will rest on Guzman’s shoulders.
“We consider her one of the best pitchers in the state of Texas and the nation,” Roundtree said. “That’s why we ride her. She’s strong and she always gives us a great outing.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – When Imogen Gie launched a home run to left field during the International World Challenge game on Thursday, home plate turned into a dance floor as the rest of the World Team gathered to welcome her in celebration.
The joy and enthusiasm was no less a topic when Team USA’s play bumped the needle, including Mikey Dominguez’s home run that helped provide the offense needed at Aurora Sports Park for Team USA to escape with a 7-6 victory. Cowbells, drum, maracas and the sounds of national pride packed the stands for the contest, which was the final burst of energy of the International Challenge – a new tournament taking place just ahead of Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Thursday’s World Game featured multiple players from the medal-winning teams of the June 25-27 mini-tourney, along with at least one athlete from the other countries (19 in all).
Gie, a catcher, was also on the end of another exciting play, a perfectly executed throw from the outfield and relay to home, where she laid a firm tag on a Team USA runner for the final out of the third inning.
“No words in the world could describe this feeling. The energy on this team is insane; you would never believe we just met each other like an hour ago,” said Gie, who was born in England and has signed to play collegiately at the University of Maine. “Coming back to the dugout (after the homer) was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
“I saw a bunch of people had gotten first-pitch changeups, and I hit one of those earlier in the week for a home run. I said if I see it, I’m gonna jump on it. That was a super tough pitcher, and I needed to take advantage. The last play was great, what a catcher loves … I put a good smack on her, it was great.”
Team USA kept up the charge, however, grabbing an early lead and ultimately never giving it up.
“It’s an honor to be here. Both USA teams are bonding well together – they all give me courage, even though we met about a half hour ago,” said Dominguez, who is headed to Vernon College. “It’s especially nice in front of this big crowd to hit a bomb. First pitch was a ball in the dirt, a changeup, and second pitch was there, but I missed it.
“I saw that pitcher really well; the next one … I have a coach who tells me, the first two swings are for you, so go as hard as you can. And I took one more really hard swing.”
“Triple Crown loved this idea, was very accommodating, and they love this energy,” said Manny Travieso, who brought the concept of the event to Triple Crown and kept its blood flowing through the low moments of the pandemic. “This is a unique thing in softball, and they wanted to see it one more time.”
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA -- Don Murphy has the need, the need for speed.
And his Louisville Sluggers 16U squad has plenty of it, plus a lot more.
Those things were evident Thursday evening despite only three at-bats for the Sluggers in their 16U Power Pool TV game against FC Brashear Smith RB at the Colorado 4th of July tournament. Only a pelting rain that made conditions dangerous enough that both coaching staffs agreed to end the game with the Sluggers up 9-1 could slow them down.
“It’s fun, we have a really, really fast team and we’re going to put a lot of pressure on,” Murphy said after his team improved to 6-0. “We may get thrown out once or twice, but we’re going to keep going.”
Indeed, the Sluggers got thrown out being aggressive in their first at-bat, as Murphy waived Katherine Murphy — no relation — home from second base on a hard-hit ball to center field, only to have her thrown out on a perfect throw from FC Brashears Smith center fielder Nanea Kyle.
“I was hoping the ball would have been wet when it hit the grass, but she fielded it and threw an absolute beebee,” Murphy said. “It was a great play but we’re going to continue to press. If they make plays, I’ll tip my hat.”
After the throw-out at the plate, the Sluggers found themselves still down 1-0 after their Ontario, California-based opponent showed aggression of their own in the opening inning when 2023 Marissa Morales singled, stole second base, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on 2023 Makenna Coleman’s single.
The Sluggers would pile up nine runs in their last two at-bats — with 2023 catcher Brenna Sherman knocking in six of them — but they needed a little help.
With Valerie Combs and Tinley Easton aboard and two outs, Meghan Heinsman hit a grounder that should have ended the inning, but she beat out a throw to first after the FC Brashears second baseman bobbled the ball, allowing a run to score.
A drag bunt dropped down by leadoff speedster Delani Sullivan with two strikes loaded the bases and prompted a pitching change, with the FC Brashears reliever walking Katherine Murphy ahead of serving up a rocket grand slam off the bat of Sherman. Three more hits and two more runs later, the Sluggers were in command.
They plated two more runs in the third inning when Zoe Davis walked and moved up on a grounder, Sullivan singled again and stole second and they both came home as Sherman lashed a single just inside the first base bag.
“We’ve been really aggressive this week,” said Sullivan, who had two hits in three at-bats. “We’re going to keep doing it because it’s been working. I feel like any time I get on, my team has my back.”
It made for a relatively easy day for pitcher Sophia Kleiman, who retired 10 of the last 12 hitters she faced after FC Brashers’ opening rally. Kleiman issued her only walk of the game in the top of the fourth when the ball began to get slippery.
“My catcher said just focus on you and me and pretend like nothing else is happening,” Kleiman said. “I just focused and got in my zone, threw strikes and kept them off balance.”
The Sluggers look to keep their streak going as they face a yet-to-be determined opponent in a game scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Aurora Sports Park.
Murphy feels great about where his team — which draws from a number of Midwestern states surrounding Kentucky — is at this point in the tournament.
The Sluggers found their offensive groove with a 13-run outburst against the Atlanta Vipers-Palazzo, then followed that with 11-run efforts against the Indiana Magic Gold and TN Mojo and were on pace for more against FC Brashears before the early stoppage.
“Our bats came alive yesterday; the first couple of games our 1-5 were hitting and now 1-9 are hitting,” Murphy said. “We’ve got really good pitching, really good defense and when we can hit like this, we’re tough to beat.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – Any chance to suit up is more than fine with the 14u Birmingham Thunderbolts-Kaplan.
And that even goes for Thursday at Aurora Sports Park, when soggy conditions threatened to take the fun out of the moment during the Colorado 4th of July TV game. Instead, the Thunderbolts put in quality at-bats and held up great defensively, polishing off an 8-0 victory over Firecrackers Weil 2024 in three-plus innings.
Rain ultimately scuttled the game, but spirits were high in the winner’s dugout. Saviya Morgan reached base in all three of her at-bats from the leadoff spot, priming the offense with her speed, and Bella Foran drove in two runs with a single in the top of the fourth. In the circle, Lilly Faye-McWorter allowed just a hit and a walk with four strikeouts in three innings.
“These kids never get rattled. They love being on the field together, and it’s like watching a bunch of kids doing what they love,” said head coach Justin Kaplan. “That’s one of the things I think is missing sometimes, where we focus too much on the next level, and we don’t enjoy where we are. You throw anything at them, and they love it.”
With two walks, two hits and an error, the Thunderbolts got off to a great start, and it took a remarkable effort from Firecrackers reliever Brianne Weiss to hold it to just two runs scored. Dailynn Motes led off the fourth with a double for the Thunderbolts, and they had poured six runs across when Motes came up again – that’s when the game was called.
“I just have to stay disciplined, watch a pitch go by, and when it’s my chance, do what I can to get a hit,” said Morgan, who Kaplan called one of the fastest players he’s seen. “We tried to keep cheering (in the bad weather), and if there’s a mistake we try to pick each other up.”
Faye-McWorter also seemed untroubled by the conditions.
“I was trying to keep the ball dry the whole time and hit my spots as best as I could with the rain going on,” she said. “The offense takes a lot of stress away because I know they are there for me. I can just go out there and throw strikes. We were all excited about this game and ready to do our best.”
“She threw fantastic. She has great composure, and you can never tell what’s going on in her head,” Kaplan said. “She did a great job.”
Ellie Partrick tripled in a run in the fourth.
By Adam Dunivan
FEDERAL HEIGHTS -- There are several members of the Valley Rage 16U team that have been with the organization for a while, but the 16U team itself was put together just a few short months ago.
It sure doesn’t look like it out on the field as the Colorado 4th of July tournament’s Sparkler Open division rages on.
Coached by Cathy Cole with assistants Kevin Hendrickson and Marc McGuire, the Valley Rage have won all four games they’ve played so far this week, including going 2-0 in box bracket play at Hyland Hills on Thursday. Wins of 4-1 over NTX Ruthless 16U and 9-1 over the River City Wolfpack have established the central California-based team as serious contenders.
“I’m really proud of our team, and from the start of the tournament we’ve just been very solid,” said 2025 catcher Ayla Lacerda. “Everybody’s been working hard.”
Lacerda behind the dish is one reason why the Rage have taken on the look of a veteran team. Just 15 years old and about to enter her freshman year at Turlock High School, Lacerda showed all the makings of a five-tool catcher (though she can play multiple positions). Her three-run home run in the box bracket winner’s game against the Wolfpack showed her power, her two-run double in the same game the speed.
And her savvy framework was spot-on. Of course, one would not catch Lacerda praising her own work.
“Our pitchers did really good, just throwing their strikes .... I really didn’t have to do anything” she said. “I helped them a little bit, but they did their job today.”
Truly, pitchers Cali Cole and Bree Barner were in a certain comfort zone against the Wolfpack -- who had made the winner’s game with a 5-4 win over the O.C. Batbusters Salmeron earlier Thursday. Spotted a 3-0 lead, Cole worked three innings, allowing one hit while striking out five; and coming in with the game score at 6-1, Barner worked three innings, allowed one hit and struck out four.
Defensively, the Rage were sound as well. It all protected a lead that only got bigger in the sixth inning. In addition to Lacerda’s double, Cole’s second hit of the game drove in the final run.
Valley Rage, which pounded out 14 hits against the Wolfpack, will continue play in the Mt. Elbert A winner’s bracket Friday looking to get into the weekend’s main event.
By Adam Dunivan
FEDERAL HEIGHTS -- After a day off from competition at the Colorado 4th of July tournament, the 16U Washington Shock appeared completely “Locked” in during Thursday’s Sparkler Open box bracket play at Hyland Hills.
Courtney Locke hit a home run and a double, and Rebecca Carson also homered to help her own cause in a complete-game pitching effort against speedy Chicago Cheetahs 16U Owens -- a 7-3 victory that pushed the Shock into Friday’s Mt. Elbert D bracket with a chance to continue playing for the event championship.
The Cheetahs played small ball to get two runs and an early lead in the first inning, but Carson settled in nicely to allow just one more run in the game and give the Shock a second victory of the day. They also defeated the Texas Bombers CTX 16U Gold Hybrid by a 6-2 score to make the box bracket winner’s game.
“The first inning was a little tough, but I tried to settle in, and then after that I was kind of zoned in,” Carson, a rising senior at Shorewood High School, said. “I was only focused on pitching, not worried about anything else, and I didn’t let the umpire’s tight strike zone get to me.
“They had a lot of good hitters and they had a lot of slappers, too, so I was just trying to stay outside and then trying to jam them inside, too. Get them to pop up.”
Carson allowed just eight hits while also striking out six. A sacrifice bunt and a sac fly were instrumental in helping the Chicago squad to a 2-0 advantage, but Alana Powell’s leadoff triple in the fifth inning was the only real hard hit ball that her foes could produce during the game.
Meanwhile, the Shock lineup got going in the third.
Locke started the scoring with a two-out blast. In the fourth, Olivia Halim and Hadley Oylear came up with run-scoring base knocks. And the big blast came off the bat of Carson in the fifth -- a two-run shot that also scored Cam Davidson. Davidson had singled home Gracie Long to make it 4-2, but Carson’s home run provided a nice cushion to work with.
“This was already a good team, so I can’t wait for more competition and more exciting games to play,” Carson said. “We had to get adjusted to their pitcher because she threw a little bit slower, but once we did, we were hitting great.”