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.
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.