AURORA, Colo. – In a game that featured 11 home runs, the Minnesota Magic National came back and knocked off Georgia Power Gold, 14-13, in the 18u Supplemental Championship on Sunday afternoon in a highly-dramatic back-and-forth game.
University of Minnesota commit Jessa Snippes led the way for the Minnesota Magic with two home runs and four RBIs, including the game-winning RBI in the top of the seventh inning. Snippes got things started for the Magic with a solo home run in the first inning, but Georgia Power quickly responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
After both teams went scoreless in the second inning, the Magic once again showcased its offensive firepower with a solo home run from Kendal Jenkins and then a two-run home run from Catherine Smetna, to give the team a 4-2 lead.
Georgia Power answered with a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning to make it 4-3, and looked primed to add plenty more runs to the inning. With runners on second and third with two outs, a ground ball was smashed hard down the left side of the field. Magic third baseman Bryn Ruhberg made a diving leap for the ball, gathering it in her glove, and from a seated position, threw across the diamond to narrowly get the out at first and saved at least two runs.
After the Power tied the game in the fourth inning, the Magic once again cleared the fence with a two-run home run from Snippes again. In the bottom half of the inning though, the Power gained all the momentum, scoring seven runs in the inning, including a bases-clearing three-RBI single and a three-run home run.
Trailing 11-6, it didn’t take long for the Magic to get back into this back-and-forth game once again. In fact, it just took the next half inning, as the Magic once again utilized the long ball. Avery Wukawitz got things started for Minnesota with a 3-run home run, and then Smetna tied the game up with her second two-run home run of the day.
Georgia Power was resilient, though, and seized the momentum pack from Minnesota in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-run home run to regain the lead, 13-11, and force Minnesota into its last three outs. The Magic came through with their backs against the wall, however. Taylor Gray quickly tied the game up with a two-run home run, the eleventh home run of the game, and the Snippes came through with an RBI single to give the Magic a 14-13 lead, and ultimately the win.
by Eddie Herz
COMMERCE CITY, Colo –– The Alabama Firecrackers instantaneously jeopardized Alabama Sparks Elite-Stewart's aspirations of not only snatching the Colorado 4th of July 16u Supplemental Championship trophy, but also the club's chances of even maintaining striking distance.
A 3-0 deficit transpired for head coach Slade Stewart's club before most Sparks supporters settled into their seats at Pioneer Park's Capra Field. And after falling behind early, the Sparks still found themselves staring a seemingly uncomfortable disadvantage dead in the eye as Sunday evening's latter stages approached.
Nevertheless, though down, the Sparks were never out. Nor did Stewart's team's confidence dwindle in the slightest as a 3-0 first-frame deficit lingered for several innings.
While their eyes remained locked to the prize despite adversity, the Sparks continued believing en route to forging a 9-3 bracket-clinching victory.
"We've got some dogs," Stewart described. "It doesn't matter if they get down or by how much. They always have faith. They always play hard and stay together. They know the game and gel a ton. Winners always respond, and that's what they did."
Conquering 2022's tournament –– which entailed winning four games on Sunday –– didn't occur as any sort of shock to the Sparks.
The triumphant mindset, admirable competitiveness and commendable cohesion Stewart alluded to produced high hopes for the squad when traveling to Colorado. Additionally, the Sparks entered the Centennial State owning extreme confidence in light of their prowess at the plate –– and knack for erupting offensively at any given moment.
"If you hit, you don't sit, and that's what got us here," Stewart said. "We don't always play great defense. But if you hit like we can, you have a chance to win every game. So we liked our chances going in as long as we played hard like we always do."
Though doing so required a few underwhelming frames, the Sparks' at-the-dish dominance eventually revealed itself as Stewart's organization mounted a ferocious comeback. Specifically, after trimming the score to 3-1 in the third, the Sparks fabricated a six-run fourth-inning outburst to storm ahead 7-3.
Following a run-scoring hit-by-pitch, second baseman Morgan Stiles turned the frame into a riveting rally when launching a one-out grand slam to dead center.
"I was just trying to put it in play, give our runners a chance to score and give our team a shot to tie the game," Stiles said. "It was incredible to see it go over the fence and see how my team reacted."
Sparks players only returned to their dugout for a few seconds following Stiles' surefire shot as Katie Schuler went back-to-back with the second baseman upon pelting her own dinger –– extending the Sparks' lead to 7-3.
From there, it was smooth sailing for the soon-to-be Supplemental champions. And the reason Sunday's conclusive segments proved drama-free had plenty to do with pitcher Ash Coble and center fielder Presley Lively.
Tasked with keeping the Sparks in contention, Stiles took the mound in relief to begin Sunday's second inning while her troupe trailed 3-0. Though the finals constituted her fourth outing of the day, fatigue didn't hinder the reliable right-hander whatsoever.
Upon hurling six shutout innings in which she yielded merely four hits and zero walks, Coble comfortably coasted atop the bump.
"I did everything in my power to keep us in it," Coble said. "I came in knowing I had to shut them down. Making sure I was whipping it with a lot of spin was big for me."
As for Lively, the center fielder played a substantial role in halting a last-gasp Firecrackers rally by manufacturing a pair of web gems. With a runner on first and no outs in the seventh, Lively corralled a practically unfathomable catch when diving over the outfield fence on the dead run to rob a would-have-been two-run homer.
Two pitches later, she snagged a liner and fired a strike to catcher Avery Wynne, who tagged the runner advancing from third at the plate –– an electrifying double play that slammed the door on Sunday's action.
"My teammate hit a grand slam. So I said if she can give it all for me, I can give it my all for her," Lively said. "Our pitcher pitched four times today. If she can give that much effort, I can give that much effort for her. So I went out there trying to do everything I could to help us win."
The road to capturing a title varies from champion to champion. No matter the details of such journey, prevailing as tournament winners always provides extreme satisfaction. Still, it's worth noting that Sunday's outcome tastes extra sweet for the Sparks in light of how 2021's festivities unraveled.
Last year, Stewart's group suffered a deflating 16u Supplemental semifinal loss when falling victim to elimination despite leading with only a few outs remaining. Hence, the Sparks returned with a vengeance in 2022. And, this time around, they wouldn't be denied.
"Winning this means so much because of what happened last year," Lively said. "That hurt a lot, and we've wanted this really bad ever since. So it feels amazing to come out here and get what we deserved. It wasn't easy, but we never backed down and kept pushing. I'm so proud of our team."
"It's huge for the organization, and I can't say enough about the kids," Stewart added. "Every single one of them did their part."
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA, Colo. -- Hampered by injuries and with only two pitchers available, the Hotshots Jones team seemed ill-equipped to make the grueling journey to the championship game of the 16u Power Pool.
But coach Steve Jones’ team has the type of grit, heart and belief that is able to overcome all sorts of adversity, and it did so on many occasions throughout the week on its way to winning the championship of the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
The Hotshots dug out of an early five-run hole with back-to-back explosive rallies and went on to a 13-8 victory over the Tampa Bay Mustangs Rene on a blustery afternoon game Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park. It was the fourth game of the day for both squads and the Texas-based Hotshots simply found another way to win.
“We’re down some key players and we only have two pitchers, but the rest of the girls stepped up,” Jones said. “The thing about this team that's special is that I don’t know who is going to step up in a game. I’m proud of them being able to do what they did with the players that were out.”
To get to the championship game, the Hotshots won a one-run decision to open the day, followed with a 10-run decision and then needed a four-run rally in the final inning for an 11-8 walk-off win (courtesy of a three-run home run by Kennedy Marceaux) over Firecrackers Brashear.
One of the Hotshots’ three regular pitchers had shoulder soreness and Jones decided to hold her out of the tournament to heal, leaving all of the pitching duties to Mali West (Class of 2025) and Amy Abke (2023), who alternated on the mound all week and in the championship contest. It was West (a left-hander) who got the start against a Tampa Bay team that came in hot after pulling off a late rally of its own to defeat the Oklahoma Athletics National 13-8, which followed two close victories earlier in the day.
West fell behind by two runs just five batters into the game after Riley Onisawa drew a bases-loaded walk and Ella Dodge singled in another run. She later surrendered her first two home runs of the tournament — quite a feat given how much the ball seems to fly off the bats of visitors to Colorado — as Lauren Luciani (solo) and Tayten Moore (a three-run shot) put coach Rene Ciccarello Jr.’s Mustangs ahead 6-1 at that point.
Despite the deficit, West — who was replaced in the inning by Abke — knew the game was far from over with the way her team plays.
“I actually didn’t give up any bombs until this game, but spin was the key in Colorado,” West said. “The ball didn’t have as much spin, so you had to work harder in the air out here. I was a little bit nervous, but it was good. We always come around.”
And come around the Hotshots — who returned to the tournament after playing in a different one last summer — did.
After barely getting the ball out of the infield over the first three innings against Tampa Bay starting pitcher Isabella Vega — whose lone run given up in those early frames came when a wild pitch followed by an error allowed Hailey Golden to score — the Hotshots rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning that included home runs from second baseman Kristyn Whitlock and third baseman Bryanna Fuentes.
Fuentes would homer again in the next inning to plate three runs as the Hotshots surged to a 10-6 lead.
“It felt great in the moment,” said Fuentes, who drove in five runs on the day. “I knew my team had my back and when you know they have your back, you feel more free.
“I just tried to be a spark like Coach says.”
Roni Harrison followed Fuentes’ homer with a solo blast and then leadoff hitter Moriah Polar — who was cramping severely in the game — cranked our her fourth big fly of the tournament for the third homer in a four-batter span for the team.
“She was celebrating with the kids in the dugout and I told her ‘That was just a big pop up, you’re lucky you are in Colorado,’” Jones said with a smile.
The Hotshots’ fourth-inning rally (which began after catcher Bella Perez worked a walk as the payoff for a 10-pitch at-bat) saw 13 hitters come to the plate against four Tampa Bay pitchers, the last of which was DaNia Brooks, whose father Derrick (an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is an assistant coach with the Mustangs.
Brooks would hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, but that was all Tampa Bay registered in three innings against Abke, who had retired eight batters in a row before walking Moore ahead of Brooks’ home run, which capped a 3-for-3 day for her.
“Playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back games on the last day is hard,” said Jones, who got two hits apiece from Golden and Perez and two RBI from Whitlock in the clinching victory.
“It’s been a great tournament,” he added. “We lost our first game to Athletics Mercado — who we run-ruled last time we played — and we were down a couple of times, but these kids are just resilient. When we won that last game (vs. Firecrackers Brashear), I told them ‘You guys may not believe it, but I was standing in that coaches box with one out in the seventh inning and knew we were winning that game.’
“This team has character. They know they have time. As long as there is one more out left, they can come back.”
Added West: “We always somehow find a way to come through and win. That’s always our energy.”
by Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. — For a while, the offenses for the teams in the 18u Power Pool finale were strangely confined Sunday at Aurora Sports Park. But the breakout moment felt inevitable.
Sure enough, with both the Athletics Mercado-Smith and Texas Bombers Gold rosters packed with powerful bats and a slew of Division-I commits, claiming the high ground at the Colorado 4th of July event would require rising to the occasion at the plate. In the eighth inning, the Athletics came up with the best, final answer, wrapping up an 11-10 victory when courtesy runner Baylee Howley scored on a flyout, in foul territory, off the bat of Kanisha Anderson.
The teams combined for one run through three innings before the dam burst, with five lead changes making it impossible to predict the result.
“This game, really, almost came down to the coin flip at the beginning to see who would be the home team, with the bats in their hands last,” said Athletics coach David Mercado. “The Bombers are a quality team, so are we, and at the end of the day it’s two great teams going at it. Normally by now, people are tired, it’s been a long week, but to see that fight and scrap by both teams, you can’t ask for anything else.”
The Bombers took their first lead, 3-1 after the top of the fourth, and the Athletics certainly seemed motivated in the moment, getting home runs from Kaila Pollard (heading to Florida this fall), Jordan Woolery (UCLA) and Jasmyn Burns (Ohio State) to move ahead, 6-3. The Bombers had another answer with four runs in the fifth, forcing a pitching change and getting well-timed hits from Destiny Rodriguez (Tennessee), Aiyana Coleman (Texas A&M) and Maci Bergeron (LSU) along the way. That inning might have swayed the game, but Kaylee Oh (San Diego) reeled in a difficult catch for the Athletics in left field with two outs and the bases loaded to keep things close.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kaylynn Jones homered, Woolery scored on a wild pitch, and the Athletics were up, 8-7. The first four batters for the Bombers reached in the top of the seventh, and the wind began howling out straight to left field — Abigail Savoy (LSU) tied the game with a single, and Avery Hodge (Oklahoma) put the Bombers up, 9-8, with a groundout.
Would there be drama in the bottom of the seventh as the Athletics hoped to rally? Uh, not really, as Mya Perez blasted a home run on the first pitch to knot it at 9-all.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations like that before, so honestly, my job there is to get on base anyway I can,” Perez said. “My previous at-bats, I didn’t get on, and my teammates were picking me up, saying “Mya, it’s your time.’ I felt confident, and any pitch I saw that was right there, I’d put all my power into it, hit it hard.”
“That’s a special bat and a special right there — Mya knows how to barrel balls, and she doesn’t miss them very often,” Mercado said. “Once that happened, I didn’t have any doubts about winning, although I didn’t think we’d have to go another inning.”
Indeed, a surprising line-drive double play doused hopes for another run, and the game moved to extra innings. The Bombers got one run on a groundout from Reagan Jones (Texas A&M); the Athletics countered in the bottom of the eighth as Burns singled in Alyssa Hovermale (Florida) to tie it, again.
“In the (eighth) there, I try to stay confident, and I’m thinking, hit the first, best pitch that comes to me,” said Burns, who had three hits and four RBI in the game. “I thought that pitch was pretty good, maybe I was bit early, but I got enough contact to get it through. Your goal is to win every national championship that you’re in, and we got it done.”
Anderson got down to her final strike in her at-bat; she lifted a ball to left field, and with it drifting toward the fence, Howley was able to score without a play at the plate when the ball was caught.
Mercado highlighted the play of his three seniors, Woolery, Pollard and Lauryn Borzilleri (Kentucky). Hodge reached base three times and drove in two runs for the Bombers. Keely Williams (Texas A&M) reached base three times and scored twice; Rodriguez doubled and drove in two runs.
Westminster, Colo. – It was a Texas duel for the 2022 Colorado 4th of July 14u Power Pool Championship, featuring two clubs who put together three wins apiece on Sunday to reach the final. Texas Riptide 14u, coming off a walk-off comeback victory in the semifinals just 20 minutes prior, carried that momentum to defeat a familiar foe, Texas Glory 2K26 7-1 in five innings.
“(Texas) Glory actually came down to our facility for a camp, so we are very familiar with their team,” said Texas Riptide head coach Sam Campbell. "They have an excellent young team."
Early on, both squads carried their impressive offensive performances from the Power Pool semifinals into the championship game. In the first inning, Texas Glory 2K26 opened the scoring with a monster shot to left center by second baseman Hope Gaudio, but the Riptide responded with two runs to take an early 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning.
In the bottom half of the second, the Riptide added to their lead thanks to a bases loaded RBI single off the bat of leadoff hitter Khamari Hall. The speedster would swipe second base on the play, and later come around to score on an errant throw to third, capping off a four run inning en route to a 6-1 Riptide lead.
That marked the end of the day for Glory starting pitcher Hayden Mowrey, who was replaced by Avery Howerton in the circle after giving up six runs on eight hits over one and two-thirds innings.
Riptide starting pitcher Hunter Quentel showed poise throughout the game while escaping the occasional jam, allowing just the lone run in the first. The righty went the distance, throwing five innings while giving up six hits and tallying one strikeout.
“She is a 2027 but she is familiar with (Texas Glory 2K26),” said Campbell of his ace pitcher. “Hunter has been big for us all summer long and she will continue to win big games for us”.
Quentel was backed by outstanding defensive efforts behind her, highlighted by a frozen rope throw from centerfielder Alisa Sneed, beating the runner at home attempting to tag up from third on a sac fly.
Sneed, ranked No. 1 in Extra Inning Softball’s 2025 Extra Elite 100, also contributed at the plate, driving in three runs on the day. Briana Collazo and Hall both chipped in with multi-hit games.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, it was Avery Evanspickens who clinched the 14u Power Pool crown with a no-doubter over the right field fence sending the club out of Asascocita, Texas home with more hardware for their trophy case.
“Girls fought hard all week long and I am just so extremely proud of them,” said Campbell. “We enjoy Colorado… we will be back to defend it next year.”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Fireworks could be heard going off in the distance, but it was the late-game fireworks from Impact Gold 2k9 National, which knocked off Hotshots National ’09, 2-1, in the 12u championship game of the Colorado 4th of July event that stole the show.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning and having not threatened to score all game, Torie Turner stepped up to the plate with two outs and a runner on second base for Impact Gold. Turner found the pitch she was looking for and laced a line drive into center field to score a run and tie up the game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Impact Gold found itself with runners on second and third with one out, giving them the perfect opportunity for the suicide squeeze bunt to score the game-winning run.
Playing under the lights after dealing with multiple lightning delays that pushed the championship game back, both pitchers put on a championship-worthy performance in a back-and-forth duel. In the top of the first inning, Impact Gold’s pitcher, Macie Bryant, quickly delivered a one-two-three inning, only for Hotshots’ pitcher, Kadyen Patin, delivered a one-two-three inning of her own.
It was just a sign of what was to come for the rest of the night.
Bryant pitched a complete-game no-hitter, walking just three batters and striking out 11, while Patin was equally nearly flawless, pitching the entire game and allowing four hits and four walks.
After cruising through the first two innings with ease, Bryant finally allowed a runner with a walk to Callia Carreon. Utilizing the rare opportunity to have a runner on base, Hotshots put pressure on Impact by sending Carreon to try and steal second base. The pressure worked as the throw to second base ended up getting through the infield and all the way to the outfield wall, allowing Carreon to get up and score, giving Hotshots a 1-0 lead despite not having a hit.
That’s where the game stood for a long stretch, as Bryant produced five one-two-three innings in the game and Patin held Impact Gold at bay until the sixth inning when Turner finally got the team on the board.
In the top of the seventh inning, Hotshots once again looked threatening, drawing a leadoff walk, and immediately advancing the runner to second on a sacrifice bunt. The Hotshots then stole third base before drawing another walk, having runners on a first and second with just one out. Feeling the pressure, Bryant once again came through in the clutch, striking out the first batter to get two outs.
On the next batter, Bryant threw a pitch in the dirt and Hotshots tried to take advantage by sending the runner from third, but Impact Gold recovered quick enough and tagged the runner out at the plate to preserve the 1-1 tie and keep the momentum.
Bryant was dominant throughout the entire tournament, pitching 34.1 innings in the tournament and producing six wins and 60 strikeouts with a 0.82 ERA.
Sunday’s lineup of games to determine the 18u Power Pool champion features a deeply skilled set of teams, well-known programs who are no strangers to the winner’s circle.
Athletics Mercado-Smith and Texas Bombers Gold earned first-round byes Saturday in the bracket; waiting for them at 10 a.m. Sunday at Aurora Sports Park are Arizona Storm-Mathis and Warrior Academy-McDonald, respectively. The other matchups in the final eight are Firecrackers-Rico and Lady Magic-Munoz, along with Lady Dukes Lamar and Bombers Gold National.
The six teams that needed wins late Saturday to advance all hit double figures in runs scored. Warrior Academy-McDonald plated 16 runs, and Bombers Gold National scored 15 runs.
Top bracket seeds in the 18u Supplemental are MN Magic National and GA Power Gold-Tunon.
By Courtney Oakes
Aurora, Colo. - The Lady Magic Munoz 18U team doesn’t take losing kindly and just may not do it again.
So far in a nearly week-long run of play in Colorado, the Elk Grove, California-based squad has only tasted defeat one time, but its no doubt been a spark.
Coach Ernie Munoz’s team has scored 16 runs or more in three of the four games since that loss, including a 17-2 shortened victory over Warrior Academy Saturday at Aurora Sports Park in which it pounded out 13 hits and batted around twice in just three at-bats. Center fielder Dakota Kennedy had a grand slam and seven RBI on the day as the Magic continued an offensive onslaught in the 18U Power Pool of the Colorado 4th of July tournament that brought it to the cusp of qualifying for the final day.
“I think that loss definitely kickstarted something for us for sure,” Munoz said of the defeat to the Lady Dukes out of North Carolina on Wednesday in a television game. “We’ve been on fire since yesterday,” he added. “I can’t say what our best hitting display is, but we tend to come to Colorado and have fun with the long ball here.”
The Magic — which had put up 16 runs against Firecrackers Breasher, 18 against EPIC National Smith and 11 against Utah FC Korth since their loss — had fun with the long ball during a third inning that saw 14 hitters come to the plate and every single player in the lineup score a run.
Oregon State signee Shaylen McDowell opened the inning with a solo home run and Kennedy followed walks to Grace Matej (Utah State) and Tayler Biehl (Arizona) and a single by Mickey Winchell (Notre Dame) with a bomb over the fence in center field. The University of Arizona signee — one of three straight left-handed hitters at the top of the Lady Magic order — jumped on the next pitch after she took a close one with two strikes that was called a ball.
“That’s only the second grand slam I’ve ever hit,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been trying to think about making the most of the pitches I have and I did on that one.”
Kennedy — who said the loss “woke us up a bit” — also knocked in a pair of runs during a six-run first inning that put the Lady Magic out in front from the get-go.
Biehl and Winchell both reached and stole bases and Kennedy promptly doubled them both in for a 2-0 lead less than 10 pitches into the game and prompted a pitching change by Warrior Academy.
Tiana Bell (California) hit a solo home run and Matej had a bases-loaded base hit that brought in three runs as highlights of the opening inning.
Winchell finished the day 3-for-3 and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, while Kennedy, Reina Zermeno (San Jose State) and Lauren Asia (San Diego) had two hits apiece and McDowell had a pair of RBI as the Lady Magic offense hit on all cylinders.
“It’s just a great offensive team overall,” Munoz said. “It’s definitely one of the more well-rounded teams we’ve had over the years. They are disciplined at the plate and we are doing it at different levels. We have the slappers with the speed, we have kids that come through in good situations and then the big boppers that come up and do what they do.”
Elaborated Kennedy: “I think that’s one of the things that separates us. We have power, but we also have some slappers and we can get bunts down, so I really think that is what makes us a threat to other teams. There’s also really good energy in the dugout. The last few tournaments we were working on our mechanics and this tournament, everyone has put it together.”
Staked with a big lead right away, starting pitcher Raimy Gambsy (Rutgers) pitched two innings and Malaya Johnson (Santa Barbara) closed it out with one.
Warrior Academy came into the game with some momentum after a slow start, as it posted a pair of victories Friday after it lost its first four contests.
Both of its runs came in the second inning when Ella Murchison (Stanford), Lauryn Horita (Tufts) and Adyson Kim (Univ. of Redlands) had consecutive hits to open the inning, with Kim’s driving in a run. Horita later came home after Kim broke for second base and was tagged out in a rundown. Hailey Weddington (San Francisco State) and Peyton Schemmer (Syracuse) had base hits as well for Warrior Academy.
The Lady Magic hope to keep their hot streak going in the single-elimination portion of the tournament and take it to Sunday afternoon’s championship.
“We’re ready to go,” Kennedy said. “I hope we face them (the Lady Dukes) again, I think it will be a lot better of a game. …We’re trying to outdo what we did last year here. We got fifth, so we’re trying to get higher.”
by Kyle Koso
NORTHGLENN, Colo. — Nickname nominations for Makayla Mendoza are now closed, with “Cemetery” and “Six Feet Under” leading the balloting.
Because when you hit the ball to Mendoza, that’s where at-bats go to die.
The shortstop for the Firecrackers CTX-DeMascio 16u team dominated defensively on Saturday in the 16u Sparkler Mount Elbert division, reeling in nine putouts as the Firecrackers (Georgetown, TX) got past the Lady Kingers, 7-1, at Rotary Park to advance into Sunday’s championship bracket. They’ll start up at noon Sunday at the Carroll Butts field complex in the hunt for the title.
Mendoza also reached base twice on the steamy afternoon, scoring a run in the five-run fifth inning where the Firecrackers took full command. Her work with the glove included stabbing a hard grounder in the top of the fifth, nabbing a line drive in the sixth and ending that frame on another grounder and yet another accurate throw to first base.
Hard-throwing starter Dorothy Ziebell took advantage of her defense’s skill set by allowing just four hits, striking out four and walking one.
“It’s definitely a good feeling, when your team needs you and you can provide all the skills your team needs,” said Mendoza, who was even a bit agitated at a bad-hop single over her head in the fifth that no one could have solved. “Get the outs when you can, get out of the inning and go back to score some runs. When the other team had the bases loaded (in the sixth), there was a lot of pressure, and you just want to get the last out, get out of the inning.”
The Lady Kingers (Oregon City, OR) took a 1-0 lead with a solo home run from Karah Miller in the second inning, but the Firecrackers countered in the third as Bella Loredo Awmiller laid down an instructional-video-perfect bunt to bring in Abby DeMascio. In the fourth, Ziebell worked her way through a long at-bat to punch a fly ball into left, and on the sacrifice fly the lead run by Kamryn Kothmann came home.
Ziebell added an RBI in the fifth and said she was very glad to provide those offensive moments since her defense had been playing with such quality. DeMascio made an amazing diving catch in right field as well in the sixth.
In the circle, Ziebell pitched with a purpose and didn’t mess around much out of the strike zone.
“I try to never fear the batter. If they can hit it, great, but I try to put it in there. They may miss, and they don’t always hit it hard,” she said. “I try to attack, with a mindset that I’m better, I have the spin and the speed, and I’m going to do great.
“That was a stressful at-bat (on the sac fly), I fouled a lot of pitches off. I thought I could see it pretty well, and I was pumped up to hit it and get the run to score. It was so exciting to see the defense make those amazing plays; I was so happy for them and it really gets my heart racing.”
Olivia Villanueva had two RBI for the Firecrackers.
“We talk about mindset with the team, making sure that they pick the pitch they want to attack and they make good decisions at the plate,” said Firecrackers coach Chad DeMascio. “We have drills that work on that, and we do it at game speed so they are cool, calm and collected and can execute. It’s not about any one individual, but it is about what we do in practice.
“We reinforce the foundation, the basics of softball. The first hour of practice is nothing but basics, every practice. Sometimes it gets little boring for them, but it comes out when it’s time.”
by Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. — With 12 years already invested in the sport of softball, Sophia Taliaferro has evolved into a genuine weapon on her roster, willing and more than able to perform at the plate or take on the defensive tasks at catcher, shortstop or the outfield.
A two-time all-state honoree from Vienna, VA., Taliaferro is in good standing with her teammates and coaches. But standing still is not an option for dedicated athletes chasing their ceiling, which meant Taliaferro eagerly signed up for three pre-tournament offerings at the Triple Crown 2022 Colorado 4th of July event — College Camp Sunday, and then back-to-back sessions at Elite College Camp Monday and the organizational workout of her club program, the Fury Platinum.
All this took place before her Fury Platinum National-Chiles 16u team even started action in the tournament. It’s safe to say Taliaferro is tapping all her energies in Colorado, figuring the best way to secure a future in the sport is to fully engage in the present.
Triple Crown’s college camps fit right into that plan.
“First and foremost, I want to meet the college coaches who will be there … it’s important to be able to meet who you might play for in person,” said Taliaferro, 16, a junior-to-be at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, VA under coach Suzy Willemssen. That team is a two-time defending state champion group, and Willemssen was just awarded the inaugural TCS Joan Joyce Award on Monday.
“There are different personalities, different ways to teach the game, and it’s important to find someone you connect with. It’s good practice to put yourself in those situations. You’re under pressure to perform, and going into that will make you better for sure. And you never know what you’ll learn. There are new drills and new perspectives I’ve seen by going to camps like this.”
Taliaferro started playing at age 4, getting an itch for the diamond sports from watching an older brother play baseball. Around age 10, a club coach took time to highlight how Taliaferro’s skills and mindset could really lead to something special, and her affection for the game took off from there.
The left-hand hitter will know more about the shape of her recruiting journey in September when her graduating class can be contacted by Division-I programs. The academic and athletic reputation of Notre Dame appealed to her for the Elite Camp on Monday, and she enjoyed her time with the Fighting Irish staff at Aurora Sports Park.
“I would say culture is a big factor; I want to go somewhere I know the coaches care about how I’m playing, but they care about me as a person as well,” Taliaferro said. “Notre Dame talked about their culture, how their relationships with players look, the mental aspect of the game. You have to prioritize your mindset before you can get to how you play — it all feeds off each other.”
The environment of each school is a worthy topic to consider. Athletes know the college road ahead will include a tempo-heavy mix of classwork, early-morning weight room chores, film study, practices, road trips … it’s critical to find the right landing spot when much is being asked of you.
“The benefit of going to individual camps, you can get a feel for their philosophy, what they expect from their players and their staff. You hear what they say and watch what they do,” said Taliaferro’s father, Aaron. “The drills they run will tell you a lot about what they are looking for. You need to understand, is it a developmental culture, a transactional culture … it’s not right or wrong, but players and parents should know what you’re getting into. The camps help you toward understanding that.”
If growing skills and showing tenacity is part of what makes earning a college scholarship possible, it’s nice if the game remains something fun and fortifying to the spirit. Taliaferro said she’s immersed herself in softball, giving herself to it because of what it gives back.
“The game makes me feel special,” she added. “Not everyone can say they get to go out and do these cool things, travel and be with a team all the time, meet great people. It’s cool how much the game has brought me … it’s built me as a person. It’s something I can tap into; whenever I don’t like what else is going on, there’s always softball.”
COLLEGE CAMP CREDITS — There were 1,502 players attending the 19 camps that were run on Sunday, and Monday there were 517 players in Elite Camps. There were about 250 college coaches directing the camps.
“The Colorado 4th of July camps, both multi-school and elite camps, have brought so many talented and knowledgeable coaches to one location,” said Triple Crown camp director Alyson Carter. “Our Elite College Camps continue to house the top programs in the country including four schools that were in the Women’s College World Series (Texas, Oklahoma State, Florida and Northwestern) and all but one making it to NCAA Regionals this postseason.”
AURORA, Colo. – Ada Little put forth a star performance in the circle as Tennessee Mojo 2025 Gregory knocked off the Birmingham Thunderbolts Premier 2025 Kemp, 7-2, in the 14u Power Pool Championship, capping off a perfect 6-0 start to the Colorado Fourth of July event for Mojo.
Little pitched all seven innings with only two blemishes, a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning with the team already up 6-0, and then one run in the bottom of the seventh inning with the game in hand. Little was near perfect in the first four innings, giving the offense enough time to find its rhythm.
After being shut out in the first two innings, Tennessee Mojo finally got on the board courtesy of Lilly Livingston, who launched a three-run homerun to give the team a 3-0 lead. In the top of the fourth inning, Mojo once again added three runs, this time utilizing some impressive small-ball play. Mojo increased its lead to 4-0 when Jade Carnahan scored from third on a double-steal attempt. Two more runs scored on a deep fly ball from Avery Adcock to give Mojo a commanding 6-0 lead through four innings.
Tennessee Mojo added one more in the top of the sixth inning on a solo home run from Karley Moreland.
by Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. — Even a partial comeback can prove a team has backbone.
Thursday evening’s 16u Power Pool TV game for the Colorado 4th of July event saw the Lady Knights Black (Hawaii) jump on top of Virginia Unity with a four-run burst in the fourth inning. With only one hit to that point, the Unity might have wondered about their ability to respond in front of the big crowd at the Aurora Sports Park.
But right away, they answered with three runs, leaving work to do but with a sense that the roster had the pieces to do some damage. With two runs in the fifth, one the sixth and a door-slamming effort from reliever Addi Linton, the Unity capped their rally and posted a 6-4 victory.
The first four batters for the Unity in the fourth reached base; Destiny Harris got the scoring started with an RBI single, Jayden Heavener plated one with a single and Esther White drove one in with a sacrifice fly. Linton, who ended the Knights’ push in the fourth with a strikeout, returned to the circle and scattered three hits and a walk the rest of the way, adding three strikeouts.
“Our coaches told us all the pitchers needed to be ready; when my name was called, I had to go in and do my job,” Linton said. “It’s the best feeling to be out there, having your teammates behind you. We talked in the dugout about needing to keep the ball on the ground (when hitting) because of the wind, and we worked hard on that.”
“That kid is a great competitor, and she wants the ball in big situations,” said Unity co-coach Josh Johnson. “What a huge win for her.”
And actually, Linton did just fine at bat getting a ball up in the air — in the fifth, her sky-high fly ball twisted the Knights fielders before it landed, and the spin took it clear to the fence by the third-base dugout for a double. Brinli Bain drove her in with a sacrifice fly to tie it, 4-all.
The next batter, McCall Sims, followed with arguably the clutch hit of the day, a two-out single that brought in Frankie Vrazel to give the Unity the lead.
“The wind was in our favor; I was just telling myself, hit a ground ball up the middle,” Sims said. “I wasn’t that nervous; I felt confident. We all trust Addi, and she’s fun to make plays behind. If we play how we know how to play, we can win any game. We had that confidence.”
“We got punched in the face and had to get back at it,” Johnson added. “It was a little worrisome, but once you get that first run, it feels different and changes the mindset in the dugout. McCall has been there with big hits all year, and there’s a reason she’s hitting third in our lineup. She’s a great basketball player, but really good at softball, too.”
The final run for the Unity came in the sixth, when White reached on an error and was doubled in by Rylie Johnson.
For the Knights, Taryn Ho hit a two-run home run in the fourth.