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.