By Adam Dunivan
AURORA -- The Triple Crown Colorado Fireworks fastpitch tournament is typically one of the most fun events of the summer for the Birmingham Thunderbolts '01 Dorsett team, but it was difficult not to play without some heavy hearts this week while they were in the Metro Denver area.
When the team got the chance to rise above some difficult circumstances, however, they performed with flying colors, capturing the Fireworks 16 Power Pool championship with a perfect 12-0 record after defeating the LTG Lions-Henderson/Lively by a 12-3 score in five innings Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park.
Head coach Keith Dorsett was moved by his team's efforts in the wake of the loss of someone close to Thunderbolts player Kassidy Wilcox this past Monday. Wilcox's sister, Alex, passed away from complications of ovarian cancer, prompting Kassidy to fly back home to Alabama before the tournament started.
After the championship, Dorsett collected a trophy and a T-shirt for Kassidy, and the team certainly indicated the whole week had more on the line this time.
"This was definitely for Kassidy and her family," Dorsett said. "I know they're at home and they were watching, and we miss them a lot."
"I thought we just had a little bit of extra motivation behind us with Kassidy being gone and with Alex being so close to all of us, and it wasn't like a 'have-to' but it was more doing this for them," said rising senior Brylie St. Clair, who collected four hits in the title game. "Us going 12-0 was just us showing them our love."
Facing some top pitching talent through the week, the Thunderbolts managed to score 99 runs in their 12 contests using speed and power. On Sunday, they outslugged the Aces Express 16U Futures by a 16-13 count to get to the championship against LTG, based in Elk Grove, California.
It was speed that led to four first-inning runs, as the Thunderbolts put pressure on the LTG infield, but Hannah Borden's three-run home run in the second inning really put a charge in the team as a whole.
The Thunderbolts scored multiple runs in each of their four innings of at-bats, collecting 14 hits.
Borden hit so many home runs this week, Dorsett said he lost count. Team supporters said she had 10, while Borden admitted to nine.
"Whenever I get in the box I'm just trying to get a hit for the team and do whatever's best, so I try and relax and not think about things," Borden said. "We really showed discipline and just play our game and do what we can."
LTG was led by rising junior Payton Toto, who blasted a solo home run in the second inning and had a two-run single in the third to account for all her team's runs. The Lions had eight hits, but the Thunderbolts were strong in the field with no errors and a couple of stellar plays from second baseman Carlie McCondichie.
"We knew coming out here we had to hit every game," Dorsett said. "I want to say we faced eight (Southeastern Conference-bound) pitchers, and averaged eight or nine runs a game, so it meant everything.
"I've had three or four of these girls since they were 9-years-old and I told them going into this game, PGF is a big tournament but this one has been around a lot longer and to me, this tournament means a lot."
Both teams are scheduled to appear at the PGF Premier Nationals in Huntington Beach at the end of the month.