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.”