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.