They were in a do-or-die situation, but the Tri County Slammers were a determined team. Playing in the 14 and under Babe Ruth state fast pitch softball tournament, the team of all-stars from Paonia and Hotchkiss pulled off an eight-run third inning to advance to the Midwest Plains regional tournament.
Head coach Matt Hall told the girls going into the game to relax and just play their best. "I knew they were capable of doing great things. They'd shown that all week, but they just weren't able to put it all together in a single game."
This time, they did.
With several last-minute cancellations, only three teams were able to attend the double-elimination tournament, held July 5-8 at Paonia. The Slammers had already lost twice to the Castle Rock All-Stars — the first in pool play, which they lost by only two runs, and the second in tournament play, which they lost by 15. On Saturday, the Slammers were down 5-7 going into the third inning against the All-Stars.
Samantha Galley scored the first run on an overthrow to third. With no runners on base and one out, 11-year-old Kambry Hall hit a single to load the bases. They were up by only one, with two outs. An overthrow at third scored Hall to make it 9-7. Shelby Rogers hit a pop fly to bring in another run, stole second, and got to third on a wild pitch. Castle Rock walked a player, and on the next play Rogers scored to bring the game to 12-7. Castle Rock's infield missed a pop fly, giving the Slammers a 13-7 lead heading into the bottom of the inning.
The defense held Castle Rock to just one run.
The All-Stars threatened a comeback by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth, but they still trailed 16-13. The Slammers managed one run in the top of the sixth. Castle Rock scored on a sacrifice hit to come to within one run and was threatening to score, but they ended the inning on an infield grounder.
With the score 17-16, Rogers scored one final run for the Slammers.
Up by only two going into the bottom of the seventh, Hall put Galley on the mound, and she struck out the first batter. The all-stars again threatened, getting their next batter to first. She tried to steal second, got in a pickle and was tagged out. Two outs. With runners on second and third and the count at 2-2, Galley threw a third strike, catcher Hailey Lofley caught it, and the game was over.
"As soon as I saw that third strike, I knew we were going to Kansas," said Galley. The difference between this game and the first two was that everyone was upbeat and not so worried about winning, she said. They'd practiced hard every day for the last two and a half weeks, "and that really helped."
"Coach told us to do our best and to try our hardest and that was all that anyone could ask," said Lofley. "And it helps to have two coaches that really believe in you and parents that are always there cheering for you."
The nice thing about the team, added Lofley, "is that everyone plays every position, no matter the score. Everyone gets to play. We all play infield, we all play outfield. That's the kind of team we are."
Hall commended the All-Stars, calling them "...about as classy a team as I've seen. Nobody hung their heads. They kept battling back. They should have been out of it, but they didn't quit. They just kept going."
The Slammers are the first girls' team in Tri County's 8-year history to advance to regionals, said tournament organizer Joanne Jones.
Southeast Denver went undefeated to win the tournament. The team is a mix of players from Denver, Douglas County, Strasburg and AGSA. All of the players are 14, and several were on the state champion U12 team from 2010. Pitcher Sarah Rawlings was voted tournament MVP.
The regional tournament begins July 18 at Independence, Kan.blog comments powered by Disqus