In the July 20 edition of Belton Journal Sports, we brought you the first part of the Texas Teenage Softball Association’s 2017 8U Coach Pitch State Softball Tournament, featuring the Belton Thunder and Belton Hot Stix action from Monday night, July 17.
The teams were 1-0 going into action on Wednesday (July 19) and attempting to stay in the tournament’s winner’s bracket.
The Belton Thunder played the Boqsueville Purple Thunder. Despite the chipping away, the teal-and-grey clad Thunder delivered the Purple Thunder a booming 21-13 thumping to move on into Thursday.
The Hot Stix struggled early with the Corsicana Sassy Bats and was down 13-5 before embarking on a rally to pull to within a run late. But the Hot Stix couldn’t push the tying run across in the final inning and fell 14-13, which dropped the team into the loser’s bracket and forced the Hot Stix into an elimination game against Temple Beasts N Cleats late Wednesday night.
Not wanting to end their stay, the Hot Stix plated four runs early and never trailed in a 13-5 win over Temple.
Analicia Martinez had three RBIs, Emma Lusty and Sophia Vegahauser each had two-run doubles and Lauren Vazquez had a two-run, walk-off, run-rule, inside-the-park home run.
The Thunder dropped the Sassy Bats into the loser’s bracket on Thursday evening, as they scored early and often in a 17-2 run rule win.
It set up their first encounter with the vaunted Riesel Pink Pistols. The Thunder could not get the offense going early. Defensively, the Thunder was the only team that the Pink Pistols faced in this season that held them scoreless in back-to-back innings. Riesel won the game 10-0 in five innings to drop the Thunder into the loser’s bracket heading into Friday night.
The Hot Stix continued its march through the loser’s bracket on Thursday. First, they faced the Cameron Dirt Diamonds and had no trouble. They used two big rallies to force the Dirt Diamonds from the tournament, 18-3.
In their second game of the night, they faced the Cameron Thunder. They had the game in hand going into the fifth inning, 10-3. The talented players from Cameron scored three runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth to force the game into extra innings. Steady defense on both sides, which included an unassisted double play by the Hot Stix’ Vazquez at first base, held the score at 10-10 after the seventh inning. The Hot Stix scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning and Cameron scored a run in the bottom of the frame. But Madison Perkins tagged out the potential tying run at third base to help the Hot Stix escape to play another day, 12-11.
The final four of the tournament boiled down to the Thunder, Hot Stix, Riesel and Itasca Ponce.
On Friday, the Hot Stix took on Itasca. Having spotted Itasca a first-inning run on a two-base error and ground out, Vegahauser and Vazquez combined for a double play to get the team out of any further trouble.
The offense took over and dismantled Itasca. They scored three runs in the first inning, five runs in the second inning, six runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth to run-rule Itasca, 17-2. Itasca was eliminated to finish in fourth place.
Vazquez scored four runs, went 4-of-4 and was a double short of the cycle, driving in three runs. Channing Stewart had two-run double and Je’Naiya Russell-Dukes had a big triple, which scored Martinez.
The win set up an all-Belton matchup for the right to play in the state championship game.
The Thunder drew the visitor’s card for the matchup with their BYSA counterpart. With one out, Andalyn Logan and Reagan Stuart singled, which set up Madison Naser’s two-out, two-run double to centerfield. Jaya Lisenbe singled and Mikayla Bartlett drove home Naser to put the Thunder up 3-0 before the Hot Stix’ first at-bat.
The Hot Stix answered the Thunder’s first-inning boom with a three-spot of their own in the bottom of the frame. Madison Bond raced around the bases for an inside-the-park homer to put the Hot Stix on the board. Perkins singled and moved to third on an error. Vazquez singled home Perkins and scored on an error to tie the game up at 3-3.
The Thunder were unfazed by the Hot Stix rally and scored four runs in the second inning. Braelynn Hendricks singled to start the inning. With one out, Logan singled Hendricks to third base. Stuart’s double drove home Hendricks and Logan. Miley Davila singled, Naser grounded out to score Stuart and Lisenbe singled in Davila to increase the Thunder lead to four, 7-3.
The defenses held the offenses off the board until the top of the fourth inning, when the Thunder struck for five runs. Davila reached on a throwing error to start the inning. With one out, three consecutive singles by Lisenbe, Bartlett and Lizzy Simeroth drove home two runs to increase the advantage to six, 9-3. Hendricks drove in Bartlett with a groundout and Dollar singled home Simeroth up the Thunder lead to 11-3.
The Hot Stix had a golden opportunity draw closer in the bottom of the fourth inning. Shelby Slaughter and Hanna Wheeler singled to start the inning. Following an out, Slaughter was thrown out on a force. Stewart’s two-run double scored courtesy runner Catalina Esquivel and Lusty, but was tagged out by Perkins at third base to end the inning.
The Thunder scored their final two runs of the ballgame in the top of the fifth inning. Davila singled and Naser doubled to start the inning. Lisenbe’s groundout scored Davila and Simeroth’s triple scored Naser to increase the Thunder lead to eight runs, 13-5.
The Hot Stix were able to get Perkins and Vazquez on with one out in the bottom of the fifth. But a flyout to Davila at third base and a groundout to Lisenbe in the circle ended the ballgame and the season for the Hot Stix, who took third place in the state with a 5-2 tournament record.
The Hot Stix finished as runner-up in the Belton Youth Softball Association’s 8U Coach Pitch Division and runner-up in district play before the tournament.
“I am so proud of these girls and what they have accomplished this season,” Hot Stix head coach Jamie Perkins said. “They have worked hard all year and the Thunder pushed them. Our teams have great respect for each other.”
“The Hot Stix are a wonderful team,” Thunder head coach Richard Naser said. “Our girls always know that they are in for a battle against the Hot Stix. Jamie and her staff coached the girls well.”
The Thunder faced off in a rematch with Riesel in a 9 p.m. matchup. The Pink Pistols needed one victory to win the state title and the Thunder needed back-to-back wins.
Riesel held the Thunder to just two hits and went on a 23-hit barrage over the course of three-and-two-thirds of an inning to run-rule the Thunder 22-0.
The Thunder went 4-2 in the tournament and finished as the TTAS 8U Coach Pitch runner-up.
“We knew coming into the tournament that Riesel was going to be a challenge,” Richard Naser said. “Many of their players play together on a select team. Their coaches said that they have had a core of their players that had played together since they were four years old. But I couldn’t be more proud of our girls. They were up for every challenge and faced them head on.”