Some comments from play-by-play notes and random observations.
Umpiring rates at least a B+ — thanks to the careful pre-tournament scrutiny of ASA officials like Phil Gutierrez and Mike Schmuk – but there were some blown calls, a couple of which astonished Spy.
Game tracking via the new system was very good, as was scoreboard management, thanks to the training and oversight of ASA communications director Julie Bartel.
Attendance fell off sharply on Friday and Saturday as teams were eliminated – an unfortunate aspect of every Gold championship since at least 1994.
Kevin Fagan won his much-coveted Gold nationals but he will take only one more crack at a softball championship. Kasey has gone to Florida, Sami is about to follow her to Gatorland, and Kevin wants to coach his son’s football team.
Several coaches are fiercely competitive but it was gratifying to hear several expressions of post-game goodwill. Sam Greiner pitched all of Newtown Rock’s first six games, and was holding her own in the championship game against TNF until relieved late, which earned high praise from TNF’s Fagan. No coach is more outspoken than Mark Griggs of the Wichita Mustangs; but when his team was eliminated late Saturday by Gold Coast Hurricanes 2-1, a team they had knocked into the loser’s bracket on Friday 4-2, Griggs walked up and simply said, “We lost to a better team.”
Greiner is headed to South Florida; we applauded Newtown Rock’s Rich Way for bringing her back in the what-if game to pitch the last inning of her senior year.
The most interesting person (imho) in attendance was Kirk Shireman, whose daughter Erin catches for Texas Impact Gold, while wife Chris keeps a very accurate scorebook.. Kirk is deputy managing director of the USA space station program. Contrary to some Hollywood scripts, the greatest threat to the space station, and our shuttles, is “space junk.” The space station travels at 17,500 mph – there is no such thing as a minor collision. Kirk also explained that there is a partial rotation of the six astronauts on the space station every three months; since our shuttle no longer fly, we are dependent on the Russian Soyuz spaceships.
Btw, when Erin turned 13 in 2007, the astronauts sang Happy Birthday from space.
The True Grit award goes to Sami Fagan. When the tournament ended, Spy offered Kevin Fagan some good advice – not about softball – but about getting a good dentist for Sami. Prior to the championship, Sami, who is very aggressive and very athletic, slid into home plate face first – chipping off one tooth and cutting her head. Sami stood, spit out the blood, and stayed in the game.
An almost inevitable aspect of Gold – and other double elimination tournaments – is that teams who lose their first game seem to lose the second game almost immediately. Obviously, this thins the herd, and less competitive teams are quickly gone. But, some regroup, and win at least one game in the loser’s bracket. Arizona Storm and Desert Thunder each won three. Severna Park Hornets, behind the estimable pitching of Kaitlyn Schmeiser (and her sister Lindsey’s hitting), won two games in the loser’s bracket. Wagner’s won two, as did Indy Dreams, and Miami Stingrays. So did TNL, including a 6-4 upset of the highly regarded San Diego Renegades. Teams who won at least a game in the loser’s bracket included St Louis Chaos; Lake Breeze Birch; Originals, San Jose Sting; Georgia Impact; and Déjà Vu.
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On the other hand, Houston Power, who had looked strong in earlier tournaments, never recovered from its first game 2-0 loss to TNF; they lost a toughie second game to Wagner’s 10-9. Others who went out in two included Lethal Weapon; CA Thunder; MN Irish; Sudden Impact; Team Power; Tulsa Shootout; CA Raiders; Vienna Stars; TX Blaze; Fusion; GA Impact White; Beverly Bandits; Voodoo; TX Sudden Impact; and NJ Breakers.
The Heartbreak Hotel was filled to capacity. Corona Angels defeated Atlanta Vipers Gold 7-6. The Vipers had a 6-4 lead, bottom 7th, two out, bases loaded; a high fly ball hit by pinch-hitter Urness sailed to the right fielder, who dropped it, a 3-4 run error. The Vipers were no strangers to dramatic finishes; they trailed Severna Park Hornets 3-0 after six. Vipers tied 3-3, then Siena Lawrence jacked a walk-off grand slam to snatch victory from the Hornets. All American Sports Academy was on a three-game winning streak when they were shut out by Newtown Rock 8-0. SD Renegades led TNL 4-0 until the 5th when TNL tied with 4 runs, then eliminated the Renegades (playing before one of the best crowds od the week) with 2 runs in the 6th. TNL loaded the bases; a fly ball dropped between three fielders; a ground ruledouble by Sevilla settled the decision – all the more numbing because Renegades, in the 2nd, had bases-loaded but hit into a double play.
There were a few blowouts. Gold Coast Hurricanes were leading Worcester Hawks 5-0 going into the 7th, when the GCH erupted for 9 runs. Tampa Mustangs battered MN Irish 11-1. Texas Glory downed Vienna Stars 10-2. OC Elite defeated Wagner’s 9-2, but lost to TNF 10-0. TNF also beat USA Athletics 10-0. Corona Angels blanked Voodoo 12-0. Originals beat Vienna Stars 13-5. Wichita Mustangs blanked Huntsville Sparks 8-0. Newtown Rock beat Gators Flannery 9-0. All American Sports Academy beat OK Exclusive 8-0. Corona Angels beat Vipers Berry 14-3.
There were some close games. Wichita Mustangs defeated Tampa Mustangs 2-1 (9), a game in which both teams lost chances to score. Diamond Girls 3, Easton Elite 2. Fort Worth Batbusters 2, Mizuno Pride 1. USA Athletics 2, Vipers Gold 1 (8). Pastime 1, Originals 0. Strike Force 4, Beverly Bandits 3. Fury 4, IN Magic 3. AA Sports 4, Fury 3. In each instance, the losing teams were a run away from staying in the winner’s bracket. In the loser’s bracket, a single run sent several teams home: Lethal Weapon; OC Elite, Sudden Impact; Team Power; Houston Power, TNL, Lake Breeze Birch; Huntsville Sparks.
The schedule was very compact – and became an endurance contest Friday and Saturday for teams in the loser’s bracket – who on some occasion has 20-30 minutes between games. The admirable decision to delay games on Thursday until 4pm so that teams could attend the funeral of a SD Renegades player and her mother kept teams on the field until midnight. Moreover, teams found themselves playing a n9am game Friday morning, and, if they lost, driving 45 minutes from Santee to Poway for a 3pm game, and vice versa. (Spy did not attempt to drive to Poway; notoriously challenged navigationally, Spy on the first morning took an hour to drive the 25 minutes to Santee, and lost an hour on a wrong turn after the final game, driving further east on the 8 rather than west, despite an excellent Garmin GPS.)
Spy was very appreciative of the managers for putting a table down below in the scorekeeper’s area for the final game, which allowed Spy to put the game on our computer as it played. There should be working space for reporters at scorekeeper tables at every tournament – but there are few tournaments which provide them. (Oops; my table was up against the fence; on the other side, all the dignitaries waiting for final game introductions. My table was jolted, and a large cup of Coca Cola splashed down the pants leg of the Santee city councilman, who was wearing white pants.)
Not attending games at Poway did not work a major disadvantage in terms of reporting scores, thanks to the Point system which put every game on the ASA web site at its conclusion. But, any tournament with this many teams means that Spy can only see a
handful, and, even with the box scores, is not likely to report every game changing play, or even home runs and highlight plays.
These stood out among the plays/games we observed.
For four innings, Wichita Mustangs pitcher Lauren Ainsley (TAMU) held off the powerful Gold Coast Hurricanes and led 4-0 until Elizabeth Birle slugged a 2-run HR to narrow the score to 4-2. Mustangs were leading 1-0 when Hugo hit the decisive blow, a 2-run single. Mustang Shelby Davis’ catch in center caught our eye, as did the all-around play of Emily Griggs, just turned 15.
Newtown Rock trailed TNF 4-0 in their first meeting atop the winner’s bracket, before Rock prevailed 5-4, sending TNF down to the loser’s bracket. Two outstanding pitchers. Sam Greiner was the winning pitcher; Carly Hoover took the loss, when the Mustangs scored all five runs in the 6th. Black scored on a bases-loaded walk; Wambold singled in 2 runs; and the last two runs scored on an error by Fagan.
Texas Impact Gold trailed Tampa Mustangs 4-1 when they unleashed one of the most prolific scoring outbursts to win 13-4, scoring 12 runs in the 4th. The fusillade began with a 2-run homer by Barefield. Schkade, Guy and Piro each had 2 rbi.
Texas Impact seemed to have overcome All American Sports Academy 5-4 on Schkade’s homer – they had trailed 4-1 – but a catcher error tied the game 5-5. With Heaton on base, ITB, Schkade doubled, and Impact held on to win 6-5.
Tampa Mustangs scored 4 runs bottom 7th to defeat Diamond Girls 7-6. Bases loaded, Bell singles in 2 runs; Garcia scores on error at 2nd; Lopez scores winner when Horwarth is hbp with bases loaded.
Correction: Texas Impact defeated Texas Glory 8-0, not 10-0.
We lost track of the number of times teams had bases loaded with two out, and lacked that puncher who could deliver.
ASA provided these stats:
Team North Florida of Dunnellon, Fla. claimed the 2011 ASA 18U GOLD National Championship with a 2-1 “if necessary” victory over Newtown Rock of Holland, Pa. on Saturday evening at the Sportsplex USA Santee location. Forcing the ‘if” game with a 5-2 victory in the championship game, North Florida finished the tournament with a 7-1 overall record. Representing the Southern Territory, they were led by Samantha Fagan who hit .438 for bracket play going 14-for-32. Pitcher Carley Hoover went 43.1 innings in bracket play and recorded 41 strikeouts and a .65 ERA.
Newtown Rock of Holland, Pa. finished the tournament at 6-2 representing Region 3. Leading the second place team was Lauren Gaskill who finished the tournament batting .407 with three home runs.
AVG – Must have a minimum of 2.7 plate appearances per team game.
ERA – Must have a minimum of .8 inning(s) pitched per team game.