LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – In a game in which both teams struggled to consistently get anything going offensively, the Wildcats Del Campo/Weil utilized a big fourth inning to pull out a 6-3 victory over the 5 Star PlayMakers Siofele/Mulipola to advance to the 16u Championship Bracket of the TC Nationals.
After a couple of one-two-three innings, the Wildcats finally got something going when Savannah Patino hit a ball off the fence for a double. Olivia Clavero then slapped a ball down towards the third base side for an RBI single to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead and some momentum as the lineup turned towards the top heading into the fourth inning.
In the fourth inning, the Wildcats came up big with five hits and four doubles to take command of the game, 6-0. Jocelyn Robles got things started with a single followed by a double from Hannah Moreno to put runners on second and third. Then came the damage. Sammy Vargas got things started with a two-RBI double to make it 3-0, and a couple batters later, Marissa Quintero, the pitcher, helped her cause with a two-RBI double to make it 5-0. Patino came up and knocked Quintero in with her second double of the game, making it 6-0 and putting the Wildcats in complete control of the game.
On the mound, Quintero was sharp and held the PlayMakers scoreless through five innings. The PlayMakers finally got on the board when Brooke Goodman laced an RBI double, but it was too little, too late. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the PlayMakers managed to load the bases with one out, but only were able to bring two more runs across on a sac-fly and a double steal attempt before the game was over. The Wildcats now advance to the Championship Bracket of the 16u TC Nationals, while the PlayMakers will take on the Power Surge in an elimination game at 8 am PT on Saturday to make it to the Championship Bracket.
CHINO HILLS, Calif. – It was all business on Thursday afternoon for the Corona Angels Tyson in a methodical 10-0 victory over the Washington Ladyhawks 18u Gold Simpson, moving the Angels one win away from advancing to the Championship Bracket of the Triple Crown Nationals.
Kylee Magee, an Arizona State commit, set the tone early on for the Angels striking out three hitters in the top of the first inning. Overall, Magee ended up racking up eight strikeouts in three innings of shutout work, while Oregon commit, Taylour Spencer, added five strikeouts over the final two innings of the game.
Offensively, the Angels were aggressive at the plate and aggressive on the basepaths. Every time the Angels got someone on first base, it was a sure bet that that runner was taking off for second. Taralyn Ollison picked up two stolen bases in the bottom of the first inning, and after a walk, Sierra Humphreys delivered a two-RBI triple to give Corona a 2-0 lead.
The offense really got going in the bottom of the second however, this time utilizing the long ball. After a pair of singles from Jesse Farrell and Katelyn Caneda, Kaitlyn Wynia lifted a ball out to right field for a three-run home run. The damage in the inning wasn’t over, however. Ollison delivered an RBI single and then Elon Butler, a CAL commit, blasted a ball over the left field wall to make it 8-0.
Corona added two more runs in the bottom of the third inning to make it 10-0 and cruised in the game with only one Washington Ladyhawks player even reaching second base. Overall, Corona has looked dominant and deep at TC Nationals, outscoring its opponents 28-1 so far this tournament. The Angels will take on Warrior Academy McDonald, which has outscored its opponents 31-7 so far, at 10:15 am on Friday with the winner advancing to the Championship Bracket.
By Kyle Koso
CHINO HILLS, CA – Putting up double-figure runs totals usually hints at a power-packed offense, going to work and launching balls all over the yard.
For the 18u Batbusters-Stith squad, Thursday’s resounding 13-1 victory against Sorcerers-Gabales/Rodruguez was rooted in the little things, where quality at-bats and steady pressure led to good fortune as play continued at the TC Nationals event.
The Batbusters started the second inning with three infield hits and two fielder’s-choice plays way in front of the outfield turf, a testament to the damage done by small ball. Ultimately, a costly error that would have been the third out at home plate opened the door for more, and a couple more hits of the firm variety capped the push at seven runs.
“We take pride in swinging at strikes, and sometimes it’s tough out there. You can win an at-bat hitting it hard, but a base hit is the (goal),” said Batbusters catcher Alexis Ramirez (a UCLA commit), who reached base in all four of her appearances and had a single and double in the big second inning. “It’s good to know I can produce for my team and help my pitcher get comfortable. She can give up a hit or two then, no big deal.”
Ramirez’s second double of the game brought in a run in the fourth, and the muscle showed up in the fifth inning with a five-run outburst – Ella Parker (Oklahoma) drove in two runs with a single, and Jocey Erickson (Oklahoma) ended all debate with a long three-run homer.
In the circle, Ryan Maddox (heading to play at Arizona this fall) was in full command and control, allowing three hits and two walks to go with seven strikeouts.
“I was throwing them off-balance with the changeup; I did start to struggle a bit with the strike zone, but I trusted my defense,” Maddox said. “Threw them strikes, got some ground balls and a few swing-and-misses. The big lead made me feel better. I just tried to hit the corners and keep them off-balance, and I know my teammates have my back if they do put it in play.
“At the top of the lineup we have some slappers, and if they can get on base, our big hitters will drive them in. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
“Ryan is always a dog – I can count on her to throw strikes. Every time there is a big moment, I feel like she steps up even more,” Ramirez added. “It’s her time to time; I have all the confidence in the world with her, and she’s great to work with.”
Ailani Agbayani (BYU) had two hits and two RBI for the Batbusters. Alexis DeBoer had two hits for the Sorcerers.
The Batbusters-Stith will face Firecrackers TJ on Friday with the winner earning a spot in the 18u championship bracket, while the other team can still make it through in a loser’s bracket game on Saturday.
By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – Getting in trouble on the scoreboard turns out to never be a reason to scold the Athletics Mercado Greg-Tidd 16u squad.
Facing comeback situations throughout the week, the Athletics continually found ways to finish off games, enough to reach the finals of the championship bracket at the TC Nationals tournament. The team worked past one last moment of danger, scoring eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to top the AZ Storm Mathis team, 12-6, at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park.
“This group has done it time and time again. Last week in Colorado (at the Boulder IDT) we had three walk-off wins against the best teams in the country, and we were down four or five runs today in every game, fifth inning or later,” said Athletics head coach Greg Borzilleri. “When we swing the bats the way we do and get the performances in the circle we absolutely have to have … I can’t say enough about the heart this group has showed all summer.”
Trailing 6-4 after six innings, the Athletics showed immediate life on an opposite field home run by Mya Perez to lead off the frame. The next three batters reached, but Storm pitcher Jocelyn Briski struck out two straight to heap on the drama and put her team on the doorstep of winning.
Next up for the Athletics was Kanisha Anderson, who had homered way back in the second inning in what then looked like the most consequential at-bat for her on the day. She fell behind 0-2 in the seventh, took a ball, fouled off two pitches and then dropped in a single to left to tie the game.
“That at-bat was probably one of the scariest I’ve ever done. I know I have a RBF, but I was panicked,” Anderson said. “I shortened up my swing, kind of half-swinging, which I usually don’t do. We just don’t get down. It’s irritating to (fall behind), but it is what it is.”
“It’s hard when you see the other team ready to storm the field, down to your last strike, But we’ve been here so many times, it’s weird how calm I was,” Borzilleri said. “I’m not surprised, but it’s hard not to have a heart attack out here.”
With the game tied, the Athletics could at least breathe again, but Kaylynn Jones followed with a firm double in the right field gap to drive in two more runs. The moment was then capped by a home run from Xiane Romero.
Making all of this relevant was the pitching effort of Rylee Wyman, who was essentially tasked with gutting out a multi-hour effort in the hot sun and keeping her team in range. She didn’t get out of the second inning in her previous start, but the grit and grind required in a title game was there in every fashion on Friday.
“Having a team this good support me as a pitcher is amazing. I love being out there and helping them, and being around them,” Wyman said. “The end of the game definitely brought my energy up; as a pitcher I have to keep pushing through no matter what happens, so I just try my best. These girls have just pulled us out of trouble so many times, so many tournaments, that I just have that trust we’ll come back.”
“I just try to get things started off, get the team going and know they can be confident,” added Jones, who at the leadoff spot had four hits. “It was stressful at first (before hitting her double); the game was on the line, and I knew I had to get my job done. It was very exciting. Rylee did great, I was so proud of her. She hasn’t been with us very long, but to see her adapt to this team has been great to watch. It’s been great, but this team has so much more it can bring out.”
Alexa Rosales homered for the Athletics in the second inning and also doubled, and Perez closed with four hits. For the Storm, Kaitlyn Terry had three hits, three runs and three RBI; Allie Hayes pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief.
By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – When the Firecrackers Rico 18u team made enough mistakes to deepen the hole they were in Friday, the only proper response was to fill up the boxscore and establish better footing.
After some careless errors allowed Athletics Mercado/Smith to post a 4-1 lead at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park in the top of the fifth inning, the Firecrackers saw their first five batters who came up in the bottom of the frame reach base safely. They all scored as well, fueling the comeback that eventually read as a 6-5 victory in the 18u championship game of the TC Nationals tournament. It’s the third title for Firecrackers Rico in the event’s 10-year history.
With the Athletics riding high after a comeback win over the Corona Angels in the semifinals, they took an early lead on a two-run homer from Keila Kamoku (who is committed to play at Ole Miss for college) in the second and an RBI double by McKenna Gibson (Tennessee) in the third. And in the fifth, a poor outfield throw and a couple other iffy decisions brought in another run as Quincee Lilio (Oklahoma) crossed home plate.
Rather than complain, the Firecrackers were uncontained as Sophia Nugent (Oklahoma) worked a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-2. Jazz Santos followed with a two-run single, and the squad added two more runs on a squeeze bunt from Emma Sellers (South Carolina) and a single by Addison Mettler.
“We try to focus on how we play the game. We always want to recognize when we make a mistake, but we aren’t lost in outcomes,” said Firecrackers head coach Tony Rico. “You do that, you start to press and stress too much, and the anxiety takes over. What happens next? That’s what we’re trying to do at this level, develop them for college. We were one play better than Mercado today, that’s all it was. They are one of the best teams in the country.”
“Tony focuses on keeping us calm in these situations, and a thing we try to do is slow the game down,” said Santos, who also singled in the first inning. “I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous there in the fifth, but I was taking deep breaths and just being myself. Do what I usually do, and drive that ball to the right side. In a seven-inning game, there is a lot of time.”
Micaela Kastor was tasked with throwing every inning for the Firecrackers, and even as the temperature escalated she stayed composed. The Athletics got a one-out triple from Lilio in the top of the seventh, and she came around to score on a two-out single from Jordan Wolery (UCLA) to draw within 6-5. Kastor wrapped it up with a grounder to second base, closing with no walks, one hit batter and four strikeouts, and the celebration was on.
“We are such a solid organization, and we know how to pick ourselves up and keep the energy going in the dugout,” Kastor said. “It was such a special moment, knowing that pitching my heart out and going back in the dugout just knowing my offense is going to come through. We just play for each other … you keep going because you know it will pay off in the end and be worth it. We had that trophy in mind all day.”
“She is a unique player and person,” Rico added. “She has an extreme amount of confidence and is learning to adapt to the stress at this level. She’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Rico finished his comments with another dose of praise for Athletics Mercado, and then returned to the pleasure of seeing his roster come up with the correct answers during the strain and drain of a championship showdown.
“We had a rough last three or four years,” he said. “I would be lying if I said emotionally you’re not for these kids, but you can’t play the game that way. If we win but don’t make good decisions, we’re really not developing. It feels good when we made the right decisions and the plays went our way.”
By Anderson Haigler
RIVERSIDE, CALIF. — Brianne Weiss had dreamed of this moment, of a chance to pitch her team to a national championship, of an opportunity to compete against the best and make good on her team’s lofty ambitions. So when a nagging back injury flared up — one that had forced her out of her last game — the left-handed pitcher did what she had to do to stay in the circle, helping to pitch the Firecrackers Weil to a 5-2 win over the Orange County Batbusters Stith in the 14U championship game at the Triple Crown Sports USA Nationals fastpitch tournament on Friday afternoon.
“(I felt) extremely stiff,” said Weiss, who threw 3.2 scoreless innings before fellow lefty Zoe Prystajko took over in the bottom of the fourth. “Being out there with a lot of obstacles to go through, it was a really good experience…I didn’t want to give up out there.”
Weiss, a 2024 high school graduate who attends Orange Lutheran, racked up four strikeouts alongside just a single walk, then Prystajko, a 2024 graduate from Huntington Beach High School, closed the game out with 3.1 strong innings of her own, fanning three Batbusters hitters before she secured the final out.
“Bri was gutty,” Firecrackers head coach Rob Weil said after the game. “She gutted it out for three or four innings, then Zoe came in and closed the door and hit spots…they both were pretty spectacular all week for us.”
A scoreless game until the contest neared its midpoint, the Firecrackers got things started in the top of the third by playing a bit of small ball. Outfielder Lily Knox singled, then Angelina Apodaca added a single of her own. Designated hitter Bella Rodriguez then laid down a bunt and reached on a defensive miscue by the Batbusters, allowing Knox to sprint home and give the Firecrackers an early 1-0 advantage. They added on via a walk by Amanda Urbina and a pair of RBI singles to left field from Faith Hernandez and Marley Cortez, and by the end of the third the Firecrackers were out to a 3-0 lead.
“I just thought that we stayed with the plan,” Weil said of his team’s pivotal third inning rally. “We used the entire field, we hit the ball where it was pitched, we didn’t try to overdo anything, we just stayed real simple…and it produced some runs.”
Ava Morales helped add some valuable insurance a frame later, blasting a towering solo home run over the left field fence in the top of the fourth before the Firecrackers added another run in the fifth after a Batbusters error.
“(I didn’t know it was gone) off the bat, but when I rounded first and I was looking at it, it was gone,” Morales said of her round-tripper, which put her team ahead by five. “It meant a lot because we had all been working hard, and our pitchers were all burnt out, so we wanted to score runs for our pitchers.”
Both late-game runs would prove to be important as the Batbusters rallied in the bottom of the seventh. Saydrie Meono began the last-chance effort with a double, then Taylor Schumaker hammered a home run to left field, pulling the “home” team to within three as they were down to their last out. But in the end, it would be the Firecrackers who would prevail as Prystajko bounced back to shut the door and secure her team the 5-2 victory.
“It’s a positive,” Prystajko said of winning the 14U title. “Since we didn’t do as well in past tournaments, it was good for our team to get this win.”
As Weiss surveyed the action on one of the major league-styled fields at Big League Dreams Riverside after the last out, minutes after her team received medals and hoisted a large wooden trophy adorned with a golden softball glove, the pitcher reflected.
“It means everything,” said Weiss. “Pretty much all of us have dreamed of winning a national championship…this is very big for our team, and I just love how happy they are right now.”
Asked if it was fitting to achieve her team’s softball aspirations at a field with such an appropriate name, Weiss paused, and then laughed.
Big League Dreams come true, indeed.
By Anderson Haigler
LAKE ELSINORE, CA — Play in the Triple Crown Sports USA Nationals Fastpitch Tournament continued on Thursday, with eight 18U teams advancing to the final day of competition on Friday.
Firecrackers Brashear took down the Love The Game Lions by a score of 2-1, rallying behind a game-winning RBI single from University of San Diego commit Arissa Tovar and a pair of stellar pitching performances from Morgan McConnell (North Dakota) and Brooklyn Carreon (Utah). Aside from Tovar’s go-ahead knock, Brooklyn Carter (Washington) came around to score for the Firecrackers’ after singling and stealing a pair of bases, while the Lions’ Alexa DeMarse (UC San Diego) contributed a clutch, pinch-hit double and scored on a wild pitch for her team’s lone run of the game.
Athletics-Mercado/Smith took down Arizona Storm Mathis by a score of 5-2.
Cal Nuggets - Woods eased past West Bay Warriors McDonald by a 10-5 margin.
The Oro Valley Suncats 18U Gold - Judge won a close one against Rogue FC Kaye, 5-4.
Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks 18u vs. Firecrackers Rico (late)
Corona Angels Tyson shut out the OC Batbusters - Bennett by a score of 5-0.
Lady Magic - Munoz scored ten to beat the Firecrackers TJ 18U, 10-3.
And the Batbusters Stith had a dominant performance against the Batbusters Gomes, prevailing by a score of 13-3 in a run-rule, six-inning affair. BYU commit Ailana Agbayani led the way for the Batbusters Stith, going 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored. The infielder singled in the first, doubled in the second, singled in the fifth, and added yet another single in the sixth.
As part of a six-run sixth inning, the Batbusters Stith tallied an RBI apiece from Alexis Ramirez, Hannah Coor, Karlie Davison, and Agbayani. Maya Bland launched the Batbusters Stith’s lone homer of the day, a blast to center field in the fifth inning.
Ryan Maddox bolstered the Batbusters Stith’s big afternoon at the plate with six sharp innings in the circle, allowing only three hits and a pair of runs while striking out six.
The lone bright spot on the game for the Batbusters Gomes proved to be a towering home run from Stanford commit Johnna Schroeder, which brought home two runs to get the Batbusters Gomes on the board. Other than that, it was all Batbusters Stith, all game. Said head coach Mike Stith after the last out, “It was a nice win, we gotta get ready for tomorrow…we got a lot of work to do.”
By Anderson Haigler
LAKE ELSINORE, CALIF. — Those close to Arissa Tovar, those that have seen the catcher play before, aren’t surprised when she shows poise in big situations and rises to the occasion when her team needs her most.
So on an afternoon that saw the Firecrackers Brashshear 18U backstop guide her pitching staff through seven innings of one-run ball in the sweltering desert heat, provide plus-defense behind the dish, and deliver a game-winning RBI single to lift the Firecrackers over the Love The Game Lions 18U by a score of 2-1, you’ll have to forgive head coach Sean Brashear if he saw this one coming.
“I’m not surprised it was her who got the big hit,” said Brashear after the last out. “She’s our captain, that kid’s been in our program for five years, she’s always been clutch. She’s great behind the plate, she’s great in the dugout, and she’s great in life.”
Tovar’s game-winning hit, which came in the sixth inning of Thursday afternoon’s matchup at Rosetta Canyon Community Park as part of the TC Nationals tournament, punctuated a taut, tense affair that was as well-played as it was close. Though runs were at a premium on the “Red” field in Lake Elsinore, Firecrackers first baseman and Washington commit Brooklyn Carter wasted no time in getting the scoring started for her team, singling in the top of the first before she advanced to second on a passed ball, stole third, then scored on an errant throw from Lions catcher Brooklynn Pettis.
“She’s super aggressive (on the base paths) and looking to take advantage of misplays from defenders,” Brashear described of Carter’s prowess running the bases. “She’s the type of baserunner that we’re always gonna look to run, we’re always gonna look to get her in motion.”
The Firecrackers’ slim, one-run lead held fast until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Lions tied the score at a run apiece after UC San Diego commit Alexa DeMarse — who had reached base after contributing a clutch, pinch-hit double deep into the left field gap — came in to score on a wild pitch. The newly tied ballgame set the stage for Tovar’s big hit — and a chance for the Firecrackers to take the lead for good.
Fullerton commit Payton Kelly doubled to lead off the top of the sixth, then Alexa Sams (UC Santa Barbara) reached on an error. Kelly and Sams each advanced on a passed ball to put runners on second and third for Tovar, who laced a line drive into left field to plate Kelly and give the Firecrackers a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
“I knew that they were probably going to come inside on me because I had runners on the left side, so I just had the idea of anything in that zone, to get it elevated,” said Tovar, who is committed to the University of San Diego. “And then a line drive came out of it, so that was pretty good. You get nervous, but then at the same time with my teammates, they make it fun…the pressure like that makes you a better athlete.”
Key to keeping the game close down the stretch and preserving that 2-1 advantage were a pair of stellar outings from the Firecrackers’ pitching staff. Though the Lions’ Emma Falen and Ashleigh Dendas (Fullerton) were impressive as they combined for seven innings of two-run ball, their counterparts in North Dakota commit Morgan McConnell and Utah commit Brooklyn Carreon were dominant when it mattered most, setting forth outings of four and three innings apiece as they teamed up to keep the Lions off the board.
McConnell got things done by relying on her dropball, a pitch Tovar described as one of the best she’s seen in her career behind the plate, while for Carreon, it was just a matter of finding the groove while spotting up her off-speed pitches.
“After the first batter, I settled in and I felt confident,” said Carreon, who posted three scoreless innings in the circle to end the game as she weaved her way in and out of trouble. “I have a great defense, so as long as I keep it down, I can give them easy plays.”
All told, it was a satisfying win for the Firecrackers in a game that to their head coach, prepares them well for things to come.
“Like I told our group right now, these are the type of games that we prep for, that we’re trying to be involved in … super proud of the girls, it was a close game, nip and tuck, and at any given moment any of those kids over there could have hit a home run or make a big play…it was a good win for us,” Brashear added.
By Kyle Koso
CHINO HILLS, CA – Every softball team knows how good it feels to get that first hit of a game.
The AZ Storm Mathis 16u squad doesn’t like it when the opposing team feels good.
With Jocelyn Briski and Kaitlyn Terry combining on a no-hitter, and Alexis Dellamonica coming through in the top of the seventh with a key two-strike, two-run single, AZ Storm punched out a 4-0 victory over the Suncats Jimenez on Thursday at the TC Nationals event, earning its spot in the final eight of the championship bracket. Teams will start the last push at 8:00 a.m. Friday, with the title game set for 3:30 p.m. at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park (broadcast on FloSoftball).
Briski dictated all the action early, quite literally, as she struck out 10 batters in four innings, to go with two walks and a hit batter. She authored a golden inning in the second, striking out the side on nine pitches, and looked untouchable as multiple coaches from the Pac-12 Conference looked on.
The sight of her replacement in the fifth, Terry, was a bit of as shock, but Briski was feeling discomfort on the side of her body. AZ Storm coach Jimmy Martinez made the switch, saying there was an awful lot of softball still to go this summer and that there was no reason to gamble on Briski’s health.
Terry struck out six batters and hit one, closing the game with the last of 16 strikeouts for the Storm staff.
“I just thought of it as a regular game when I came in. It was tied, didn’t matter what inning, and I was just playing my game,” Terry said. “My curveball and rise ball were working really well today. We all stay up, no matter what, even if we get an out. We find a way to come together. We’re performing really good, and I’m happy about that. We’re making plays.”
AZ Storm had some chances to break through but hit into a 1-2-3 double play in the first inning and lined out into a double play to end the fifth. All of the sudden, Suncats pitcher Brooke Davis had a notable effort going as well, as the game went scoreless for six full ininngs.
In the top of the seventh, Sierra Daniel bounced a single off Davis’ leg with one out, and Terry and Lauren Putz each bunted and reached to load the bases. Dellamonica took a high strike and dug in for multiple pitches until she got the right one, dumping a single to right to drive in two – Putz scored as well on an errant throw to the catcher.
“After (strike one) I said, ‘Keep your head in the game. You’re going to get a hit here and put your team up.’ I fouled off anything that looked good, then got something in my zone, and it turned out really good,” Dellamonica said. “Our pitchers are absolutely amazing. They know how to keep their head in the game and throw strikes. They trust the defense. We know as a team, no matter what inning it is, we will come together and punch a run through.”
AZ Storm will play Corona Angels Howard for a chance to move into the semifinals.
“We knew we had two aces going, so that makes it easy. This team has been together for a while, and they know how to win,” Martinez said. “They can take a punch and punch right back, so there’s never any doubt. We talked about momentum and knowing who we are – I’m very proud of them.
“We work a lot in practice on staying inside the ball and working on outside pitches. Alexis is one of the most talented players I’ve ever coached. That was a clutch hit.”
Martinez didn’t hesitate on the topic of if his team was ready for the final burst of action Friday.
“We only came here to take first. That’s the only reason,” he added.