By Kyle Koso
CHINO HILLS, CA – Taylor Shumaker said she’s been pressing lately, making it tough to perform the way she wanted for the 18u Batbusters Stith team.
She spent her day impressing as the championship bracket was decided for the 2022 TC Nationals.
Shumaker was an all-category force for the Batbusters with three hits, three runs and two RBI out of the leadoff spot, coupled with two heart-stopping catches at the centerfield fence. The last one robbed the Athletic of a home run and preserved her team’s lead in the seventh inning, and the Batbusters held on for a 7-5 victory over Athletics Mercado/Smith at the Chino Hills Community Park complex.
Alexis Ramirez (a UCLA commit) had two two-run singles; Sydney Saldana (Utah State) pitched into the sixth inning and Ailana Agbayani (BYU) came on in relief to notch huge strikeouts in her 1 1/3 innings to secure the win.
Shumaker’s first at-bat was a clinical exercise in leadoff hitting, working the count and seeing an assortment of pitches before lashing a double to the fence. Her two-run homer in the second pushed the Batbusters ahead, 5-0.
“I’ve been struggling with being patient with myself; I’ve been pushing for hits and wanting to get them so bad, I’ve been struggling,” she said. “I figured, it’s important once I got my opportunities to capitalize on it and be there for my team. I like hitting leadoff, I like taking pitches and I actually like not knowing what’s going to come. Over time, I knew what to prepare myself for, and I think it’s important to do that.”
Her seventh-inning catch was a true sacrifice-the-body decision as she reached over the fence to grab the ball before tumbling into the outfield barrier. The Athletics kept fighting and got runners on first and second with one out, but Agbayani got a strikeout and, fittingly, a fly ball to center caught by Shumaker as she sped in from her position.
“We were playing back in the outfield, knowing (the Athletics) can really hit, and honestly in my head I’m saying, I have to catch this ball,” Shumaker said. “To get the opportunity and to put it to use is pretty exciting.”
Persy Llamas hit a two-run homer for the Athletics in the third inning, and Brooklyn Lee’s homer in the sixth drew the score tighter, 7-5. To get out of the sixth, coach Mike Stith turned to two relievers, ultimately leaning on Agbayani to end the frame with a big strikeout.
“In the moment I’m just focusing on the batter and not what is surrounding me, the noise, just on every single pitch and that I hit my spots,” said Agbayani, the reigning Gatorade player of the year from Hawaii. “Every pitch is a new pitch; I do have to say thanks to Taylor for saving my butt out there. We take pride in our defense, picking each other up if someone makes an error. The biggest thing is to pick each other up.”
“This is an ongoing grind, a development process for all these kids, and Taylor has had her shares of ups and downs. But in the pressure of this moment it was wonderful to see her step up,” Stith said. “I mean, 3-for-4 batting to go with that (outfield) play? And she threw out a runner at the plate earlier – that was a pretty good day.
“I felt that Ailana’s senior leadership would be more effective. She has the composure, and whether they hit it or not is one thing, but we couldn’t be all over the place and not throw strikes. I let her give it a rip, and she’s a competitor.”
The four 16u teams that had byes into the quarterfinals at the TC Nationals event made great use of their advantage Saturday, with all four posting victories and earning their spot in the semifinals. The championship game is slated for 1:30 p.m. and will be streamed live by Athletes Go Live.
One semifinal features Wildcats Del Campo/Weil taking on Warrior Academy-Jimenez; the other game will have BSC Bengals Briggs taking on Corona Angels-Howard – the Angels rang up 19 runs in their quarterfinal victory.
The 18u championship bracket for the 2022 TC Nationals event has been carved down to its final four teams, all very familiar names in the softball world and all packed with players heading on to play at high-level college programs in the next year or two.
The semifinals will be held at 8 a.m. Sunday at the Chino Hills Community Park – Athletics Mercado/Smith, winners of the 18u Power Pool title at the 2022 Colorado 4th of July event, will take on Lady Magic-Munoz, a team that scored 16 runs in its quarterfinal win over Arizona Storm-Mathis. In the other matchup, Batbusters-Stith will face Warrior Academy-McDonald.
The championship game will be held at 10:30 a.m. and be streamed by Athletes Go Live.
MIRA LOMA, Calif. – Three up, three down. It was a pitcher’s duel worthy of the occasion when Mia Valbuena (Athletics Mercado 2025 Tidd) and Reece Uehara (OC Batbusters Lastrapes) squared off against each other in the quarterfinals of the TC Nationals. Valbuena ultimately came out on top as Athletics Mercado advanced to the semifinals on Sunday morning with a 2-0 win.
Valbuena pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball with her only blemish of the day coming on the final out when a hit batter and a double put the Batbusters in scoring position for the first time all game. Ultimately though, it didn’t matter as Valbuena took complete control of the game from the start.
“She has multiple pitches that she throws, and when she’s on, she’s on,” Athletics Mercado head coach Brian Tidd said. “She’s been our number one all season, and these are the games that she’s meant to pitch in.”
With Valbuena dominating on the mound, it was up to Mercado’s offense to get rolling, but through three innings, the team only had a couple of singles to show for it.
“We hit a lot of balls up and out, and the wind was blowing the ball in,” Tidd said. “We had to change our mentality and just try to hit a lot of ground balls. The first few innings, we couldn’t get anything through. The last few innings we were finally able to find some holes and move some runners and we had a couple of key hits.”
In the fourth inning, however, Mercado found its opening. With the wind blowing in and the long ball not a realistic option, Athletics Mercado needed to find another way to manufacture runs. With runners on first and second, they did just that becoming ultra-aggressive on the basepaths with a double-steal. The move put the pressure on the Batbusters to execute, but a missed communication in covering third base led the baseball to be thrown into the outfield and allowing Kiele Ho-Ching to score. On the next play, Taylor Johns drove in a run with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
“I wanted the opportunity to get a kid in scoring position so a flyball could score a run,” Tidd said of the double-steal. “Fortunately for us, the rotation just wasn’t there 100% for them and we lucked out a little bit.”
That was all Valbuena and Athletics Mercado needed. Next up, Athletics Mercado will square off against OC Batbusters Stith on Sunday at 10:30 am for a spot in the championship.
“We are inning by inning, pitch by pitch,” Tidd said of the highly anticipated semifinal matchup. “We know them pretty well; they know us pretty well. I wouldn’t doubt that being a tight one tomorrow.”
By Kyle Koso
MIRA LOMA, CA – A lot of pent-up production is now flowing freely for the Rogue FC Mabrey 14u squad.
After being outscored 16-1 in two Wednesday losses at the TC Nationals event, the Rogue have tapped into their better selves in making a run into the championship bracket semifinals, bouncing the OC Batbusters Hudson/Stern team by a 14-2 margin Saturday at the Big League Dreams-Riverside Complex. The Rogue have won four straight games and outscored their opponents, 46-11.
They’ll face Athletics Mercado/Berni on Sunday at 8 a.m. for a berth in the title game, set for 4:30 p.m. at Chino Hills Community Park.
Those first games in the tournament are really designed as practice games, but that didn’t make the sight of the struggles terribly comforting.
“We played everybody, tried to do some stuff, but at the end of the day we never got it going. It’s happened, but we are not a team that will ever quit or let one game define us,” said Rogue coach Todd Mabrey.
Saturday, both teams looked ready to dig in for the chance to advance, with the Rogue taking a 2-0 lead on an infield error with two outs in the second inning. Ashannalee Titiali singled and scored for the Batbusters in the third to make it 2-1, and the Rogue countered in the fifth on a run-scoring groundout from Sienna Caro, on a disciplined at-bat where she looked determined to keep the ball out of the air.
But the key play of the game arguably happened in the bottom of the fourth – right after the Rogue turned to relief pitcher Kendall Cochran, the infield turned an unlikely double play to end the frame.
“That was a huge energy breaker for the other team. And in our dugout, that’s what got us really hyped,” Caro said. “We had a rough start; the pitchers started really working hard and the dugout started giving more energy. That’s when we started hitting, and it was contagious.”
“That (double play) really helped; momentum switches are always a big key,” Mabrey added. “The girls are always ready, they know where to go with the ball and what to do with it, and I tip my hat to the girls for knowing what to do. Coach it up in practice, it comes through in the games.”
The score was still super tight, 3-2, when the Batbusters got an RBI double from Mattea Stern in the bottom of the fifth, but the dam burst impressively for the Rogue in the sixth as they plated 11 runs on seven hits, two walks and a couple of errors. The frame was capped by a grand slam off the bat of Charleigh Schuettler to center field.
“I was just waiting for my pitch today; I wasn’t going to swing at anything soft unless I was behind,” said Schuettler, who drove in two more runs with a double in the sixth. “I was looking to see it, drive it and put up some runs. Something has clicked for us – the bats are on fire, and we’re looking for our pitches and driving the ball.”
By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – For the Corona Angels-Howard 16u team, getting a leadoff batter on base happened exactly once Friday as they took on the NW Bullets-Muir team at the TC Nationals event, while the Bullets managed that on three occasions.
Making the most of rare opportunities ended up defining the moment for both teams at the Rosetta Canyon Sports Complex, with the Angels using that one window to climb through and into the championship bracket in posting a 1-0 victory. Starting pitcher Bridget Nemeth scattered six hits and two walks to go with seven strikeouts in seven innings to get the win for the Angels, who earned one of the top four seeds in the final bracket and will play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday for a chance to reach the semifinals.
The lone run came in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Jiselle Hernandez doubled to start the frame. One of the Angels’ best power hitters, Olivia Hill, showed her versatility and bunted for a single, and then Jayleen Hernandez followed with an opposite-field sacrifice fly to score the run. Hill capped the game with a diving, sprawling catch of a foul ball in left field for the final out.
Jayleen Hernandez looked very composed and prepared for her consequential at-bat that led to the RBI, having hit a ringing double in the second inning.
“That first at-bat, I was maybe lacking confidence because yesterday, I had a pretty bad day,” she said. “Today, I wanted to feel better about my swing, and I have been seeing the ball very well. Every pitch she’d thrown me had been outside, and she wouldn’t throw anything inside unless I had two strikes. I knew the next ball would be outside, too, so I just went with it.”
“We have a lot of energy together; we have this thing going on now with our water guns … whenever anyone hits a home run, we spray them, and that keeps the energy up.”
Energy, focus and a great mix of pitches characterized Nemeth’s work in the circle. Once she had a lead, she truly dug into the task, allowing just two hits and notching four strikeouts in the final three innings.
“I was trying to just keep throwing like I had been doing. The most important thing after we get a lead is to keep the momentum on our side,” Nemeth said. “People are going to get hits along the way; I just try to focus on getting outs. It doesn’t have to be a strikeout, because I know my defense will make the plays. A lot of time after someone got on, the next one would just hit a ground ball and we’d be fine.”
The Angels work with a roster of 22 players, and coach Kim Howard likes what happens when that large group has to dig and scrap for opportunities to shine.
“The girls compete at practice a lot, and they know if they don’t do their job someone else can step in and do it,” Howard said. “This game, our No. 5 batter (Hill), we might bring in someone else to put that bunt down, but she wanted that challenge. We took the bat out of the hands of someone who can hit a home run, and she made a perfect bunt.
“We won both games in pool play, both games yesterday. We did end up in the final day last year but finished fifth – we want to bring that up a bit higher this time.”
Karon Spadafora (a Seattle University commit) had two hits for the Bullets.
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – Playing in its second elimination game of the day, Power Surge Berndes/Trammell showcased its poise in a dominant 11-0 victory over USA Athletics, moving one win away from making the 16u Championship Bracket.
Sofia Mujica, one of the best power hitters in the state of California, regardless of class, led the way for Power Surge with six RBIs, including a grand slam in the fourth inning. Mujica got the scoring started for Mujica with an RBI double in the top of the first inning, driving in Caylene Nguyen.
“Sofia was huge for us,” Head Coach Ron Trammell said. “I’m surprised they are still pitching to her, but they are, and it makes everyone around her better. They just work harder when they see that level, and everyone else is just working harder to get to that level.”
In the second inning, Power Surge really took control of the game with six runs. Power Surge quickly loaded the bases with a single, double, and walk, leading to a two-RBI double from Mya McGowan to make it 3-0. Nguyen added an RBI single on the next at-bat, with another runner scoring on a throwing error, before Mujica drove in a run on an RBI single herself. Power Surge added another couple of hits in the inning to make it 7-0.
That was more than enough for Power Surge’s pitcher, Callie Christian. Christian looked in complete control pitching five shutout innings and only allowing a couple of baserunners in the game, with none threatening to score.
“Today we got great games from our two pitchers today,” Trammell said. “Callie was lights out. Defense was solid all day and we stayed true to who we are.”
In the fourth inning, Power Surge once again loaded the bases, but this time did its damage with the long ball when Mujica hit a grand slam, driving the ball about 30 feet over the left field wall. In its two elimination games on Friday, Power Surge was as dominant as it could have hoped for, outscoring its opponents 22-1 and rebounding nicely from a disappointing result on Thursday.
“That was huge, because yesterday we didn’t score a run,” Trammell said of his team’s two dominant performances on Friday. “We had a practice after the game, and the girls worked hard and it’s paying off. The girls came out swinging and they work hard.”
Power Surge will look to keep the good times rolling with another elimination game on Sunday at 8 am PT, this time against 5 Star PlayMakers, with the winner advancing to the 16u Championship Bracket.
By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – When a pitcher has to face an opposing lineup on consecutive days, there is no time to cook up a bunch of magical changes.
Making the old look new again – that’s the trick.
For the LTG Henderson/Lively 16u squad, pitcher Avery Seva figured out a way to do spell-binding work Friday in 16u action at the TC Nationals event, holding down Cal Nuggets Woods over seven tough innings in weighty weather conditions for a 4-1 victory at the Rosetta Park Sports Complex. LTG remains alive in the loser’s bracket and can claim a spot in the weekend’s championship chase with a win Saturday against NW Bullets-Muir.
Thursday, LTG got past the Nuggets by a 6-5 score, which meant Seva pulled off quite the surprise Friday by essentially shutting down foes who knew what she had up her dirty, sweaty sleeve.
“This is the hardest part of travel ball in the summer; we all get tired, pitchers get tired, so winning for my team and putting every energy into each pitch is the biggest thing I try to do,” said Seva, a Santa Clara commit who allowed four hits and two walks to go with six strikeouts over seven innings of determined work. “I felt petty solid; I knew it was a close game and they could come back at any moment. I still had to be very focused.”
“The (Nuggets) put together a strong performance against us earlier – for her to dig down and make some adjustments, well, she did a great job and has pitched well this whole tournament,” said LTG coach Joe Henderson. “It’s down to us needing to win to reach our goal, to play for the championship, and she’s really helped us get there.”
LTG jumped ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the first inning when the first six batters reached base and Nailyn Marshall (Cal), Maddie Ullensvang and Sydney Barker had RBI hits. On the downside, two runners were thrown out on the base paths, minimizing what could have been a haymaker punch.
The game stayed tight and got even more snug when Carly Cummings tripled and scored in the fifth for the Nuggets.
“That’s a hard one. We tend to be very aggressive and we really push the envelope,” Henderson said. “This is a team that’s fun to watch because we try to do unique things. The Nuggets made a great relay on one play, perfect throw to get us out, but I’ll take that. I’ll do it over and over.”
In the hope for some elbow room on the scoreboard, Barker came through with a long, strong homer to left-center on an unfavorable count to push the score to 4-1 in the sixth inning.
“What happened in the first inning, I think that lit a fire under our butts. We knew we had to come back, make adjustments, and it motivated all of us to keep pushing,” Barker said. “On the (home run), I’ve been focusing on reading the pitch from the hip, reading the spin, and it was an 0-2 count. I was protecting, choking up a bit, looking to hit anything that was in the zone.”
“She has been really clutch for us in so many occasions and is definitely one of the leaders on this team,” Henderson added. “She plays a phenomenal shortstop; she plays with so much passion and made great strides. She’s a great hitter, and to put that on the scoreboard when she did gave us some breathing room.”
Tatum Silva (Utah State) had three hits for LTG.
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.