The Northwest Lady Sharks 12U softball team completed a successful weekend on the diamond by winning the National Softball Association “Fun In The Sun” 14U Tacoma tournament with a 6-4 victory over a top-level 14U Oregon Panthers team July 25. Isabella Riddle, Kara Link and Madison Hedlund led the offense with doubles and Hailey Gerde added a two-run single.
“Playing up (14U) was a big challenge for the kids, but we needed the preparation for our trip to nationals,” said head coach Bruce Hedlund.
The Sharks qualified for the Amateur Softball Association’s (USA/ASA) 12U National Championship Tournament Aug. 3-8 in Bloomington, Ind., through the local Seattle-Tacoma METRO championships in June.
The championship game on Sunday was not the first time the two finalists met over the weekend. On Saturday, the Sharks won, 4-3. Hedlund and Tegan McDonald shared pitching duties for the Sharks, limiting a powerful Panthers offense to a total of seven runs in two games.
“Our pitchers were supported by some of the best defense of the season,” said assistant coach Bob Herod. “To produce not one, but two double plays against a more experienced team is something the girls can be proud of. And not only that, but the way we finished the final game was spectacular.”
With the Panthers as home team, the Sharks went into the bottom of the seventh inning holding a two-run lead. Hannah Walker, a defensive standout all season for the Sharks, made a diving one-handed catch against the fence along third base to secure the first out. Shortstop Kayla Blakslee then ran down a hard-hit ball up the middle, making a difficult play look routine and getting the second out of the inning with a throw to first base. Right fielder Melanie Bell recorded the final out when she caught a high fly ball.
“We played outstanding defense all weekend. Without some of the plays by our outfielders, like Kinzi Sanders, Cherie Ruan and Michelle Fowler, there is no way we could have limited a team like the Panthers to seven runs this weekend,” said coach Dave Miller. “I have two older daughters who play select softball, and I can say from watching many teams, this group really enjoys the game and has worked hard.”
“The great thing about softball is you don’t have to be the biggest team to enjoy success,” added assistant coach Casey Blakslee. “If a team executes all aspects of the game from bunting, to base running, to hitting and defense, fastpitch softball can be a lot of fun to watch.”