Fireballs go 3-3 at tournament
The Sherwood-based team plays well at the Western Nationals event
BEAVERTON - There was no rest for the victorious at the 14U ASA Western Nationals softball tournament.
That held true for the Sherwood Fireballs as well as the more than 80 teams that participated weeklong event.
The Fireballs kept their tournament hopes alive with a thrilling extra-inning victory Friday morning, only to have a team waiting for them on the field across the pathway. The first-year squad lost the following game to finish 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the double-elimination bracket.
'We ended up 3-3 which was a good showing for us,' Sherwood coach Andrea Culbertson said. 'Throughout the season, the girls always had a positive attitude and good work ethic. They've been able to come back and battle through adversity.'
Such was the case in a back-and-forth game at the Tualatin Hills complex against the Valley Bombers of Lewiston, Idaho. Valley took an early 3-0 lead before the Fireballs rallied to tie the game in the third inning and later led 5-3. But the Bombers sent the game into extra innings with a run in the top of the seventh.
In the eighth, the international tiebreaker was applied with a runner starting on second base. Valley used a sacrifice bunt to move its runner to third, but a groundout ended the threat.
Sherwood's Penny Leggett started on second in the bottom of the inning and advanced to third on Kyla Wood's sacrifice bunt. After a fly out, Leggett took matters into her own hands.
A high pitch sailed over the catcher's glove and to the shallow backstop. Leggett immediately broke for home, diving into the plate headfirst and ahead of the tag for the winning run.
'I just made up my mind I was going to go,' Leggett said. 'I was a little worried, because I'm not speedy or anything.'
Valley took a 3-0 lead in the second with a pair of runs. Sherwood tied the game in the third after loading the bases when Alexis Cline lined a single into center field. Ruby LaFollette scored on McKenna Welch's groundout to make it 3-1.
Allegra Norton came through with a clutch two-out drive into deep left-center for a two-run double that scored Amanda Hermens and Cline.
The Fireballs tacked on two more runs in the fifth for a 5-3 lead. Norton hit a grounder and the third baseman tried to force Welch at second, but the throw was off target giving Sherwood a pair of runners. Both moved up a couple bases on two passed balls with Welch scoring on the second.
Shelly Oenning followed with a chopper past the first and second baseman, scoring Norton from third.
The Bombers got an unearned run in the sixth and tied the game with two outs in the seventh. Valley threatened to take the lead, putting runners on second and third but a groundout to shortstop Welch ended the frame.
Leggett went the distance to pick up the win, allowing just three infield singles in the final six innings.
Having already run past the scheduled time of their next game, the Fireballs had a few moments to savor the victory before packing their bags and heading to their next dugout.
The momentum didn't come with them though, as the Desperados from Aliso Viejo, Calif., jumped on Sherwood quickly.
The Desperados' first five batters reached base with Nicole Baird giving them a 3-0 lead on a two-run single into the right-center field gap.
The California team added another run in the fourth before the Fireballs finally countered in the bottom of the inning. Norton led off by lining a single into left. After Trish Filan drew a full-count walk, Oenning smacked a double into the right-center gap to plate Norton.
Hermens followed with a grounder to the shortstop, who fired home in time to get Filan but the ball popped out of the catcher's mitt during the tag as Filan scored to make it 4-2. The Desperados later avoided further damage when the runner at third was tagged out after getting caught off base and pitcher Jessica Ulrich struck out the next two batters to end the frame.
Sherwood put a pair of runners on with one out in the sixth when Ulrich again stymied the Fireballs with back-to-back strikeouts.
Alexis Cline reached on a leadoff single to start the seventh for Sherwood. But three straight infield pop-ups ended the Fireballs' season.
Oenning pitched six innings with Leggett relieving her in the second before getting hit by a pitch in the bottom of the inning and leaving the game. Oenning re-entered and finished with seven strikeouts.
'I had kind of a shaky start,' Oenning said. 'I was really excited to get a second chance.'
Most of the Fireballs will get a second chance next season as well. Only Leggett and Welch will move up to U16.
'So to come out and go 3-3 is a very good performance,' Culbertson said. 'And we beat both Oregon teams we played.'
The Fireballs split their two play-in games then opened bracket play with a 1-0 victory Thursday over the Oregon Panthers. Norton drove in Oenning in the fourth for the game's only run. The Panthers put a pair of runners on in the final inning, but Leggett struck out a batter to end the game.
Sherwood lost later Thursday to Anderson Elite 12-0. Anderson won three straight games and finished in the top-10.