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National tournament run ends for Northwest Blaze


Local players help power Beaverton-based AAU softball team to three straight wins

Not a bad run.

After dropping its first game in bracket play last week at the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships, the Northwest Blaze 16U softball team rattled off three straight wins in elimination games before a one-run loss ended its tournament run last Thursday in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Four players from western Washington County play on the Beaverton-based Blaze, which draws top players from throughout the Portland metropolitan area. Banks’ MaKenna Partain pitches and plays third base for the team, while teammate Madison Soper plays catcher. Glencoe’s Macy Besuyen (outfield) and Liberty’s Kelly Meeuwsen (shortstop) are also members of the team.

“It was our first time going down there, and it was a lot different than nationals that we usually go to, which is ASA softball,” Partain said of the PGF tournament. “It was a lot more intense. It was like a whole different atmosphere, so I think that maybe scared us a little bit.

“But once we got down there and started playing, I think it got better. I thought we did really good. We beat a lot of good teams that a lot of people didn’t think we’d beat.”

All four local players had roles in the squad’s success at the 64-team double-elimination tournament, which started with pool play on July 21 and concluded last Friday. After going 1-2 in bracket play, the Blaze dropped a 4-1 decision to the KG Hitters, a team from California, to drop into the loser’s bracket.

The Blaze stayed alive last Wednesday with three victories — 5-3 against the Corona Angels, 4-1 against the Lady Lightning Gold Elite and 6-5 against the Birmingham Thunderbolts. Then they faced a tough proposition on Thursday.

Just to advance to the final in their half of the bracket, the Blaze needed to rattle off five wins, and all on the same day. Instead, the Blaze fell 5-4 in a tight contest against Firecrackers Blanco — a team that advanced to the final game in the bottom of the bracket — in the first game of the day to conclude their California run.

In that last game, Firecrackers Blanco jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but the Blaze rallied to tie it up in the third on a two-RBI triple by Partain. But the designated home team scored three more runs in the next inning and then cut off a Blaze rally at two runs in the seventh to escape with the win and advance.

Across all eight tournament games, Partain batted 5-for-23 with two triples, three runs scored, five RBIs and two walks. Meeuwsen also went 5-for-23 at the plate with a double, a triple, two runs scored, seven RBIs and two walks.

Soper, who hit a home run in one of the squad’s pool play contests, went 3-for-15 in the tournament, scored two runs, and had four RBIs and three walks. Besuyen batted 4-for-20 with three runs scored, three walks and three stolen bases.

The Blaze qualified for both the PGF and ASA national championships this summer but opted to attend the PGF tournament only. The ASA national tournament for 16U teams is being staged this week in California. The Blaze advanced to the PGF tournament at a qualifier tournament in Clackamas earlier this summer and to the ASA national tournament by winning state in their age division earlier this month.

With the PGF tournament, the Blaze wrapped up its summer schedule, though the team is staging tryouts for next season next week, Partain said. This year’s PGF national championships experience should serve the returning players well, as this year was their first at the 16U level, giving them one more year in the age division.

“It’s just harder competition, so it’s always better to get into that type of situation. Every game we played, we knew this team’s going to be just as good or better as us, so we have to come out, play every pitch, every out, every inning like it’s our last one,” Partain said. “Doing that, it showed us how we have to work together and actually be a team to succeed in these tournaments.”