Macy Besuyen and Kelly Meeuwsen get a chance to shine with the Northwest Blaze
Summer means serious business for competitive softball players, and this year, the Northwest Blaze 16U team has been getting down to it.
Though the Blaze squad is based in Beaverton, the squad boasts a top-notch roster of players from throughout the Portland metropolitan area. Four of them hail from western Washington County and all have been playing roles in the teams success, which includes a stint at a national tournament this week in California.
Earlier this year, Macy Besuyen played a pivotal role in Glencoes run to the Class 6A title game, while Kelly Meeuwsen helped Liberty reach the Class 5A state quarterfinals for the fourth year in a row. And Banks MaKenna Partain and Madison Soper helped the Braves to their second consecutive Class 4A state championship in the spring.
All four are in Huntington Beach this week for the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship tournament, which kicked off on Sunday and continues through Friday.
The Blaze opened the event by going 1-2 in pool play on Sunday and Monday. After a 2-0 defeat to Team Indiana 16U on Sunday, they rebounded with a 4-2 victory against Minnesota Renegades 97. On Monday, they dropped an 8-2 decision to Team Mizuno Impulse, a squad out of Texas.
The real deal got going on Tuesday, though, when bracket play began in the 64-team double-elimination tournament. The Blaze fell 4-1 to a tough California team in the first round to drop into the losers bracket.
When the tournament starts, its a different atmosphere, Blaze coach Chris Kelly observed on Monday. The games have a lot more pressure, and the girls like the pressure. They want to perform in the bracket. They like bracket play.
Pool play does not influence the bracket draw, but rather was more for college coaches to have set times to watch teams, Kelly said. His team kicked off bracket play Tuesday afternoon against the KG Hitters, a team from Northern California.
I was told by a college coach that they were 34-0, the last 34 games they had won, Kelly said about the Hitters. And they tied one of their pool play games (Sunday).
The Blaze gave up four runs in the first three innings against the Hitters and could manage just one hit of their own, but they did pull back a run in the sixth. Jenna Kelly had the hit for the Blaze, while Tiara Langshaw scored the run. Meeuwsen also got on base by drawing a walk from Hitters pitcher Blair Taylor.
With their backs to the wall in an elimination game Wednesday morning, the Blaze exploded for five runs in the top of the sixth inning and held on for a 5-3 victory against Corona Angels 16.
Michelle Sass and Besuyen kicked off the inning by reaching base on errors. Two batters later, Partain loaded the bases with a walk, and then Jenna Kelly brought Sass and Besuyen home with a two-RBI single. A couple of batters later, Soper followed with a two-RBI single of her own with Partain scoring one of the runs to double the lead.
The Blaze added another RBI single before the end of the inning and then held on when the Angels scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
The Blaze advanced to a 5 p.m. game against the NC Lady Lightning in the losers bracket (results not available at press time). The winner of that game was scheduled to play again at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, and then on Thursday morning, should it keep advancing.
In the three pool play games, Soper batted second on the team in terms of average by going 2-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBIS including a home run and a walk. She plays catcher for the Blaze.
Madison has been hitting really well, Chris Kelly noted.
Meeuwsen, a middle infielder and the Northwest Oregon Conference Player of the Year for Liberty this spring, went 2-for-8 in pool play with two runs and two RBIs.
Besuyen played second base this year for the Crimson Tide but is roaming the outfield for the Blaze. The Blazes leadoff hitter, she batted 1-for-6 through pool play with a run and two walks.
Partain, the Braves sensational freshman and Class 4A State Player of the Year, handles pitching and third base duties for her summer squad. She went 1-for-7 through Monday with an RBI and a walk. She also threw a combined 5 1/3 innings in two starts on the mound, yielding 11 hits and nine runs while walking three and striking out two. She and Meeuwsen bat in the third and fourth spots in the lineup, Kelly said.
The PGF tournament is one of two national competitions for which the Blaze qualified this summer. They advanced to Huntington Beach from a regional qualifier in Clackamas earlier this month.
They also qualified for the ASA 16U National Championships that begins on Sunday in Sunnyvale, Calif., but opted not to attend that tournament.