NW Blaze teams wins ASA 16U 'A' state; heads to PGF nationals in California
With two St. Helens softball players occupying critical spots on their roster, the Northwest Blaze 16U softball team recently won the ASA 16U A state tournament, and was in Huntington Beach, Calif., this past week for the PGF National Tournament.
Pitcher Mariah Mulcahy and catcher Michelle Sass figure prominently on the team, which also includes players from high school teams such as Banks, Rainier, Liberty, and Westview.
Mulcahy, an incoming junior at St. Helens, is their go-to pitcher on the team, but the squad is solid with Makenna Partain of Banks, Abby Greer of Westview, and Shelby Saylors of Rainier. All of the players on the team, including pitchers, play more than one position. Greer was Pitcher of the Year in the Metro League and Mulcahy was Pitcher of the Year in the Northwest Oregon Conference.
Sass, also an incoming junior, catches many of the game, and also plays some outfield. She shares duties behind the plate with Madison Soper of Banks
The NW Blaze almost breezed through the ASA state A division tournament in Medford. The 16U A division is considered the most competitive of any division.
The Blaze topped NW Nitro 11-1 in their opener at state, and followed with a 9-1 win over the Blast 96. They followed that with a 6-1 victory over Bat Company (Red), 6-1. Their next two games were their toughest. They beat the Oregon Panthers just 1-0, and topped the Oregon Fury, 3-1. That put them in the finals and they took home the trophy with a 10-5 win over the NW Bullets.
The team could have gone to the ASA Nationals in Tucson, Arizona, but chose instead to play in the highly competitive Premier Girls Fastpitch Tournament in Huntington Beach. The team had three non-counting games early in the week before starting the 64-team, double elimination bracket. The non-counting games were played so all teams would get in at least five games in the tournament.
The fact that weather was in the mid-70s in Huntington Beach, compared to the high 90s in Tucson may have factored into their thinking.
The team was just 1-2 in practice games leading up to the real games and had a rocky start to the tournament with a 4-1 loss to KG Hitters of Concorde, Calif. on Tuesday. They bounced back the next day with a 5-3 win over the Corona Angels. The second game was scoreless until the Blaze scored five runs in the fifth inning.
Mulcahy pitched both games for the Blaze. She gave up 11 hits in the first game, had four strike-outs, but didnt have a walk. Sass caught her in the game.
In their second outing, Mulcahy gave up just seven hits, struck out eight, and had just one walk. Sass played centerfield in the second game and also scored a run.
In a second game Wednesday, they stayed alive with a 6-5 win over the Birmingham (Ala.) Thunderbolts. The game went extra innings until they ended it with two runs in the ninth inning. Michelle Sass had two hits in the game including one of the winning runs. Mulcahy went all nine innings, struck out 11, and walked just one. She gave up eight hits. The team had their next game Thursday morning and lost to Firecrackers Blanco in a close 5-4 game.