Plover 12U pulls away late to win National Title
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
After rolling to wins in its first six games of the Northern National Championships, the Plover 12U Nationals Fastpitch softball team overcame a loss in the first of two National Championship Games, as it came back to win the National Title in Rapid City, S.D., Sunday, July 28.
The Nationals outscored their opponents by a 78-8 margin at the USA Softball Girls B 12-Under Northern National Championships Friday through Sunday, July 26-28, to advance to the National Championship, where they fell 10-9 to the Slammers Elite of Erie, Colo., to force a second Championship Game Sunday night.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning, Plover rallied for three runs to take a 3-1 lead, and went on to a 9-1 victory to claim the National Title.
“Really, it leaves you speechless,” said Plover Nationals 12U head coach Chris Brooks. “You work for years with these girls, and this is our fifth season together.
“We start in January every year, and you set out goals that you want to do every year, and sometimes you’re setting the bar extremely high,” he said. “And to fulfill a season where you’ve reached every single goal that you’ve set, is pretty unbelievable.”
The 12U Nationals went through a field of 22 teams to win the USA Softball Wisconsin State Championship in Wausau July 11-14 with an 8-1 record, as they beat New Berlin twice in the Championship Games by scores of 8-2 and 15-6 to win the State Title and advance to the National Tournament in Rapid City.
Plover started Pool Play Friday afternoon with a 15-0 win in three innings over Siouxland of Sioux City, Iowa, as Delilah Abundiz and Saylor Timmerman combined on a one-hit shutout, and Sommer Wright went 2-for-2 with two doubles and three RBI, Abundiz was 2-for-2 with two RBI, Mikah Keller went 2-for-2 with five runs scored, and Addison Simonson had three RBI to lead the offense.
The Nationals closed out Pool Play with a 15-0 win over the ASA Defenders of Rapid City, as Maren Sauvageau and Timmerman combined on a one-hit shutout, and Wright went 2-for-2 with a triple and four RBI, Keller was 2-for-2 with three runs scored, Sauvageau and Abundiz both went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Shelby Brooks had two RBI in the win.
“We were 12 hours from home, and you never know how a team is gong to respond when they’re not sleeping in their own beds,” said coach Brooks. “And to be that far away and to play as loose as they did, and to hit the ball the way they did, was unbelievable in a national-level tournament.”
Plover used a seven-run fourth inning to close out a 13-1 win in four innings over Siouxland to open bracket play Saturday, July 27, as Kaylin Yenter went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBI; Simonson was 2-for-3 with three RBI; Emma Witkowski went 2-for-2 with a double; Keller was 2-for-3; and Shelby Brooks drove in two runs.
The Nationals followed with an 11-0 win in over the McDonough CATS Panthers Saturday night, as Messina Meddaugh went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI, Simonson was 2-for-3 with two RBI, Wright was 2-for-2 with a double, and Abundiz had a double and three RBI, while Abundiz and Timmerman combined on a two-hit shutout.
Plover opened the final day of the tournament with a 20-3 victory Sunday over the Rocky Mountain Thunder of Highlands Ranch, Col., as Sauvageau went 3-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBI; Wright was 2-for-5 with a triple, three runs scored and two RBI; Keller was 2-for-4 with two runs scored; Yenter drove in two runs, and Kristin Hetzel and Shelby Brooks both scored three runs.
That sent the Nationals to the Semifinals Sunday afternoon, where they led 2-0 before they scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 6-0 lead on the Elite Slammers, then added eight runs in the seventh to go up 14-1 on the way to a 14-4 victory. Yenter was 4-for-4 with a double and three RBI, Sauvageau earned the win in the circle and went 3-for-4 at the plate, Wright had two doubles and three RBI, Witkowski went 2-for-4 with two RBI, Abundiz was 2-for-4, and Timmerman scored three runs, as Plover advanced to the National Championship Game as the last unbeaten team in the double-elimination tournament.
“We had rolled through everybody and run-ruled everybody in the tournament coming into that (first National Championship Game),” said coach Brooks.
The Elite Slammers came back with a 7-1 win over the Mid-Mo Velocity of Fulton, Mo., to face Plover in the National Championship, where they needed to win twice Sunday night.
After the Elite Slammers scored four runs in the top of the first inning, Plover answered with three runs in the bottom of the first inning to pull within 4-3, but the Elite Slammers scored three runs in the second, one in the fourth and two in the fifth to build a 10-3 lead. The Nationals rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to close within 10-9 with the tying run on second base and two outs, but the Elite Slammers got a fly out to center field to close out a 10-9 win that forced a second National Championship Game.
“We came out, and quite frankly, we had a really long layover, and I think we got a little complacent,” said coach Brooks. “And about the third inning, we had to have a little heart-to-heart and say, ‘hey, we need to buckle down here.’
“And the girls stepped back up and they rallied from a 10-3 deficit, and ended up falling 10-9,” he said. “But at that point the momentum had swung, and we got into that final Title Game, and they just put it away.”
The two teams met again at 10:30 p.m., where the Elite Slammers scored a run in the top of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead, while Plover answered in the bottom of the third inning, as Wright had a RBI single, Sauvageau had a RBI groundout and Abundiz followed with a RBI single to give the team a 3-1 lead.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth inning, where the Nationals rallied for six runs, as Sauvageau scored on a wild pitch to give Plover the National Title with a 9-1, walk-off victory in six innings.
“It took a long time to set in,” said coach Brooks. “The moment that they hand you that National Championship Trophy and you pick it up, and without Plover having a high school, that’s as close of a moment as we get, for Plover as a community.
“You pick up that National Title Trophy and they come rushing in, and these are all girls you’ve spent so much time with, that you think of them all as daughters to a certain point,” he said. “And you can get pretty choked up, just knowing the amount of work that goes into that, by all of the girls.”
Timmerman didn’t allow an earned run on three hits and struck out four over six innings for the win in the circle, while Simonson was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, Wright went 2-for-2 with two runs scored, Meddaugh was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, Sauvageau had three RBI, and Abundiz was 2-for-3 to lead a 12-hit attack.
The Plover 12U Nationals finished the season with a 40-8 record, and coach Brooks said what he’ll remember most about this group is the team chemistry and its mental toughness.
“In the State Tournament we had come-from-behind wins,” said coach Brooks. “We’ve played some tough games, we’ve played some tough teams, and no matter what the situation, the team is never out of the game.
“This team always knows they can win, no matter where they’re at,” he said. “That’ll be the staple of this team that I’ll always remember.”