by Kyle Koso
After many months of staying cooped up and coping with the feeling that life had grown too quiet, the time is proving ripe for softball teams to get busy again.
The Kupa’a 14u girls team, based on the island of Maui in Hawaii, will be turning the routine upside-down in every way this June when they make the big trip – 3,762 miles – to the USA mainland to play in the 15th annual TC OKC tournament, one of the core fastpitch events on the calendar for Triple Crown Sports. The event features a five-game guarantee and welcomes teams from ages 10u through 18u from more than 20 states.
Kupa’a is the Hawaiian word for loyalty, and the roster for the 14u team certainly has been devoted to the idea of playing in Oklahoma City, hustling at every turn despite COVID shutdowns to fundraise for the trip and work on their softball skills typically all on their own time. The squad will include nine players who are age 14 and two more who are 12; seven of the older girls have played on the same team since age 10.
“Our 14u girls are really excited to have this opportunity to attend a tournament in the Mainland. This is the first time almost all these girls will be going to the Mainland, ever,” said Sherylden Gaspar, 14u team mom and wife of head coach Simon Gaspar. “Our girls had not lost any interest in softball during the pandemic, and there’s lot of the excitement knowing that they’re attending a well-known tournament.”
Typically, the TC OKC tournament (June 4-7) is scheduled so teams can make their way to the Women’s College World Series, which runs concurrently with the event. The NCAA has yet to make a final determination if fans will be allowed in the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, but the Kupa’a program feels like the value of the trip is worth it either way.
“We had heard about Triple Crown OKC from our coach, Timmy Tanno. Coach Timmy had mentioned this tournament not only because of the exposure, but because of the experience of playing against other teams outside the state of Hawaii and of course, the WCWS,” Gaspar said. “It will be a great opportunity and have a ‘WOW’ factor to have our girls sit and watch the World Series in hopes that one day it will be their turn to step foot on that field … if it will be available for us to attend.”
The Kupa’a program dates back to 1998, when Maui High School head coach Bobby Medeiros started an alumni fastpitch league featuring prep graduates from Maui County. This evolved into Medeiros wanting to get younger players trained up and more prepared for their own time in high school, with ages 6-16 ultimately being served by the league. Hundreds of athletes have taken part in the spring/summer program, but no teams ever left Hawaii for a tournament.
The current 14u squad and their families had to be patient in working on their games as well as putting together the trip. Hawaii had multiple lockdowns and episodes of re-opening as the COVID-19 case counts varied; the Maui Girls Softball Association ran a private league that offered a short-season schedule so the current crop of freshmen could get precious playing time in preparation for the 2021 club and summer tournament season.
“Last November, Coach Simon, myself, and our assistant coaches had a meeting with our parents about TC OKC … how this opportunity would benefit our girls and how it is their time to see what’s out there,” said Gaspar. “We were honest about the case counts on how it fluctuates and the risks we would be taking in traveling. During our discussion, I specifically mentioned that even though the girls want to attend TC OKC, the final decision will be up to their parents due to health concerns and as always, finances.
“If and when parents said yes, I made the girls promise me that they will be working hard in raising funds to pay for their trip as we are not allowed to do any team fundraising because of the gathering rules Hawaii is enforcing. I gave our families a week to think about it and within three days, 11 out of 14 girls’ parents had responded back saying, ‘YES.’”
Once the trip gets closer, the Kupa’a team will investigate other activities, maybe getting in more games or doing some sightseeing, given how far they’ve traveled.
“We are really, really excited,” said 14u player Kelela Gaspar. “We finally get to play in a different place where we never played before, and we get to experience new opportunities to boost our self-esteem as a softball student-athlete.”
After more than two months without the game of fastpitch, Triple Crown Sports is proud to put teams and athletes back on the diamond this weekend for the 2020 TC OKC tournament.
Twenty-two clubs from around the region will converge upon Oklahoma’s capital city for the first time since the majority of the sports world shut down in early March. Across Saturday and Sunday, each team will get a guaranteed four games of pool play before heading into a single-elimination bracket. Teams from Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas will be represented in the field.
“We couldn’t be more excited to get out on the diamond this weekend,” said tournament director Sarah Pow. “Ultimately, we’re here to put on a great event for the kids. We hope this is a first step in ensuring a safe return to the bigger events that we know and love on the summer schedule.”
In conjunction with Sports UAC (United Against COVID), Triple Crown Sports has worked diligently to create a set of protocols to ensure the safety of athletes, coaches and fans. The guidelines have been vetted by other governing bodies, municipalities, event managers, public health sectors, coaches and more. In addition to these new rules, TCS is also following strict CDC recommendations.
“Triple Crown is beyond excited to welcome players, coaches and families to the first TC event since COVID-19 changed the world forever,” said Triple Crown CEO Keri King. “We are thankful to Oklahoma for a progressive stance towards a return to outdoor sports and we have designed safe return protocols that should ensure the safest possible experience. Play ball!”
Oklahoma City marks the first of several fastpitch tournaments Triple Crown has planned this summer and into the fall. The Fourth of July event has been split into four regions (Southern California, Colorado, Texas & Tennessee), events in Texas and Myrtle Beach are filling up fast, and organizers have found new dates for tournaments on the West Coast.
For a complete list of Triple Crown tournaments in your area, visit: www.triplecrownfastpitch.com.
Oklahoma Bombers-Aud avenged a 4-0 pool play defeat to OK Exclusive 18u Premier-Hughes in style, winning the 18u championship at the Triple Crown OKC. In a six-inning battle, the Bombers emerged victorious by a margin of 12-9.
“It was a good win for the girls,” coach Mike Aud said. “We put in the work all winter, worked hard, and we were ready to come out and play. They kind of struggled at first, but they pulled it together and came out with a solid win.”
Despite seeing three runs cross home plate in the top of the first inning, the Bombers played from behind early as OK Exclusive took the lead in the bottom half of the frame.
A 2-RBI single from Shianna Woods put the first two runs on the board for OK Exclusive, and then Sara Llamas-Howell piggy-backed on Woods’ effort in the next at-bat.
Llamas-Howell plated two more teammates with her full-count 2-RBI double to give OK Exclusive the early 4-3 lead.
OK Exclusive extended its advantage to 7-4 in the bottom of the second inning, highlighted by Sierra Woods’ inside-the-park home run.
Sierra Woods laid down a bunt to advance her teammate but when the Bombers sent the throw to first base down the right field line, an innocent bunt turned into a 2-RBI sprint around the bases.
The Bombers didn’t wait long to respond.
“When we got down, we just decided that we weren’t going to give up and we kept pushing,” Bombers DP Emily Bingham said. “The message in the dugout was we just needed to keep fighting and never give up.”
After adding two runs in the top of the third, Ana Aguilar drilled a pitch to center field, recording a leadoff triple. In the ensuing at-bat, Emma Davis tied the game for the Bombers with a single that snuck into left field.
Taitum Bradshaw brought Davis home to give the Bombers the lead later in the inning, despite grounding out to third.
Aguilar came up big for her team again in the fifth when she drove in a run on a double to right field.
“We all came together and had the mentality of ‘swing, swing, swing’ and we were going to come out fighting and we weren’t going to give up without a fight,” pitcher Evy Aud said. “It feels really good.”
While the Bombers’ bats continued to produce, Evy Aud grew into the game in the circle.
After allowing five runs in the first two innings, she battled back to surrender just two runs in the remainder of the game. Keeping OK Exclusive off the board in the third and fourth innings, she allowed her team to regain the momentum and establish its foothold in the game.
“Evy has been real good about coming along and pushing the girls. She works hard, and she’s always been one to pull it out in the end,” coach Aud said of his pitcher’s fight throughout the game.
Evy Aud would give herself the final insurance run of the game in the top of the sixth. Aud laid down a perfectly placed bunt and beat out the throw to first base, bringing home Carly Kelley in the process.
“This is our first championship of the season and we’re really excited about that,” Evy Aud said. “I’m just happy that we fought and did our best.”
The Bombers look forward to building on their success in Oklahoma City throughout the summer.
“We’re headed to San Antonio next weekend and we’ll be coming out ready to swing the bat and feeling good on defense,” Bingham said.
By Ryan Chapman
Illusions Gold Ramsey 16U (TX) passed their stiffest test to date in the Triple Crown OKC.
Behind four scoreless innings from pitcher Brooklyn Malone, Illusions Gold Ramsey battled past the Dakota Legends (SD), 5-0, moving Illusions Gold Ramsey to 3-0 in Pool A.
“That was a good team, they played hard,” Illusions Gold Ramsey coach Ivan Ramirez said. “I tip my hat to them. I know we’ll see them down the road, they’re a good team”
Malone struck out seven batters and only surrendered four hits during her outing in the circle.
“She commanded her balls very well,” Ramirez said of Malone. “She got out of a couple jams, her change-up was working really nice, so we stuck with that and we just executed.”
It wasn’t completely smooth sailing for Malone, as she had to work out of some trouble in the top of the third inning.
After leading off the inning with a hit batter and a walk, Malone battled back. Smartly mixing the speeds of her pitches, she retired three of the next four batters, not allowing the ball to leave the infield for the rest of the inning.
“I felt good,” Malone said. “It was great just knowing my defense was there to support me and make plays whenever they needed too.”
After failing to record a base runner in the first two innings, Illusions Gold Ramsey finally found a breakthrough in the bottom of the third.
Karissa Schneider led off the inning with a hard hit single back up the middle. Teammate Shellie Ferguson advanced Schneider to second with only one out to give her team their first runner in scoring position of the game, and they did not wait long to cash in.
Ivanney Ramirez drove in Schneider for the first lead of the day on a single that snuck through the left side of the infield.
With two outs, Maddi Lenton recorded a 2-RBI single off a ball hammered into right-center field, capping off the three-run inning for Illusions Gold Ramsey.
Ashley Rojas was proud of her team fighting through the early adversity to come out with the win.
“I felt like our energy was really amazing,” Rojas said. “We held all of our teammates accountable and everyone did their jobs.”
Schneider capped off the win with a 2-RBI sac-fly in the bottom of the fourth inning to plate the final two runs of the game.
Rojas believes her team is ready the weekend on a high note tomorrow.
“Everyone seems really excited and really pumped up. I feel like this whole tournament has been really good so far, so I’m excited to see where we go tomorrow,” she said.
By Ryan Chapman
With time running down, 16U Millard Fury (NE) coach Dylan Bestenlehner wasn’t worried about his team.
“Our team really doesn’t put too much pressure on ourselves,” he said. “They go out there and they do their job.”
Millard Fury trailed the Sundodgers (WA) 7-5 headed into the bottom of the fourth inning before their late rally put them over the top, 9-7.
Kennedy Kadlec drew a leadoff walk for the Millard Fury to start off the inning. Then Gabi Puk wore a pitch for her team, and Jocelyn Diaz tallied a single to load the bases with the top of the order due up.
In the next at-bat, Caroline Ohlendorf tied the game with a 2-RBI single back up the middle.
Paige Druskis capped off her 2-3 day with a 2-RBI at-bat of her own. Her double cleared the bases and drove home the final two runs of the contest, sealing the game for her team.
“The win felt really good,” Krahmolisch said. “We started passing the bat and the mojo kept getting bigger and bigger and the atmosphere grew.”
Millard Fury had to battle back after a big third inning for the Sundodgers.
Rachael Freebourn gave the Sundodgers the lead on a towering SAC-fly to center field, allowing teammate Alex Ginnis to tag up at third base and score.
Savannah Antonowicz picked up an RBI single in her first at-bat of the afternoon and was able to steal second to put a runner in scoring position with two outs.
Alyssa Vasqueuz brought Antonowicz home to extend the Sundodgers lead to two runs.
Despite the big inning from the opposition, Avery Laing never doubted her team’s ability to manufacture a comeback.
“The atmosphere that we had in the dugout was really positive,” Laing said. “We stayed positive the entire game and didn’t give up at all. We just kept going and going and we kept our hits up and ended up with the win.”
Bestenlehner was pleased with how his team performed in the face of adversity.
“Our team responded really well,” he said. “We have a great hitting team and when they’re on, the whole team hits. They pass the bat back and forth and they’re great.”
“This was a really good team that we played and we just buckled down, did our best and worked hard,” Krahmolisch said. “This win will help us in this tournament and further on in summer ball.”
Millard Fury wrapped up play in Pool B with its victory.
The Sundodgers will finish up their pool play at 5:00 p.m. when they face Pool B leaders Dallas Tigers McNutt (TX).
By Ryan Chapman
Despite the long trip to Oklahoma City from San Diego, Power Surge Berndes (CA) didn’t wait to make their mark, getting off to an electric start in 12U Pool A play.
After defeating the Dallas Tigers 12U Mosqueda in their first game of the day 21-1, they followed their performance up with a 10-0 victory over Glory Atkins Gold (TX).
“We’ve been working towards this tournament for a long time,” coach Scott Berndes said.
Berndes commended the experience of his team, allowing them to get off to a hot start.
“They’re a veteran team. We’ve been in nationals in California every year since they were 10 and nine years old. The big stage is not big for them,” he said.
Power Surge looked comfortable all morning, especially pitcher McKenna Gieger.
Getting the nod in game two, Gieger gave her team three innings of excellent work. She retired all nine batters she faced in order, surrendering no hits and just one walk while striking out five batters.
Berndes was pleased with his pitching staff’s efforts all morning.
“They’re pretty darn good. They work hard, but we have some great pitchers,” he said.
While Gieger controlled the game in the circle, Sofia Mujica busted the game open for her team in the top of the second inning.
Mujica stepped up to the plate with two runners on base and drove both of them in with her 2-RBI double to extend Power Surge’s lead to 6-0 early in the game.
Mujica was really pleased with how her team started the tournament.
“It was pretty good,” she said. “It was nice to see how together we are and how we trust each other. Even if we do make a bad mistake, we know our team has our back.”
Gieger sealed the win, driving in the final two runs of the game on a hard hit single in the top of the third inning.
Andrea Delatrinidad believes her team can make a mark this weekend if they continue to play like they did this morning.
“We were just relaxed. We hit the ball hard and we worked as a team. If we keep working together, I think we’ll go really far,” she said.
For now, they intend to celebrate their day one success with an evening at the Women’s College World Series.
“We’ve been really looking forward to coming here and meeting new girls, eating different foods, and doing something different than we do on the beach in San Diego,” Berndes said. “We’re going tonight and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Power Surge Berndes will be back in action twice on Sunday to wrap up play in Pool A. Refocused and ready to finish strong in pool play, Mujica is confident in her teammates.
“Now we know what we’re capable of and we have a good future ahead of us,” said Mujica.
There’s a select group of more than 2,000 softball players who are not only digging in at the end of the school year, but also getting their game face on for a memorable tournament experience.
Sold out weeks ago, the 2019 Triple Crown OKC tournament (May 31-June 3) will welcome 175 teams, ages 10u through 18u, to Oklahoma City for one of those ideal moments on the fastpitch schedule. There’s spirited competition within the five-game guarantee, with 19 states represented in the overall field, while plenty of off-the-diamond activities add extra value and amusement for teams making the trip as summertime gets ready to kick in.
That includes a bustling Team Check-In and Player Party at Remington Park (May 31, 2-6 p.m.) that puts pin trading, vendors, food, music, photos and other activities right in front of each athlete. One of the essential charms of Triple Crown OKC is the next-door access to the Women’s College World Series, as the final eight teams in the chase for the NCAA Division I national title will be competing at the same time.
Two new touches for 2019 include a social media contest that will award a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler (teams required to post four specific photos with the #TCOKC hashtag), and full-on livestream coverage from BallerTV that will be available for every game at every field. With teams ranging from Florida, Washington, Mississippi, California and throughout the West and Midwest, this is shaping up to be an iconic stop on the fastpitch calendar.
“This event brings great out-of-state competition, allowing teams to see matchups they may not have experienced before,” said event director Sarah Pow. “Not only do they get to play softball, but the fiesta and vibe around the event with the WCWS and local activities allow teams to have fun on and outside the field.”
For more information, please go to www.triplecrownokc.com – to track results, matchups and brackets, head to the scheduling page HERE
The Triple Crown OKC fastpitch tournament (May 31-June 3) has measured up year after year by drawing a hefty amount of teams (sold out at 175) to an event that balances competition and fun just as the summer softball season begins to get serious.
Like any tournament, fans will be at the ballparks checking out the action, but Oklahoma City is more than capable of offering diversions when the schedule allows.
Women’s College World Series – The increasingly devoted TV audience that tracks the event is just now grasping what fans who attend the WCWS already know. This is a riveting moment on the NCAA calendar as the best Division-I teams fight it out for the national championship; chances are you’ll see a few players who will turn up on the 2020 US Olympic team when it returns to the stage in Japan. Tickets for the WCWS may be tough to land, but you can start here: http://bit.ly/2V2NwMB
Riversport Adventures – In the heart of the city is a new high-energy water park that offers rafting, kayaking and canoeing, among other activities. Many national competitions are held on the site, but you and your team can tackle more manageable action via tubing, slides, climbing walls and much more. Check it out for team building, as well as providing a test for those individual thrill-seekers: http://bit.ly/2KFJExi (and click for discount offer http://bit.ly/2V1FkMA)
Oklahoma City National Memorial – (from the website) Coming onto the Memorial grounds, you are seeing symbolic representations of the events of, and of the people impacted by, April 19, 1995. The Memorial Museum contains exhibits that walk you through the moment of the bombing, the rescue and recovery efforts, as well as the investigation and trial of the perpetrators: http://bit.ly/2PdagnH
Bricktown – Industrial-chic Bricktown is a lively entertainment district, with repurposed warehouse spaces home to restaurants, piano lounges and chic wine bars. An eclectic mix of shops sell clothing, home decor and specialty food items like gourmet condiments and handmade chocolate. The Bricktown Water Taxi takes riders along the Bricktown Canal for tours and dinner cruises: http://bit.ly/2DcY2qE
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum – The physical artifacts of the American Old West are just the starting point for the museum, which carefully considers both the settler and native experiences of a time that defies easy explanation. Don’t miss the retrospective of artist Tom Lovell and his depictions of horses – who doesn’t love horses? http://bit.ly/2Is54ft
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Triple Crown Sports has entered into a multi-year agreement with BallerTV that will add livestream video coverage to more than 20 Triple Crown Fastpitch events, beginning in 2019.
BallerTV will have coverage of all fields and all games of the following 2019 events:
Bomber Shootout March 2-3
Spring Stampede May 11-12
Triple Crown OKC May 31-June 3
Zoom Into June June 6-9
Mountain Magic June 6-9
Texas State Championships June 7-9
Zoom Juniors June 8-9
Colorado State Championships June 14-16
Valley Invite June 14-16
Sparkler Juniors July 1-7
Chicago Midwest Championships July 11-14
10u, 12u World Series July 12-17
16u, 18u World Series July 15-20
Southeast Championships July 14-18
Southwest Summer Nationals July 18-21
14u World Series July 22-27
Super 72 Sept. 13-15
Ronald McDonald Oct. 18-20
City of Lights #1 Oct. 25-27
City of Lights #2 Nov. 8-10
Don Battles On Nov. 15-17
Visit baller.tv/triplecrownfastpitch for links and notifications for all of these events.
Baller TV will also share coverage at the TC/USA Nationals (July 15-18) with FloSoftball; FloSoftball has eight fields, with BallerTV handling the remainder.
BallerTV was founded in 2016 by co-founders Robert Angarita and Aaron Hawkey to provide live video coverage of amateur sports while creating sports media job opportunities in local communities. As of 2018, BallerTV is now a coast-to-coast operation with a network of thousands of broadcasters across the country.
“BallerTV is extremely excited to be partnering with Triple Crown Sports,” said BallerTV Account Executive Daniel Chun. “As one of the leaders in the fastpitch world, Triple Crown continues to transcend the space and host top-tier events. We’re thrilled to provide a live stream service for athletes, parents and coaches to take their game to the next level.”
“We are thrilled to be partners with BallerTV, which is a forward-looking and dynamic media company that will help more people follow the action at our tournaments,” said Andy Hansen, VP of Media and Branding at Triple Crown. “Our fastpitch events are nationally known for their value to college recruiters, so we expect coaches to be especially interested in using BallerTV to track the progress of players who may end up on their rosters someday.”
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing college and youth events for more than 35 years, with approximately 90 events scheduled for 2019 in the arenas of youth baseball, fastpitch, basketball, lacrosse and volleyball. The TCS footprint includes both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and the men’s and women’s Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. TCS youth fastpitch tournaments (including the 900-team Sparkler/Fireworks event) draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes.
by Bradey King
As the Women’s College World Series championship round kicked off Monday night, the TC OKC tournament was wrapping up with only a few top teams left standing.
The 18u Texas Blaze NTX went 2-1-1 in pool play and won three straight in bracket play. The team spent all day at the ballpark Monday, yet they were still able to use whatever gas they had left in the tank to pull off a 7-5 comeback win against Northwest Premier (MO) in the Red River Bracket Championship.
“We were down 7-0 in a pool game yesterday and we fought back to tie. That showed a lot of character. I’ve never been more proud of a tie! Today we just played, had fun and stayed loose,” said head coach Bryan Ishcomer.
The teams were even at 1 after one full inning but the home team, Premier, seemed to have command over the game when they extended their lead to 5-1 at the end of the third inning.
In the top of the fourth, the Blaze was able to make a dent in Premier’s lead by scoring one run off of two singles and an error. However, it was in the fifth that they lit an offensive spark to make the comeback and force three pitching changes by Premier.
In that inning, the NTX squad seemed to hit every single gap on the field as they produced seven back-to-back singles to completely shift the momentum and take a 7-5 lead.
Jill Dixon was the catalyst for the Blaze lineup as she was a perfect 3-for-3 and also earned the game-tying RBI.
“I’m a fighter. I like to complete. I know that when it comes down to it I have to do my job up at the plate. Softball’s a fun sport so you just have to have fun while doing it and that’s what I was doing, having fun,” said Dixon.
The Blaze defense played their best ball in the later half of the game. They made big plays in innings five and six to keep Premier out of scoring position.
“I tried to slow down and spin the ball instead of trying to throw hard,” said pitcher Kylie Bowen about the adjustment she made after the Premier’s run in the fourth.
The bottom of seven was smooth sailing as the Blaze got a quick 3-up-3-down to secure the win and earn their TC OKC gold championship rings.
“Overall it was a great tournament. We enjoyed playing teams from different states and different parts of the country. We’re from North Texas and we typically play a lot of Texas teams even when we travel, so this was fun and refreshing to play teams from Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas,” added coach Ishcomer.
The 16u Red River champions was the Gametime Stars 2020 (OK), which did not lose a game in the entire tournament. Their peers in the organization, Gametime Stars 2021, won the 14A Red River title.