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.
by Bradey King
The TC OKC 14uB division wrapped up pool play on Sunday evening and the Blue Angels from Mississippi are sitting pretty in the No. 1 spot heading into Monday’s competitive bracket play.
The Blue Angels’ 3-0-1 record was capped off with an 11-0 no-hit shutout victory on Sunday against the Azteca squad from Colorado. The Angels offense was on fire; combining for 16 total hits in the game with 12 singles, two doubles and two triples.
“This win gives us good confidence going into bracket play. Something we’ve struggled with up until now was getting started with hitting, so I’m glad to see them finish up that way,” said head coach Tommy Lewers.
The Angels took a commanding lead 4-0 right off the bat and never let up.
The third inning was the most productive as they plated five more runs on four singles, a double and a triple, each of which were hammered to the right side of the field. Three more hits in the fourth inning, including Ellie Jones’ RBI-triple, secured the run-rule for the team. Jones had a great day at the plate going 2-for-3.
“It felt pretty good; I’m just glad my teammates were on base and they were getting a bunch of hits, too. This weekend we’ve all been focusing on waiting on the ball so that’s an adjustment we’ve made to not roll over on the ball,” said Jones.
Equally as impressive as the hitting stats was the phenomenal performance in the circle by Janna Shaw. The lefty couldn’t be touched, making the no-hitter look easy.
“I was just mixing the location and getting good movement on the ball,” said Shaw.
This is the Blue Angels’ second year at the TC OKC tournament and they have high hopes to dominate in bracket play and bring some hardware back home to Mississippi.
by Bradey King
The 14uB Central Florida Select Eagles finished up pool play on Sunday afternoon at the TC OKC event with a record of 3-1, and each game satisfied better than the last. In their final game against the TSF Elite – Herrera from Texas, everything was clicking and Central Florida earned the 10-2 victory.
It was TSF that got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead after the first inning. The Eagles finally pushed on the gas pedal in the third inning to put themselves up 5-1.
The third inning rally started with a pair of walks and a hit by pitch that loaded the bases for McKenna (JoJo) Mulholland. She hit a sky-high fly ball that the TSF second baseman couldn’t handle and two runs scored. Right after, Grace Thomas crushed a double for two more RBI.
“Bases are loaded, I know I gotta do something. My coach always says make something happen so I put the ball in play and you know it happened to fall. I know my team has my back the entire time which makes everything 10 times easier,” said Mulholland.
Mulholland was on base all three times for the Eagles and finished 2-3 with a single and a double. She also crushed a team high four RBI.
The Eagles tacked on another run in the fourth to make it 6-1 on an inside-the-park home run by Delacia Deleslin. The rest of the offense exploded in the top of the fifth to run away with the game.
“We started the game without our starters so at the end I just put the starters back in and got our mojo going,” said head coach Kristi Mindrup.
The Eagles were solid on defense all game. Both shortstop and left field made incredible catches and the rest of the team consistently made the routine plays behind their pitcher, Thomas.
Thomas allowed a handful of hits and struck out one TSF batter.
“I know I’m a good pitcher but I’m not a strikeout pitcher. I’m always counting on my defense and I always trust them to have my back. This is probably the best defense I could ever have behind me,” said Thomas.
The Eagles have come a long way to be in OKC and they are fired up and ready for bracket play on Monday.
“I expect my team to just keep striving; we’re hitting the ball pretty well right now. Everyone has a great attitude and attitude and effort wins ball games,” added Mulholland.
by Bradey King
After enjoying all the fun activities at the TC OKC Opening Ceremony the day prior, the 12u Wichita Mustangs came out ready to play some ball on Saturday afternoon.
The Kansas-based team went 2-0 on their first day of pool play, which included a 7-5 win over the Texas Glory 2K6 and later a big 14-3 win over the Lil’ Saints out of Tennessee. It was a typical, scorching hot Oklahoma summer day, but the Mustangs didn’t seem fazed.
“Honestly, it’s the fact of knowing they have two games and two games only today. In softball, there can be five- or six-game days so being able to have that short term focus is a lot easier to keep energy,” said Mustangs head coach Ben Christensen.
In Game 2, the Mustangs applied early pressure with their sticks and speed on the bases. They scored five runs on three base hits in the first inning. In addition, the Lil’ Saints committed several errors pounced upon by the Mustangs.
The team tacked on three more runs in the second inning. Lefty batter Cambell Riordan blasted an RBI double but was thrown out trying to make it to third. She banged up her knee sliding but toughed it out and got on base again later in the game. Overall, she was 2-3 at the dish and scored twice.
“I feel like I played good, and my team did really good too,” said Riordan.
As a unit, the Mustangs had eight hits, three of which were doubles. Two of those doubles came in the fourth and final inning in which the Mustangs plated six more runs.
Khloe Perkins was stellar on the mound for the Mustangs. She had four strikeouts and only allowed three hits and three runs, all of which were unearned.
“It wasn’t my best pitching, but I felt pretty good. I’ve been working on getting my fastball back, because it kind of went away when I started working on other pitches,” said Perkins.
The Mustangs will head to the WCWS on Saturday night to cheer on the Florida Gators. They’ll step on the diamond again themselves Sunday to continue pool play.
“The game plan the rest of the weekend is pretty simple; it’s attitude and effort. That’s the only thing I ever ask for. I tell pitchers to get first pitch strikes and get the leadoff hitter out. And for defense it’s just making the routine plays,” explained coach Christensen. “Some girls press in tournaments like this because of the competition, but I just try to get them to believe that their best is good enough.”
Huntsville Green made their way from Alabama to Oklahoma for their first ever TC OKC experience, and things are off to a smooth 2-0 start.
After winning their first pool play game Saturday morning against the Oklahoma Force, 7-1, their bats stayed hot for Game 2 against Texas Arsenal from Houston, which ultimately led the Green to a 6-0 shutout in five innings.
“So far we’ve started off strong. All the girls are hitting the ball real well. We gave up too many errors but luckily we overcame that with our hitting,” said head coach Shawn Anderson.
Huntsville took command in the first inning against the Arsenal, scoring two runs off of a couple base hits and stolen bases. They didn’t score again until the top of the fourth when Alex Davis led off with a single, stole two bases and was then brought in on Jordan Moore’s double. Alicia Andersen followed that up with a hit to the shallow right field line and utilized her speed for an RBI triple.
The team tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the fifth. Pitcher Alexus Hindman continued to keep Arsenal off balance to secure the victory.
“My game plan is to go out with my curve and then I go high and in to see if they’ll chase it,” added Hindman.
Chase is exactly what she made the Arsenal squad do. Hindman finished with seven strikeouts and didn’t allow a single run to cross the plate.
Though every Huntsville player put the ball in play, Davis was the All-Star against Arsenal. She showcased speed and power on offense, going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate. Her performance included two singles and three stolen bases, and the cherry on top came in the fifth inning when she blasted a solo home run over the centerfield fence.
“It’s been a minute since I’ve swung the bat because we came in without really any practice so it was great to come out and play like this. We had one practice but only half of us could be there since we’re out of Huntsville and Tennessee so we figured we’d be rusty and we weren’t so that was good,” said Davis. “We’re really focused on chemistry. It doesn’t matter the outcome - we just have to be able to play together.”
Collectively, Huntsville was pleased with their performance and was eager to attend the WCWS on Friday night for the first time ever.
“We like to play one big tournament a year and since this one was here during the World Series we picked it,” added coach Anderson.
It’s that time of year again – the top NCAA Division I softball programs are making their final push to end up in Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series while our Triple Crown Sports staff is gearing up for the 12th annual TC OKC fastpitch event.
TC OKC offers great competition and the opportunity to experience the WCWS in person, so it’s no surprise that the 2018 event is already sold out. It will be an exciting schedule featuring teams from across the country that have never crossed paths before. Nearly 160 teams from 20 different states near and far will be represented.
Among the lineup of programs, there are several Oklahoma City locals and teams from Oklahoma and surrounding states.
“TC OKC brings out all the local Midwest talent. There’s good competition and good umpiring. I don’t bring my team here looking to win, but to have fun and get better,” said Randy Williams, head coach of Team Synergy 16u out of Wichita, KS. “And I love taking them to the WCWS as an end-goal opportunity, watching the elite players and realizing that could be them one day.”
While most teams are in driving distance, others are traveling from as far as Washington and Florida to play in OKC. Cindy Corrado is the head coach of the Central Florida Eagles Select “Rip-It” 12u and 14u teams, and her teams were first to pay in each age group, showcasing how eager they were to be a part of this event.
“When coach Lori Castellano and I took a 16u team a few years ago, I came back to Florida determined to give younger student athletes an opportunity to experience this (TC OKC) event. I felt by exposing them to the WS at a younger age would help them envision themselves playing at that level and encourage them to establish goals for their own personal success,” Corrado said. “The opportunity and experience for them is priceless. The kids I train in Florida all have a dream to play college softball one day and taking them to OKC to experience the WCWS, to play in the Triple Crown tourney, to tour Oklahoma University and the ASA Hall of Fame is an opportunity of a lifetime for these young student athletes.”
The five-game guarantee begins with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, June 1st at 2:00 p.m. All players, coaches, parents and family members are welcome. Coaches are required to be present to check in their teams and pick up any purchased WCWS tickets.
Tournament Director Sarah Pow is currently working hard on the brackets. She’s excited about the turnout and is ready to get the ball rolling.
“It’s a special event. Opening ceremonies will be really cool; we’ll have a photo booth, airbrush tattoos, pin-trading and tons of vendors. Our allotment of WCWS tickets is sold out so we’re excited that teams will get to enjoy the games,” added Pow.
Tournament play begins Saturday, June 2nd and will continue through Monday, June 4th. Full schedules will be released on Friday, May 4th. Visit http://www.triplecrownokc.com/ for more event details and to pre-order the official Triple Crown OKC tournament T-shirt.
By Bradey King
No matter how many times we are surprised by a sporting event, or how often upsets occur, or how you just flat-out couldn’t have predicted the final score, we can’t help but believe some outcomes look pretty obvious in advance.
In the world of girls youth fastpitch softball, teams from Oklahoma simply didn’t carry the historical importance found in squads hailing from classic warm-weather settings like Texas, California, Florida and Georgia. It took a bit of invention and intuition born from a baseball mindset to change a piece of the fastpitch landscape in Oklahoma, and that burst of inspiration has led a group of low-profile players on the Gametime Stars to the high ground in top-shelf tournaments.
Fortified by a core of athletes who were there at the start as 10s, as well as the consistent voice of a coaching staff helmed by Rusty Fisher, the Gametime Stars 18u Gold owns multiple World Series titles and has 12 players with signed commitments to play D-1 college softball. If it seems curious that a team in and around Oklahoma City could rule the roost, Fisher’s initial approach indicated he was comfortable outside the margins.
“One of the very first meetings I had, I sat down with the assistants, who were strictly softball guys. I’d watched the game a little bit, and there was a lot of playing for one run,” said Fisher, who first coached his son in baseball and whose team played in national-scale Triple Crown Sports events. “Coming from baseball, we didn’t play for just one run. Everyone thought I was crazy, but my goal was to bring a baseball mentality and try to score 6-10 runs a game. In fact, I wanted to look back after that first year at 10s and see if we could average 10 runs a game. Ended up, we averaged 9.1, 9.2.
“After that first year, they’re saying, ‘he’s got something going here, let’s go with it.’ And we’ve stuck by that approach. We teach power hitting; sometimes we die by it, but we live by it all the time.”
The prime testing ground for Fisher’s beliefs came when the Stars were 11s and traveled to Iowa for a World Series featuring 30 top-notch clubs. The Stars run-ruled every opponent and stormed to the title, leaving a wake of confused onlookers in their path.
“Man, I was a softball coach by the book,” laughed Stars assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Ronnie Rogers, “where you get a runner on, bunt her over, all that. Rusty never took that approach – his approach was that you hit away. It was kind of funny, because it took a little while for (that theory) to connect. But it’s been pretty fun, because up to last year, we were always underneath the radar.”
“We’ve won a couple (tournaments) where people took us lightly. They don’t know who we are, but after, they sure know,” said shortstop Kristen Prieto, who will be on the campus at the University of Tulsa next fall. “We don’t try to be cocky; we show confidence and that we know what we are doing. We like to show the work we’ve done.”
The payoffs have been steady ever since that 11u campaign. One of the keystone moments for the program came in 2013, when as 16s they reached the highly coveted TV game for the Triple Crown Sparkler/Fireworks event. Although they didn’t win, the Stars took a lot from being able to handle such intense competition.
How the Stars seem to handle big moments, and how they’ve willed themselves to be more than meets the eye, likely came from Fisher’s unrelenting advice.
“From the very start, I told the girls this is about discipline, dedication and determination. Carry yourself with confidence all the time,” Fisher said. “You walk to the concession stand with confidence; you go into the bathroom with confidence; you walk on the field confident and know you can get it done. It’s just a bunch of hard-nosed, hard-working kids.
“My baseball team had traveled all around the country, and then I took over this group of girls that hadn’t been out of the state. First year, we want to Florida, Texas, Kansas, and I think a lot of other teams began to get on board with that, too. We had to get out of our boundary box and test the waters.”
And over the next few years, the waters of D-1 softball will be churning with the influx of Stars players:
Jayden Chestnut, Caleigh Clifton, Lynnsie Elam, Raylee Pogue, Raegan Rogers – Oklahoma
Caitlin Bingham, Brighton Gilbert, Madison Perrigan – Wichita State
Macy Fisher, Sydney Sherrill – Florida State
Jen Marwitz – Kansas
Kristen Prieto – Tulsa
Lindsey Stoeckel – Creighton (offered, not signed)
Of course, even if the Stars have a business-like approach and refuse to embrace much flash in their game, the bittersweet truth about watching the first group of kids head off to college next fall is already tugging on the emotions.
“It’s sad to think this is my last summer with these girls, who I grew up with. We talk about it a lot,” Prieto said. “We try to emphasize this is our last run, and we have to try our best. I think we can win a national title.”
“Even thinking of that, it’s amazing. My daughter is one of those kids; from back when they were 10, to now where we have 13 D-I athletes … you’d be crazy to think that,” Rogers added. “But honestly, they’ve all worked to get to the next level, to get their education and play in college. It’s exciting to see the next chapter open.”
Fisher learned how to balance the roles of father and coach with daughter Macy on the roster, and the impact of sending the first wave onward will be another emotional test.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world, watching my daughter grow up as a player and a person all those years,” he said. “We were all talking about it at the end of practice — there are a couple of girls who can’t wait for the end of next season, so they can see me cry. The girls are ready for the next step, and they’ve been preparing for this their whole lives. They’re anxious to get on to it, and it’ll be fun following them along the way.”
If you’re looking for good food, great sports culture and even better softball – Oklahoma City is the place to be. The Triple Crown OKC Tournament returns in 2018 (June 1-4) to deliver another memorable experience for athletes, 10u through 18u, and their families.
More than 155 teams from across the U.S. traveled to Oklahoma City in 2017 to enjoy all this tournament has to offer. OKC did not disappoint, providing a fun-filled opening ceremony with merchandise, vendors, pin trading, snacks, music, photo booths and more. In addition, OKC gives teams the opportunity to play at least five games against diverse competition while crafting a schedule that builds in time to watch the best of the best college softball athletes live at the Women’s College World Series.
Opening Ceremony is scheduled for Friday, June 1 and will wrap up prior to the WCWS night games. Tournament play begins the following morning and continues through June 4. All teams are guaranteed to play Monday. The final games begin around 4 p.m., giving just enough time to make an appearance at Game 1 of the WCWS Championship Round at 6 p.m.
For more details, visit http://www.triplecrownokc.com/