For the second time this summer mother nature had an impact on the weekend schedule at the North American All-Sanctioned World Series in Columbus, Ohio. With all the rain between Wednesday and late into the night on Thursday, both Friday and Saturday pool play schedules changed. It appeared that the schedule change was a favorable one for the Valley Girls as their first pool play game on Friday was moved from 8:30 AM to 11 AM and would end up being their only game of the day. The second pool play game got moved to Saturday giving Valley three games on Saturday to finish up pool play.
The Valley Girls had Buckeye Heat 01 in their first pool play game. The team was 3-0 vs this Heat since the fall of 2015. But that didn’t stop Buckeye Heat from playing with confidence. The Heat jump in front of Valley 2-0 in the top of the first and would keep Valley on their heals the entire game. The final score ended up 8-1 with Valley uncharacteristically committing four errors and starting pool play with an 0-1 record.
Game two of pool play was against the Michigan Elite. Valley would have two rough innings that ended up being the difference in the game. Elite scored a run in each of the first two innings to snag a 2-0 lead. In the top of the third Valley would get a run back to cut the lead in half at 2-1 before the wheels would fall off. Valley Force would commit four errors between the third and fourth innings and giving up ten runs to give Michigan Elite a 9-1 advantage. The Valley Girls settled down on defense and started finding some gaps as they tried to mount a comeback. But the impact of the third and fourth innings was too much to overcome as the final score ended at 13-6.
Committing eight errors through the first two games the Valley Girls knew they needed to pick up play on the defensive side. And that’s just what they did. The girls committed just two errors over the next four games and finished with a 3-1 record to push themselves into the top 32 teams out of 128 in the 16u division.
Game three of pool play was an exciting game with great plays being made by both defenses. PC Inferno won the coin flip and elected to be the home team. Valley started off the game hitting the ball hard but the Inferno defense was making spectacular diving catches all over the outfield. The Inferno center fielder also robbed two home runs.
This game was played to a 0-0 tie through five innings of play. All the balls in play that were getting caught earlier were now finding the gaps and producing runs. Valley scored four runs in the sixth inning and five in the seventh inning for a 9-0 win and a 1-2 pool play record. The sixth inning got started with a pop out and a walk drawn by Kallie Regula. Abby Warther, Alexis Renner and Amber Peltz all had back to back to back singles. Regula scored on Renners single and Warther scored on Peltz’s single. Annette Weston who was robbed of a home run earlier in the game, hit another deep fly ball to center field that was tracked down for out number two. Jenna stout would come in and hit a two RBI double scoring both Renner and Peltz giving Valley a 4-0 lead.
Valley kept the pressure on in the top of the seventh inning as Mackenzie Kendrick and Zoe Johnson started the inning with back to back singles. Rugula laid down a beautiful bunt to move both base runners as she is able to reach first safely. Warther hits a deep fly ball that is caught by the centerfielder but all three base runners tagged and moved ahead a base on the play. Kendrick scored on the tag up at third. Renner gets hit by a pitch to load the bases back up followed by a Peltz line drive for a single scoring both Johnson from third and Regula from second for the third run of the inning. Now with runners on second and third, Weston hit a ground out but scored Renner and advanced Peltz to third. Stout delivers a two out RBI single scoring Peltz from third.. Valley ended the game giving up just two hits and won with a 9-0 shutout.
With one game left in pool play the Valley Girls needed a win and needed to give up fewer than three runs to secure their spot in the Platinum Bracket. The Platinum Bracket is made up of the top three seeds from each pool creating a field of 64 teams.
Game four of pool play was against the PA Havoc. The Valley girls were in control of this game from the opening pitch. They scored 17 runs on 17 hits, gave up two hits and just one run ending the game in the fourth inning with a mercy. Valley scored two runs in the first, four in the third and exploded for 11 in the fourth securing their spot in the Platinum Bracket.
With the 2-2 pool play record and number three seed from their pool the Valley Girls would have a tough road into the sweet sixteen as they drew a number one seed in round one and potentially another number one seed in round two with a victory.
Round one of bracket play was against Team Ohio who was coming off of a Platinum Bracket Championship at the Kings Island College Shootout. Valley won the coin flip and elected to be the home team. Courtney Beckley got the start in the circle and took just seven pitches to get through the first three batters of the game by creating a ground-out to second baseman Stout, a fly out to Regula in right field and a line drive right back to the circle.
Lead-off hitter Zoe Johnson started the game by taking the fourth pitch of the game yard over the left center field fence to give Valley a 1-0 lead. Team Ohio got a runner to second base in the top of the second inning with two outs before Beckley landed a strikeout to end the inning. After six straight outs between the bottom of the second and top of the third the Valley Girls threatened in the bottom half of the third inning. Madison Kopp led the inning off by drawing a walk followed by a sacrifice bunt by Beckley to advance Kopp to second base. Mackenzie Kendrick hits a double into shallow left center field as the Team Ohio defense held Kopp at third with a throw into the dirt. Team Ohio ended the inning holding Valley in check with a strikeout and an unassisted ground out to first base.
Beckley started the fourth inning with a lead-off strikeout but Team Ohio threatened by getting runners to second and third with two outs. Team Ohio’s number four power hitter got a hold of a ball and sent it deep into the left center field gap. Annette Weston put it in high gear and chased the ball down to make a running backhand catch just a few feet from the fence to protect the 1-0 Valley lead.
Following a leadoff pop out to start the bottom half of the fourth, Renner was able to draw a walk. Peltz then attempted a sac bunt that landed her on base safely and advanced Renner to second on an error by the first baseman. Weston drove a fly ball to deep right field for a sacrifice fly to advance Renner from second to third. With two outs now, Stout steps to the plate and hits a hard ground ball between third and shortstop for an RBI single scoring Renner and giving the Valley Girls a 2-0 lead through four innings of play.
Again in the fifth inning Team Ohio was able to move a base runner into scoring position at second base. This time with one out but the Valley defense retired the next two batters. Valley sent three girls to the plate in the bottom half of the fifth but the tough Team Ohio defense was on point by getting outs on all three balls in play.
The sixth inning started off looking promising for the girls of Team Ohio as they were able to lead off the inning with single. The next batter hit a hard ground ball to Johnson at shortstop who flipped the ball to a charging Stout at second who kicked the bag and threw an on point ball to the stretching Renner at first for the 6-4-3 double play. Valley ended the top of the sixth with an easy pop out to Renner at first. Regula led off the bottom with a double and later scored on a single by Renner for the third and final run of the game for Valley. Valley held on for a big 3-0 shutout win and moved the girls into the final 32 teams.
In the second round the Valley Girls were facing off against another number one seed and another top team in the state in the Ohio Hawks Gold. The Hawks went through pool play by allowing just seven hits and one run in their four games. The Valley Girls faced the Hawks last summer at Fire In The Sky and suffered a 13-1 mercy loss to knock them out of bracket play. The Valley Girls wanted payback and wanted to have a much better showing this time around.
Again Valley won the coin toss to snag the home half of the inning. Knowing the Hawks are a great hitting team, Kendrick wanted to put a lot of spin on the ball trying to produce pop ups and grounders in the infield. The game started with three of the first four batters popping out. Two to Kopp in left field and one to Johnson at shortstop. Valley drew first blood in the bottom of the first when Regula went yard on a solo home run to give Valley a 1-0 lead. That would end up being Valley’s only run of the game.
The Hawks tied the game in the second at one and took the lead in the fifth by getting two runs in to take a 3-1 lead. Now in the bottom of the sixth and time expired, Valley threatened the Hawks two run lead by getting runners to second and third. Following back to back deep fly outs to left and center field, Warther drew a walk and lefty Renner took an outside pitch down the left field line for a double. With Valley trying to rally on two outs, the hot stick of Peltz was coming to the plate. Peltz was able to hit a hard line drive towards the right center field gap but unfortunately the Hawks second baseman was able to reach up to make the catch and end Valleys chance at a sweet sixteen appearance. The Hawks went on to make the final four and lost to the tournament champion Diamond Chix.
After a rough start to the weekend, Valley was able to rebound and played some pretty outstanding softball in their last four games and competed at a high level against two of the top teams in the state.
The Valley offense scored 37 runs on 51 hits with 32 singles, 13 doubles, one triple and five home runs. The offense also had 35 RBI with a .345 batting average and an on base percentage of .389. Leading the way for Valley was Alexis Renner who scored five runs and produced eight hits, five singles, three doubles, six RBI and had a batting average of .571. Renner also drew a team leading four walks. Zoe Johnson had 7 hits, five singles, a double, a home run, five runs scored and two RBI. Johnson finished the weekend with a .389 batting average.
Mackenzie Kendrick, Kallie Regula and Jenna Stout all had six hits on the weekend. Kendrick had five singles, a double, four runs scored and a .429 batting average. Regula had two singles, two doubles, two home runs, seven runs scored and six RBI. She also finished with a .400 batting average. Stout contributed three singles, two doubles, a triple, scored two runs with six RBI and a batting average of .400.
Abby Warther produced five hits. She had three singles, two doubles, three runs scored and had three RBI. Madison Kopp ended with four hits, three singles, a home run, two runs scored and had four RBI.
Courtney Beckley, Amber Peltz and Annette Weston each had three hits. Beckley had two singles, a double, a run scored and an RBI. Peltz ended with three singles, five runs scored and three RBI. Weston contributed a single, a double, a homerun with three runs scored and four RBI. She was also robbed of two home runs during pool play.
The pitching staff of Beckley and Kendrick combined for 33 ⅔ innings in the circle. They threw a total of 459 pitches, 321 strikes to 138 balls. There were 25 runs scored but only 12 of them earned for a 2.50 era and an opponent batting average of .261. They also had 19 strikeouts to just nine batters walked. Beckley got 18 ⅔ innings in the circle facing 79 batters and throwing 175 strikes to 77 balls. She had an era of 1.12, 13 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .257. Kendrick was in the circle for 15 innings, faced 68 batters, threw 146 strikes and only 61 balls. She also had six strikeouts, opponent batting average of .267 and threw a first pitch strike 78% of the time.
The defense started the tournament a little off their game by committing eight of their ten errors in the first two pool play games. Eight of those ten errors were throwing. They did however pick up their play on defense and ended the tournament with just two errors over their last four games and finished with a .933 fielding percentage.
This coming weekend the Valley Girls will play in their last tournament of the summer as the team travels to Pickerington, Ohio to compete in the USA/ASA Grand Finale Tournament. There will be a total of 16 teams fighting to bring home one of the last Championships of the summer.