By Thomas Hoffman
ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Fueled by a final day loss two weeks ago at the Triple Crown Colorado 4th of July, East Cobb Bullets – Biele/Heath have been on a direct trajectory towards the 16u championship at TC/USA Nationals. Knocking off Fury Platinum and Nebraska Gold to reach the title game, East Cobb completed Thursday’s hat trick with a 2-0 victory over Glory Adkins – Locke to claim the crown.
“To win a national championship against the caliber of teams that were here in Georgia is probably the best thing that could happen to these girls,” said head coach JD Heath. “This just puts them on the top of everybody’s list, to win a championship like this. It brightens their futures so much for softball.”
While East Cobb charged by Nebraska Gold, 10-2, Glory Adkins needed extras to slide past Carolina Elite Gold, 10-8, setting up the all-Georgia final.
Even though it was the Bullets who showed its offensive prowess in the semifinals, Glory put the pressure on East Cobb early and often, placing runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings. Starting pitcher Lexie Delbrey was zeroed in from start to finish for the Bullets, though, especially in the game’s tense moments.
“I had to be dialed in for this game,” Delbrey said. “I wanted to win a national championship, so I did what I had to do.”
Sophia Voyles did her best to keep pace with Delbrey. Through her first three innings, Voyles only saw nine batters, striking out five.
“Glory is an amazing team and I knew the game was going to be decided by big hit or two,” Heath explained. “While we were waiting for them to finish up their semifinal, I decided to have a little home run derby with my girls to get them loose.
“In the middle of the game with us tied at zero, I started to think we were going to hit a long ball. I didn’t know who it’d be, but I felt it was coming.”
Heath’s premonition was vindicated in the top of the fourth inning when Katie Taylor stepped to the plate. Hitting from the bottom of the order, Taylor vaulted her team on top with a solo shot over the centerfield fence.
“I was just looking for a pitch to get contact and get something started,” Taylor said. “Since I was leadoff that inning, I just wanted to make a good swing on the best pitch possible. I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it.”
An inning later, Kenadie Cooper matched Taylor’s effort with a solo shot of her own, jumping on the first pitch of the at-bat. In a game where runs were coming at a premium, East Cobb’s 2-0 lead now loomed large.
“I just saw the first pitch come right down the middle,” said Cooper. “I was thinking, ‘this is an opportunity I don’t want to miss and I better take it.’ This was our last game of the tournament. I think I was really focused and dialed in because I wanted to do it for my team.”
Meanwhile, Delbrey continued to throw zeroes up on the scoreboard.
Tensions rose in the bottom of the sixth inning with Glory runners on second and third and just one out. Undeterred by the pressure-packed situation, Delbrey calmly ended the frame with a pop fly to third base and a strikeout.
“I don’t really think in the circle,” Delbrey said. “The runners really didn’t matter. I just told myself to keep them from hitting.”
In the seventh, Glory manage a two-out base knock but the last-ditch effort was soon short-lived. Delbrey forced the final groundout, handing the Bullets a 16u TC/USA Nationals title.
“To win this with all my teammates is awesome,” said Cooper. “We all love each other so much and we’re such a good team together. It means a lot.”
It took 12 games in the Georgia heat but at the end of the day coach Heath and Bullets can call themselves TC/USA Nationals Champions.
“I love this team so much,” Delbrey said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team to share this with.”