Desiree Smith threw a complete-game shutout as the So Cal Choppers - Fausett defeated the East Cobb Bullets - Biele/Heath, 3-0, to win the championship of the Triple Crown/USA Nationals 14 Open Division.
After dropping their first two games in pool play, the Choppers won eight games in a row to walk away with the championship. "This is just the kind of kids I've had all year," said Choppers head coach Gary Fausett. "They just play their hearts out. They are a good group of kids from good homes. They aren't troublemakers. They knew they didn't get the job done early but they came to me and told me not to worry, because they'd get the job done."
The Choppers started making noise in the second as they brought in three runs with one out thanks to some timely hitting and some wild base running. After back-to-back walks and a bloop single, the bases were loaded for Mia Franco. Franco roped a single to bring home Isabela Gurule with the first run and move the other runners up 60-feet. After an ECB pitching change, Sofia Morales got an RBI via a fielder's choice as the throw home to get Emma Bramson was late.
Then, things got crazy on the bases. A shallow fly ball was caught for the second out, but Hope Lusk's attempt to tag up from third was late. Lusk was chased back to third, but by the time she got there, Franco was already at the base. Franco started to head back to second, and the ECB throw went to second to get Franco. Meanwhile, Lusk raced home. The throw from second to the plate was in time, but the ball popped out of the glove on the swipe tag, allowing Lusk to score to make it 3-0.
"I thought (the left fielder) dropped the ball, so I ran because I thought I had a chance to score," Lusk said. "They had a pick move, so I slid back into third, and then when they threw down to second, I thought I had another chance to score, so I ran home."
That would be more than enough for Smith, in the quarterfinals, and she wanted to pitch again today. who felt the pressure ease off after the three runs came home. "It made it so much easier," Smith said of the runs. "I was already working hard to just try and hold the other team because I know they're really good. Those runs really helped a lot and really calmed me down."
"She's just amazing!" Lusk said of her starting pitcher. "She's just been doing so well. She's just a great pitcher and I'm so proud of her."
"She's special," Coach Fausett said of Smith. "She beat [East Cobb] in Colorado and she wanted to pitch again, and we let her. She's going to go up to 16's next year, and I'm going to miss her dearly."
Neither team would threaten to score the rest of the way, as both teams battled the heat and the solid pitching to scratch out hits. Halle Cannon of ECB tried to start a rally with a leadoff single in the sixth, but Smith would field her position to get a force out at second for the first out of the inning, with the side being retired soon after. Smith would retire ECB in order in the seventh, getting a fly out to end the contest and hand the Choppers the Championship.
"We got off to a rough start [in the tournament], but then we started playing like we usually do," Smith said. "We had a lot more energy after the first two games, and that really carried over."