In the opening game of the Babe Ruth 12-and-under Softball World Series in Alachua, the Bloomingdale Blaze were a little flat. Nerves got to the Blaze, according to coach DJ Peña as the team dropped its opening game 4-3 to Stamford, Connecticut.
From there, the Blaze had no more stumbles as the team that captured the Florida state crown last month cruised through its next seven games to win the World Series title Tuesday with a 2-1 victory against Pitt, North Carolina, on Tuesday night.
“The greatest thing as a coach is how these girls have come together and played as a team,” Peña said. “As a parent to watch good quality softball is so hard to say — it was awesome to watch.”
In the lone loss, Blaze starting pitcher Emma Cooper struck out 10 hitters. Bloomingdale followed with a 12-0 win against Lodi, California, a 4-0 win against Ormond Beach spurred by another complete-game effort from Cooper, a 12-1 win against Ocala that was keyed by hitting from Lindsey Harper and solid pitching from Ashley Ullom to lead the team to the top of its pool.
In the double-elimination second round, Bloomingdale’s strong defense and pitching continued as Kacey Fultz tossed a no-hitter in an 8-0 win against Mount Olive, New Jersey, helped by nice defensive plays from outfielders Taylor Byers and Bailey Leistl.
Germantown, Kentucky, proved a tough task before the Blaze pulled out a 4-3 victory, ending the game on a double play.
Ullom caught a player in a rundown between third and home, and threw to catcher Kaia LoPreste, who applied the tag, then threw to second baseman Jada Smallwood, who applied the game-ending tag.
“The defense was very good, the pitching was very good and, well you could always have more hits,” Peña said. “But the hitting was timely and everything just went so well for us.”
The semifinals featured a mercy rule 11-1 victory against Pitt, meaning the team from North Carolina had to win an extra semifinal game before again facing Bloomingdale for the championship.
In the final, Pitt took a one-run lead in the first before Bloomingdale scored a pair of runs and held on for the one-run victory.
This was the first season in the new format for Bloomingdale, which formerly played under Little League rules before switching to the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth format.
“To watch the excitement of all these girls was really special,” Peña said. “All 13 girls had a part.
“When we needed someone to step up in a moment, every one of our girls did that (during the tournament).”
Maddie Droz, Kailey Harrigan, Trinity Howard, Madeline Peña and Kelly Swank round out the rest of the championship roster.