Twisters win Nebraska state tournament
     2013-07-11      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Courtesy photo - Members of the Twisters celebrate on Sunday after winning the ASA Nebraska State Tournament for Division B (16-under) teams at the Bill Smith Softball Complex in Hastings. Team members are: (front row, from left) Raele Riley, Sofia Fox, Cassandra Bustillos, Mikka Salazar, Mikayla Butler, Marisa Santos, Katie Howell, (second row) Jessica Rogers, Bethany Sandlian, Lourdes Ramirez-Monge, Shaylee Rickard, Isabel Thompson, Barbara Calvert and Alex Salazar. Coaches on the back row are Matt Schubarth, Dan Fox, Terry Fox, Lance Rogers, Mike Butler, Gary Rickard and Mike Calvert. Not pictured is coach Kevin Thompson. 
Tough early games set up decisive second-day victories for areateam

When a team like the Twisters 16-under fast-pitch softball team has won 41 straight games, sometimes turning in one dominating victory after another can prove emotionally challenging.

In competing last weekend at the ASA Nebraska State Tournament in Hastings, the Twisters — who the week before won a tournament in Arvada, Colo., by a cumulative 49-9 score over six games — swept their first three games Saturday but by a relatively tougher total of 16-9.

On Sunday, however, the explosive power for which the Twisters have become known returned and they won their semifinal 13-1 and final 14-2 to win the Torrington-based team’s first Nebraska state championship.

“Anytime you win a championship or any kind of tournament it feels good,” said Twisters coach Dan Fox, whose team hit five home runs on Sunday and beat the Lincoln-based Nebraska Blue Diamonds in the decisive final after squeaking out a 5-2 win in their third game Saturday.

The tournament championship was the Twisters’ seventh in 11 events this season.

“I think this one was just kind of more special because a lot of our girls are from Nebraska and they’ve never got to play for a state championship in Nebraska,” Fox said. “ I think it was a good moment for everybody, especially for the Scottsbluff, Gering and Torrington areas.”

But Fox said the Twisters may have been too ready to begin tournament play Saturday morning.

“I think the girls came out ready to play on Saturday, and they were pretty enthusiastic at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Fox said. “But I think they were so enthusiastic and were so ready to play that they were kind of tight, just trying to do too much. They were pushing things a little bit and we had some games that were too close to call.”
In their first game, the Twisters scored five first-inning runs and led 8-2 after three frames but found a tenacious opponent in Sports Express’ Ramirez, who was not ready to surrender easily. Sports Express scored three runs in the fourth inning, but that was as close as the Twisters allowed their first opponent.

Sports Express outhit the Twisters 8-4 but committed eight errors. As a result, none of the Twisters’ runs were earned.
Mikayla Butler of Gering scattered eight hits in the six-inning game, striking out five while allowing five runs (four earned) and no walks.

Butler also drove home two runs, as did Jessica Rogers of Gering.
In their second game Saturday, the Twisters had their first one-run victory since June 22, and just their fourth one-run game of the season, with a 3-2 win over the Beatrice Blitz.

Raele Riley of Torrington drove home Rogers on a sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Rogers led off the inning with a line-drive single, advanced to second when Shaylee Rickard of Torrington reached on an error and moved to third on Butler’s sacrifice grounder.

The Twisters scored their first two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sofia Fox of Alliance reached on a two-out error and was pinch-run for by Lourdes Ramirez-Monge of Scottsbluff, who scored on Rogers‘ line-drive triple to center. Rogers then scored after Rickard gained a walk.

Rogers was 3-for-3 from the plate with her two runs scored and RBI triple. Beatrice had tied the game in the top of the sixth on a two-run home run by Haley Johnsen.

In their first meeting against the Blue Diamonds, the Twisters kept the 1-1 tie going after keeping Lincoln off the board with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth. The Twisters then responded at the plate by scoring four runs in the seventh and used Rickard’s strong pitching to seal the tight victory.

“Lincoln Diamond Blues was our third day of the game and they threw a really good pitcher against us,” Fox said of Emilie Janssen, off whom the Twisters got 11 hits but struck out six times. “The game was the back and forth, they scored in the first and we tied it in the top of the fourth.

“There were two great times where our defense had to come up with some big plays. In the fifth inning we had a forced out with a runner on third, and in the sixth inning they had the bases loaded with one out, and if they would have scored a run the game would have been over and they would have moved on.

“So I called timeout, talked to the girls and told them that we just needed one play to get out of that situation. So we moved the outfield up to try and stop a run, and Isabel Thompson (of Gering) caught a pop fly and spun, and they couldn’t advance, and then Shaylee got the last out and got out of the sixth inning.”

With the game still tied after the time limit expired, the Twisters took care of business with big doubles by Sofia Fox and Jessica Rogers leading a four-run rally. Bustillos began the inning by being placed on second in the tiebreak situation, stole third and scored on a catcher’s error while Fox was at bat.

Fox then doubled and scored on Rogers’ double. After Butler walked and Riley was hit by a pitch, Barbara Calvert of Scottsbluff drove home Rogers and Butler to end the Twisters’ rally.
Calvert was 3-for-4 with three RBI, while Rogers went 2-for-4 with her RBI double and Riley went 2-for-3.

Rickard scattered six Beatrice hits, overcoming six walks and the two-run homer with seven strikeouts.
“I think the hardest part is keeping these girls from getting tight, and I think that was what happened Saturday,” Fox said of the hard day’s work.

“After Saturday’s last game, the girls felt pretty good and were pretty relaxed for Sunday. Mikayla and Shaylee came out strong on the hill, and they came out swinging and hitting the ball pretty well and doing everything right, and when we play like that we’re pretty hard to beat.”

The Twisters outscored their Sunday opposition 27-2 and had five home runs, but oddly enough, both wins were come from behind.
Against the O’Neill-based Green Machine, which scored one in the top of the first, the Twisters answered with a four-run rally in the bottom of the inning and cruised to a 13-1, three-inning victory.

Bustillos had a home run and double with three RBI and two runs scored in going 2-for-3. Rogers also homered and doubled and drove in three runners, finishing 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored. Rickard had a homer and three RBI in going 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
Butler spared the Green Machine just one hit over three innings and had one strikeout and walk each in earning the pitching victory.
The rematch against the Blue Diamonds in the championship round was no contest compared with the teams’ meeting Saturday night.
Lincoln scored twice in the top of the first inning, but the Twisters responded with an eight-run explosion in the bottom of the frame on their way to scoring a 14-2, three-inning romp for the state title.

“I think the key there was that they came out and jumped on us 2-0, got a couple bunts on us, but the girls were pretty relaxed and comfortable,” Fox said.

“Cassandra jumped on the pitcher and got a base hit, then Isabel doubled her home and Sofia came up and hit a home run and the rout was on. We really created runs in the first inning.”

The Twisters outhit the Blue Diamonds 14-1, batting a staggering .700 in winning the championship game. Thompson led the offensive attack by going 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored.

Bustillos went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, Fox was 2-for-3 with a solo home run, Mikka Salazar was 2-for-2 with a double and two runs, while Butler parked a two-run home run and scored twice, and Calvert had a triple for two RBI and scored once.
Rickard scattered four hits in the three-inning game and had one strikeout with no walks.

The weekend of action leaves the Twisters — who are rated No. 1 in the USSSA B Division national rankings — with a 61-5 record on the season, and their 41 straight victories have left them undefeated since May 12.

Next up for the Twisters is another bid for a state championship at the USSSA Colorado/Wyoming State Tournament in Loveland, Colo., beginning Friday and continuing through Sunday at the Barnes Softball Complex.

“We’re going to go into this tournament like we do the others and just be ready to hit the ball,” Fox said. “We begin pool play at 8 a.m. Saturday. It’s going to be a long day, because you could play anywhere from two to five games on Saturday. If we can win our first four games, we’ll be in a good situation for Sunday, but you have to win one game at a time, and that’s what we are focused on.
“Hopefully we can roll over what we did in the Nebraska state tournament into the Colorado/Wyoming and we can continue what we did on Sunday.”

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