Twisters complete memorable season
     2013-08-08      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Courtesy photo - Members of the Twisters celebrate their ASA Nebraska State Tournament win for Division B (16-under) at the Bill Smith Softball Complex in Hastings earlier this season. 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. 
Traveling fast-pitch softball team takes 5th in Northern Nationals, finishes with 82 wins

It was a season to remember.

A season that saw the Twisters 16-under fast-pitch softball team win 82 games out of 92 contests, win nine weekend tournaments that included the USSSA Nebraska State Tournament and Mountain States Tournament and finish the season by placing second and fifth in two national tournaments.

Although their year ended Saturday night in the ASA Northern Nationals at Pekin, Ill. – in the last game of a five-game run that Twisters coach Dan Fox called “Survival Saturday” after the team fell into the elimination bracket Friday night – Fox said their players had plenty of tears that turned to laughs and smiles when all was said and done.

“A good reflection of it all is just that we’re proud of these young ladies,” Fox said of his team, which was largely composed of players from Torrington, Gering and Scottsbluff. “When you win 82 games in a year and you just lose nine (plus a tie), you can be very proud of that accomplishment.

“We’re very proud of the two state titles, the runner-up in the World Series and taking fifth in the Northern Nationals. These girls have plenty to keep their heads high, because they’ve accomplished maybe more than any other teams around here probably ever have.
“We’re pretty proud of them and they represented the area pretty well.”

After their 2-1, final-game loss to the Cincinnati Ice, Fox said players’ tears turned to cheers once they realized what they had to accomplish.
“There were a lot of tears, not that we lost but that the season was over,” Fox said. “After a few minutes of tears, there was laughing and they were in good moods.”

The Twisters started the Northern Nationals with two decisive pool-play victories Thursday, a 10-1 romp over the Starved Rock (Ill.) Bandits and 12-2 over the LGSA Lazers of nearby Peoria, Ill.

The wins gave the Twisters a top seed in bracket play Friday, which they began with a 9-1 blistering of the Bi-County Thunder, scoring three runs in each of the first and second innings before another three-spot ended the game in five innings.

The win set up a rematch against the LGSA Lazers, who jumped ahead 3-0 in the first inning and added three sixth-inning runs on their way to a 6-2 win to avenge their pool-play loss from Friday.
“We put ourselves in a bad hole Friday night, getting beat by the Illinois team that we beat before,” Fox said. “We knew that we could beat that team, but we just didn’t play very well. Everything that could go wrong went wrong.

“So we called Saturday our ‘Survival Saturday’ and we had to play five games and four of those games were back-to-back. You’re basically talking about 10 hours of softball in one day. One game we went nine innings, where Jessica Rogers (of Gering) hit a home run (a two-run shot for a 4-3 lead), and then they tied it in the bottom of the seventh.”

That game, the Twisters’ third of the day against Plover Fastpitch of Wisconsin, remained deadlocked at 4-all and eventually went nine innings.

With Cassandra Bustillos of Torrington placed on second base under the international tiebreak rule, Isabel Thompson of Gering drove her home on RBI single to start a four-run explosion. Plover was unable to capitalize on getting the bases loaded, leaving the Twisters 8-4 victors.

Rogers was 2-for-4 with her two-run homer and three total RBI with two runs scored in leading the Twisters’ offense. Rickard pitched all nine innings, scattering five hits and striking out nine.
That win followed a 10-2 win over the Addison Lady Blazers from the Chicago area and a 13-6 victory over the STL Nemesis out of St. Louis. Against Addison, Rogers had a grand slam with five runs batted in. Mikayla Butler of Gering pitched a four-hitter with two strikeouts in getting the victory.

In the win over STL, Mikka Salazar was 4-for-4 from the plate with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored. Marisa Santos of Torrington went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. Shaylee Rickard of Lingle-Fort Laramie scattered eight hits and struck out two in gaining the win.

Following the win over Plover Fastpitch, the Twisters scored three first-inning runs on their way to an 8-5 win over the DuPage (Ill.) Diamond Dawgs. Rickard got the win in relief after allowing no runs on two hits with two strikeouts.

Then came the Twisters’ game of reckoning, the fifth and last of the day, against the Cincinnati Ice. The Ice scored two first-inning runs and kept the Twisters off the scoreboard until Marisa Santos of Torrington singled home Thompson for the team’s only run of the game.

Cincinnati advance to Sunday’s final four with the 2-1 win and finished fourth. The Mundelein (Ill.) Stampede won the 30-team tournament with a second championship game victory over the other Twisters team in the tourney, the TNT Twisters of Kankakee, Ill.
“Although we didn’t win the last game, I was very proud of how we came out and just battled all day long,” Fox said. “The girls put their hearts and souls in those games and didn’t give up and continued to fight when they were tired, with a lot of heart. If people had seen this, they would have been amazed in their conditioning and how they played.”

After taking off this week to spend with his family and getting back into his work mode, Fox said he will also take on the role as observer and fan in a few weeks when the Gering and Scottsbluff teams will start their seasons.

“I get to go watch them and just enjoy myself just being on the sideline,” Fox said. “Those girls are going to win some more awards – Barb Calvert (of Scottsbluff), Mikka Salazar, ‘JR’ (Rogers), Isabel (Thompson), and Mikayla Butler – they should all make their all-district team.

Fox said following the high school season, the Twisters organizers will discuss whether to expand the program into other age groups.
“We’re hoping to make this a little bit bigger, and we’re talking about not just for these girls but for younger girls, and open it up to being more of an area team that’s more of Torrington, Scottsbluff and Gering,” Fox said. “We’ll start talking about that in the next couple of months.

“We had a tournament for younger girls, and maybe we can build on that and start opening it up for one with the older girls and get softball big again. We just want to have a bunch of girls who want to play ball and represent the area. And we have shown that we can play against anybody.”

Two Twisters were honored following the USSSA World Series. Rickard was named the tournament’s outstanding pitcher, and Santos was selected as the tourney’s top defensive player. Fox said Rogers also was in line for offensive player of the Northern Nationals.

The season included eight straight tournament titles, a 48-game winning streak and an unbeaten streak that extended to 54 following a tie in the USSSA World Series, in which the Twisters finished second among 44 teams.

For a team that won 89.7 percent of its games, Fox said a lot of
pride was to go around.
“We’re very happy and satisfied with what we’ve done,” Fox said. “It was an amazing run.”

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