Twisters capture Wyoming state title
     2014-07-24      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Courtesy Photo - Pictured are the Twisters team members starting with first row (seated), members of the 10U Twisters; second row (begins 18U members), Jen Barge, Raele Riley, Mikka Salazar, Shaylee Rickard, Cassandra Bustillos; third row, Marisa Santos, Katie Howell, Barbara Calvert, Mikayla Butler, Isabel Thompson, Scarlett Perry, Alex Salazar; fourth row (in no particular order), head coach Dan Fox and assistant coaches Matt Schubarth, Terry Fox, Michael Butler, Gary Rickard, Sam Perry, and Mike Calvert. 
In what will be the last year for many players on the tradition-rich, Torrington-based Twisters fast-pitch softball team, one which includes several Scotts Bluff County players, the team that played in two state tournaments, a regional tourney and one national event last season decided to focus on one state championship this season.

The Twisters’ 18-under team – which had mostly players from the record-setting 16-under team that won 82 of 92 games – accomplished the goal of winning the ASA Wyoming state championship on July 13 in Riverton, Wyo.

The Twisters, who finished the season at 36-15-1, won what turned out to be a battle of champions in a three-game battle against the Cheyenne Extreme.

After the Twisters scored a 16-0 win over Green River Chaos and downed the Gillette Bluejays 12-2 on July 11 and thumped the Gillette Bluejays 12-2 on July 12, they edged the Extreme 4-3 in the winners’ bracket final on July 13.

The Extreme came back through the losers’ bracket to force a rematch against the Twisters with a 5-2 win and forced a second championship game. The Twisters secured the Wyoming state title with a 6-3 victory in the winner-take-all title contest.

“When these girls were 12 years old, they got beat in the state title game against Cheyenne, like 5-1,” Twisters coach Dan Fox said Monday. “After that year, we’ve beaten them almost every time.

“They’ve won six state championships, and last year we went to the USSSA Colorado tournament and the ASA Nebraska tournament (winning both), while Cheyenne won the Wyoming one, so it was like both teams were daring to beat each other. It was good to play Cheyenne and take that Wyoming state title from them.”

“The last few years have been such a ride and this year was a ride too. But we just felt like it was time to stop and let everybody kind of relax and enjoy the moment and have some time with their families.”

The Twisters won two tournaments this summer, the North Platte event and the rain-shortened Rapid City. They also placed second in several other tourneys.

“It was a different challenge for us this year,” said Fox, whose team lost some key players from 2013, a year in which the Twisters won nine tournaments.

Returning players from Scotts Bluff County, who also play for their respective high school programs, included Mikayla Butler and Isabel Thompson of Gering, and Mikka and Alex Salazar and Barbara Calvert from Scottsbluff.

Katie Howell of Morrill, which does not have a high school program in which to play, was an offensive specialist for the Twisters. Fox said she had four home runs in one day at one tournament.

“We had a lot of girls who were seniors and juniors and some things got in the way like during proms and graduations, so that took a few tournaments out,” Fox said of the team’s lighter schedule this year. “We actually had a couple of snow-outs, and so we lost about 20 games.”

The Twisters’ biggest difference this year was bypassing the regional and national tournaments in which they played last season.

“These girls have been playing together for about five years and last year we went at it really hard,” Fox said. “We decided this year that it would be nice to take back the Wyoming state title and finish it there, then let some of the girls have some vacation time with their parents before they go off to college.”

Shaylee Rickard, a long-time pitching ace for the Twisters, was invited to participate on an 18-under Team USA tour in Italy that begins this week.

Rickard, a graduate of Lingle-Fort Laramie High School, will pitch for Western Nebraska Community College next spring.

“We had one girl go to Italy and so we weren’t fully loaded if we went to a national tournament,” Fox said. “But you can’t take that from her, because that was a big honor for her to go to that.”

Whether the older Twisters will continue to play next year remains to be seen.

“It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen next year, with some girls who will be going off to college, but most of the girls want to do something,” Fox said. “We’ll just kind of put it out there and see what happens.”

Fox said he expects to step away from the 18-under team but looks to remain with the Twisters organization in an additional capacity or perhaps focus on teaching younger players.

“A lot of people want me to work with some younger kids and do some clinics,” he said. “This is probably my last year with the group, but I’ll probably be involved somewhere. It has been a good ride.”

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