This past week La Cañada’s 14U Gold Girl’s Fastpitch Tournament Team won the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) 14U B Western National Championship Tournament held in La Habra where 52 teams competed for the title of national champion.
With outstanding team defensive play and awesome pitching, coupled with timely hits and towering home runs, Team La Cañada went undefeated in bracket play in arguably the toughest bracket path possible. The team delivered crushing defeats to previously undefeated and heavily favored state champs Clairemont 14U Gold All Stars of San Diego and the Bitteroot Sparks of Missoula, Montana. The Sparks were ranked second in the nation by USA Preps national rankings in June. But Team La Cañada also had its own impressive resume, winning 14 games straight in tournament play earning championships in Carlsbad and Ventura tournaments and winning the Southern California District Championship. This win qualified La Cañada to compete for the 14U ‘B’s State Championship.
In states, Team La Cañada placed 13th out of 32 teams. It was a disappointing moment for the girls who are accustomed to winning, and initially they did not outright qualify for nationals. Prior to the final loss in states, ASA officials decided that with Team La Cañada’s wins in its district and the majority of its tournaments, the team would be invited to compete in nationals.
The turning point in the national competition came when La Cañada Gold played undefeated state champions Clairemont Gold All Stars and won in dramatic fashion.
After completing seven grueling innings of play in sweltering heat, Team La Cañada Gold and the Clairemont All Stars were tied 3-3. To break the standoff, by rule, they entered into an international tie-breaker (ITB).
Clairemont batted first scoring one run to take the lead 4-3, but after that La Cañada’s defense shut them down with great pitching from Delany Choi and heads-up defensive play. Then it was Team La Cañada’s turn.
Under ITB rules a runner is placed at second base. La Cañada center fielder, Shannon Loveless, came to bat. With a three ball, two-strike count Loveless hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop who found it too hot to handle and Loveless legged out a single. With first and second occupied, La Cañada’s shortstop Kaylani Miller came up to bat and drove a 0-1 fastball over the fence to dead center for the walk off home run defeating and dethroning the state champs Clairemont with a final score of 6-3. The dramatic towering homerun was estimated to have traveled 230 feet.
This win sent an apparent shockwave over the tournament and Clairemont never fully recovered from this loss and were eliminated in bracket play. La Cañada then became the team to beat.
Next up were the Montana Sparks who also fell to La Cañada in another seesaw game, again winning in dramatic fashion with Miller scoring from third on a throwing error after an awesome bunt by LC’s catcher Sarah Peck in the bottom of the seventh inning winning 3-2. The team next defeated Fullerton Hills in the semifinals 7-5 with offensive help from Mackenzie Hofmann, who blasted a three run homerun, and with the defensive play by shortstop Miller.
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Also contributing defensively were second baseman Delaney Brancheau, Loveless in center field and Morgan Woodward with key catches in right field. Katie Knudsen had a strong play with a one-handed stop at third taking away a sure double. Hofmann did a “double dive,” one to her right to stop a hard hit grounder, then immediately diving back to the left to the first base bag to record the out and end the game against Fullerton.
Team La Cañada ultimately routed the Downey Ponytails in the championship game 8-2 with another strong outing by LC’s ironman pitcher Choi and coordinated defensive work behind the plate from Peck making a quick clutch catch on a popup behind the plate.
Giving pitcher support with tremendous offensive efforts were Alexandra Schwalbach who had three hits, including two doubles, along with triples by Loveless and Miller and that more of that notable LC defense led by Miller and Hofmann. Hat tip to Megan Manning for a powerful throw to get the runner out at home to end the first inning of the championship final which set the pace for La Cañada for the rest of the game.
Team Roster La Cañada 14U Gold
Delaney Brancheau, Josie Becerril, Delaney Choi, Devyn Cox, Mackenzie Hofmann, Katie Knudsen, Kendall Knudsen, Shannon Loveless, Megan Manning, Kaylani Miller, Sevannah Miller, Sarah Peck, Danyelle Whisenant, Morgan Woodward, Alexandra Schwalbach, Natalie St. Hippolyte
Manager and Coaches
Manager Chip Peck and Assistant Coaches Rene Brancheau, Ean Loveless, Sergio Rosales, Ryan Choi and Paul Hofmann
Submitted by E.A. LOVELESS