VTD World Series
Texas Elite Easton Gold Wins in Front of Home Crowd at 18U VTD World Series Championship
By Dave Utnik
"The VTD World Series opening ceremonies were held at the Airhogs Stadium in Grand Prairie, TX. with about 10,000 in attendance." Said President of VTD Operations Allen Richardson. "Dot Richardson was our guest speaker and we had an all star game that included a couple of the players from the USA team."
18U VTD World Series Championship
McKinney, TX. --- Craig Ranch is one of their favorite places to play softball. It's close to home for one thing and Texas Elite Easton Gold is backed by a sense of nostalgia every time they take the field.
They have created rivalries and friendships there that will always be remembered long after their careers are finished. Oh, and then there's that 18U VTD World Series Championship they won together back in July.
That trophy is one to cherish for a couple of reasons: Texas Elite Easton Gold won it with a one-run victory over sister squad, Texas Elite-Baker, and, perhaps more importantly, nearly the entire squad returned home with college scholarship offers.
"Our goal this past season was to put an emphasis on getting our girls verbally committed," Texas Elite Easton Gold coach Don Mongillo said. "We began the year with two out of 15 girls verbally committed and after the completion of the VTD World Series, we had 12 of 15 completed."
Even without four regular starters, Texas Elite Easton Gold went 9-1 at Craig Ranch, avenging its only loss of the competition by sweeping Texas Elite-Baker 7-2 and 6-5 in the championship round.
"When the pool schedule came out, I knew we were going to have our hands full with Texas Glory and Texas Travelers. They are extremely well coached and full of quality players," Mongillo said. "But I liked our chances because I knew we would have to focus from the first pitch of that first pool game in order to move forward. I had high expectations and the girls delivered."
Hannah Newcomb led the way with a .545 batting average and eight RBI, while Lauren Bancroft hit .533 and drove in six runs. Paige Mongillo batted .460 and knocked in seven runs. JoJo Schaefer hit .425 and Julia Colman hit .420.
"It was great to see everyone contribute," coach Mongillo said.
Texas Elite Easton Gold traditionally wins with power. Five players hit at least 10 home runs during the season. But they have athleticism and depth as well. With four of their top six batters unavailable, Ashton Atwell and Nici Starkey made things happen at the top of the lineup while Newcomb, Mongillo and Bancroft delivered most of the clutch hits.
"The great thing about this team is how versatile our lineup is. We played this entire tournament without our normal No. 1, 2, 4 and 6 hitters," coach Mongillo said.
That enabled every player to accomplish something memorable. Brooke Puckett had one game-winning hit and drove in the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh in the thrilling finale.
Paige Mongillo, who helped Celina High capture the 3A state championship in the spring, caught nine games in the 100-plus Texas heat. Shortstop Brittany Gehle (.400) and second baseman Tyler Casada (.387) turned four double plays on defense, while Margo Beck hit .333.
The pitching was exceptional, too. Katelyn Drummond (4-0), Hannah Newcomb (3-0) and another Celina High star, Victoria Brown, (2-1) combined for three shuts and 25 runs allowed in 10 games.
"This team has been together for five years. When [assistant coach] David Newcomb and myself put this team together we could not have envisioned the success that this team would have," coach Mongillo said. "The girls are dedicated to the game and are the ultimate ambassadors when representing Texas Elite."
16U Team TFS Texas (Lach) use Dramatic Come Back to Capture VTD World Series Championship
By Dave Utnik
Forney, TX. --- It was something that had to be witnessed to truly comprehend. And even those who took part in one of the most remarkable rallies in fastpitch softball this season still marvel at what The Fastpitch School (TFS) Texas accomplished by winning the 16U VTD World Series championship.
"You can't do anything but shake your head and smile," Tom Lach admitted. And he'd know better than just about anyone since his last game as a softball coach will undoubtedly rate among the most sensational in his team's history.
Down by eight runs with barely 30 minutes remaining, Lach is still somewhat awed by how his team managed to comeback to defeat the Freeze, 11-10, to capture perhaps the organization's most significant first-place trophy ever.
"The victory over the Freeze was simply amazing. Many parents and fans who were there have consistently said it was the most unbelievable comeback win they had ever seen," Lach said.
The initial goal was to place among the top three -- an achievable feat for a squad that had previously captured the Keller Spring 16U Warm-up and placed second at the Memorial Weekend Invitational. But two days into the competition, TFS Texas decided it wanted something more.
"Our players began to realize that our solid play might carry us to the championship," said Lach, who was assisted this season by Roger Morin. Bob Bratcher and Kelly Bratcher. "Our confidence soared with each win, and after defeating the Dallas Tigers in our semifinal matchup, it was clear the team would not be satisfied with anything less than a first place finish."
The Freeze did everything it could to prevent that from happening - claiming a winner's bracket showdown 9-2 and then jumping out to another huge advantage in the "if" game.
But closer Chelsea Herndon never stopped believing her team would prevail. She led TFS Texas in on-base percentage and runs scored before scoring the deciding run in the climactic finale.
"Chelsea was definitely our tournament MVP," Lach said. Taking home the first-place trophy would definitely be a team effort with game-changing contributions from 13 players, including shortstop Victoria Bratcher, who came through with a two-out, two-run double to beat the Dallas Tigers, 3-1, in the semifinals. There was Tess Eby, who sparked the championship rally with a two-run homer, and Jessica Taylor, who tripled to drive in the only run in a shutout win over Legends Gold.
"Our team actually struggled most of the summer hitting and scoring runs. We would have some good games at the plate, but nothing like the consistent hitting our girls demonstrated during the World Series tournament," Lach said. "We found throughout the season that hitting was contagious...either they all hit or they didn't; a real roller coaster."
When it mattered most, TFS Texas hit.
Leadoff batter Riley Dillion, third baseman Megan Lach, star bunter Taylor Davis, power-hitting first baseman Calin Sims, speedster Emily Kemins and lefty hurler Shayne Starke played pivotal roles in the championship performance. So did slugger Hailey Morin, veteran Carly Randall and versatile Lauren Heintzelman, who played three positions and led the team in total hits.
By capturing the season-ending VTD World Series, TFS Texas transformed itself from a one-time recreational squad into a legitimate travel team contender. Teaming up with former Team USA and Chinese National Team coach Michael Bastian brought instant credibility and a huge spike in attendance for tryouts.
"We added several key players to our team," Lach said. "The increased level of discipline, training and expectations coach Bastian instilled in our players has made the team what it is today. Our girls have worked very hard this past season, partly due to the expectations set by our coaching staff and coach Bastian, and partly due to their athletic skills, passion for the game of softball, and competitiveness."
That was reflected in the pitching performances alone. Starke, a lefty, started every game and Herndon, a right-hander, finished, giving TFS Texas a dominating duo that limited opposing teams to 16 runs in eight games.
"Our pitching was very solid all season, but especially outstanding throughout the World Series. We shortened up the rotation for the World Series, only pitching Shayne Starkey and Chelsea Herndon," Lach said. "The different pitching styles of these two really kept the opposition off balance."
TFS Texas won six consecutive games to reach the finals against the Freeze. Then, they did something fans in Texas will be talking and shaking their heads about for years to come.
"Overall, winning the championship means so much to our returning players, and to the organization as a whole," Lach said. "We just finished our fall season tryouts and many of the new players who came to tryouts did so because of our World Series success."
Centex Buzz (Chambers) Captures 14U VTD World Series Championship
By Maria Garcia
Midlothian, TX. --- The 14U Centex Buzz (Chambers) team had already won the ASA State championship, however the group felt they still had some important business to take care of.
"The team had done a great job in winning the ASA Texas State title." Said team manager Richard Chambers. "However we felt we had some unfinished business as our goal now was to win the VTD 14U World Series."
With a outstanding group of pitchers such as Sydney Holman, Carrigan Chambers, and Kamyrn Dawson, Centex Buzz knew they would be in the hunt for the VTD title as long as their hitting could produce for them throughout the tournament.
Their pitchers held up their end of the bargain as they held opponents to a to a meek .55 earned run average on the tournament. This group of hard throwers was handled by 14U VTD World series Most Valuable Player, Catcher Shelby Hitt.
While team offensive leaders Tori Phillips, Ashton Chambers and Taylor Stephens all hit well over 400 for the tournament as they helped their team secure a perfect 8-0 record to win the 14U VTD World Series.
Centex Buzz earned a early 9-2 tournament victory over 14U 97 Texas Glory as Adkins Holinsworth and Tori Philips went 2-3 at the plate while on the mound Carrigan Chambers pitched a complete game.
After a close 3-2 victory over San Antonio CLASH, and a 3-0 win over Texas Glory 98, Centex Buzz was as close as ever to their goal of winning the World Series title. Standing in their way of the championship was a tough Texas Dirtbags squad.
Centex Buzz opened up their first match with a 5-2 victory over Texas Dirtbags. Centex Buzz batter Taylor Stephens started off the game with a triple that set the tone for the victory as Carrigan Chambers pitched a outstanding game on the mound.
With the 14U VTD World Series on the line Centex Buzz seemed to save their best performance for last as they out hit and out pitched the Texas Dirtbags for a remarkable 3-0 victory.
"Our pitching was outstanding in the championship game and we got several clutch hits when we need them." Said Chambers. "Winning the 14U VTD World Series here means a lot to our program. I am very proud of what these girls accomplished and each and everyone of them played a critical role in our success."
Centex Buzz (Chambers) is looking to the future as they will start there 16U run this fall with 10 returning players out of the 11 player roster.
Centex Buzz (Crosslin) Gets Offensive For 12U VTD World Series
By Dave Utnik
Grand Prairie, TX. --- Hitting was a priority. The Centex Buzz 12U girls spent hundreds of hours during the summer travel season working on nothing but making contact and advancing runners around the bases.
Coach Troy Crosslin already had everything else that is desired in a championship contender -- outstanding pitching, lots of speed and lock-down defense. The bats, he figured, would be the difference makers.
"My coaches and I devoted a lot of practice time to our hitting this season," Crosslin said. "The extra work has paid off as our team has hit very well all year with the exception of our first tournament this spring."
What truly mattered to Crosslin and his assistants -- Jessyca Hedrick and Jill Suggs -- was how the team hit in July and August. That is when championship teams truly shine at the plate and the Centex Buzz had every intention of being a contender.
So they hit and hit and hit and hit until they returned home from the 12U VTD World Series with a first place trophy.
"These girls have worked very hard all year," Crosslin said, after his squad capped off an 8-0 tournament run with back-to-back one-run victories over the MC Border Bunch. "They set the goal last year to win the 2011 12U VTD World Series. Through hard work and dedication they accomplished that goal."
Not surprisingly, hitting played a tremendous role. The Centex Buzz combined for a .430 team batting average. Catcher Lexi Newman (.609), Chloe Henze (.550), Carigan Suggs (.538), Sammi Augeri (.538) and Abby McKenzie (.455) provide the pop as the Centex Buzz combined for 40 runs on 83 total hits.
"I had very high expectations about our chances for the championship," Crosslin said. "I knew the girls could compete for one of the top three spots if they would play to their abilities."
The Buzz began in central Texas four seasons ago with Morgan Crosslin, Taylor Crosslin and Lexi Newman forming the foundation of the inaugural team. Over the past three summers a powerful lineup began to take shape with the arrivals of Bethany Baker, Dani Degner and Suggs in 2009, followed by Abby McKenzie, Courtney Robinson, Gaby Hay and Augeri in 2010 and Henze in April.
Over the course of four travel seasons, the Buzz won nine tournament titles and finished second at the 2009 ASA 10U B Texas State Championship. But nothing has compared to the show they put on at the VTD World Series, where the bats came alive at just the right time to pull out a come-from-behind win over the Sliders (4-3) and two dramatic triumphs over MC Border Bunch by scores of 2-1 and 3-2.
"I set my lineup from game-to-game depending on how each player is responding at the plate after pool play. The girls are very consistent so my lineup does not change much," Crosslin said.
Augeri and Hay, for example, are almost always at the top of the order because they are quick and usually hit the ball down one of the lines. Newman and Suggs are the big boppers and the lineup is anchored by McKenzie, Henze, Degner, Baker. The No. 9 spot, which essentially serves as a second leadoff position is shared by Robinson, Morgan Crosslin and Taylor Crosslin.
"We have a very defensively sound team with some great power at the plate," Crosslin said. "And a few girls who can get around the bases with their speed."
Each of those assets was on display against the MC Border Bunch as Degner drove in the championship game's first run with a second-inning hit. Suggs knocked in Hay from first with a long drive to the left field fence in the third and then, with the game tied in the sixth, Henze doubled to start the game-winning rally and scored on an infield hit by Degner.
In their most significant performance as a 12U team, the Buzz backed up their potent batting order with exceptional pitching from McKenzie, Henze, Suggs and Degner.
"If you ask the girls on our team if they expected to win they would say, 'absolutely,'" Crosslin said. "They never talked about not coming home without the championship."
Texas Shock Electrifies Competition at VTD 10U World Series
By Dave Utnik
North Richland Hills, TX. --- It all comes down to simple math really. For Texas Shock, winning championships are about heart and hustle. And the players on the 10U squad have solved the equation with a three word motto: Attitude + Effort = Success.
Head coach Melodie Hukill believes there is no better way to earn a first-place trophy or, more importantly, respect.
The entire Texas Shock organization practices and plays with the same approach and the results are hard to ignore as the 10U team captured the VTD World Series with a perfect 7-0 record in July.
"We talk a lot about respect and earning respect, not only with parents and coaches, but with fellow players and teams. I think they have definitely earned some respect with the way they play on the field," said Hukill, after the 10U and 8U squads claimed VTD World Series titles."
"Texas Shock is a relatively small organization. However, the organization has the biggest heart and soul of any program around the area. The girls realize that we can only be successful as a team instead of individually."
The World Series championship was three years in the making for a team that began playing together as 8-year-olds. After rebounding from a bracket play loss to reach the finals a year ago, Texas Shock spent the entire summer preparing to win it all in 2011.
"They set their goal last year and they worked all year to achieve it," Hukill said. "The core of this team has been together for three years and we are looking forward to keeping the family together for a very long time."
Behind phenomenal hitting performances from Tatum Sorrels (.600), Paxton Scheurer (.583) and Caitlin Rothell (.571), Texas Shock scored 66 runs in seven games to edge out runner-up Centex Buzz and Hotshotz for the 10U title.
"We have strong hitters top to bottom. However, they all know that bunting can win a game too," Hukill said. "We had struggled with our hitting the tournament before the VTD World Series, so I challenged them in their last 10U tournament to go out with a bang."
Hukill and her assistant coaches -- Vince Aguilar, Larry Scheurer and Jeffrey Sorrels -- took a rather non-traditional approach in putting together a batting order, opting to bat the power-hitting Scheurer in the leadoff spot. Speedster Jayda Coleman hit second followed by Sorrels at No. 3.
"It seemed to work since we scored at least one run in the first inning in almost every game," Hukill said. "This team was built on the fundamentals of the game and each girl had a role for this tournament, with either hitting, fielding, pitching or catching."
Madison Munoz and Coleman, for example, were asked to get on base so the team could take advantage of their quickness, while Kate Tovar and Courtney Taylor were responsible for moving runners. Briana Clark, who was hurt most of the season, became a clutch pinch-hitter, while McKenzie Griffin was recruited from the North Texas Lady Horns because of her versatility.
"That is what makes this team so special, they rely on each other to get the job done," Hukill said. "Our power hitters have been asked several time to lay down a bunt just to move the runner and they will gladly do it because they know the next batter will do their job to score the run they set up to score."
Throughout the tournament, Shelby Noah, Camryn Aguilar, and Jaycee Cook each had game-winning hits as Texas Shock wrapped up a remarkable summer that featured first-place finishes in six VTD competitions.
The crowning achievement was the VTD World Series, where Scheurer also dominated in the pitcher's circle -- earning two shutouts and allowing three total hits. Noah and Caitlin Rothell also excelled as the Texas Shock earned wins over the Royals (11-0), Freeze (8-0), Sha-Bang (16-0), Ft. Worth Batbusters (11-4), Texas Shock 9U (10-1), Hot shotz (3-1) and Centex Buzz (7-3).
"This team was built on the premise of learning the game the way it was meant to be played -- fun mixed with fundamentals, respect, hard work and dedication. We always say that we may not have the most talented players on the field, but we do have the most talented team," Hukill said. "The girls will tell you that just because you are placing first in tournaments does not mean that you get to quit working hard because they know that the target is on their back for the many other area teams to aim for.
"The metroplex has so many competitive teams and players in this age group so each tournament could end up with a different result," she said. "That is what makes us stronger. As we get ready to play 12U, the girls are learning how to respect the older teams and hopefully they will learn something from each game we play -- win or lose."
8U Texas Glory Blue Boast Stingy Defense for VTD World Series TitleBy Jim McCurdy
Coppell, TX. --- Jimmy Middlebrook's team is built on defense. Next season, his Texas Glory Blue will have a lot to defend.
Including the Virtual Tournament Director World Series title -- an honor his 8-under girls team claimed by virtue of winning this year's championship July 27-31 in Coppell, Texas.
Texas Glory beat Texas Shock, 14-6, in the championship game to win its fifth tournament of the season. "We've come a long ways since the spring since we got back on the field from last year," Middlebrook said.
Based out of Mesquite, Texas Glory went 6-1 in the VTD World Series, a premier sanctioned event in the Lone Star state. After losing 9-7 to the Shock in the semifinals, the Glory bounced back in resounding fashion to win the title. The Shock, a club from Mansfield, Texas, needed to beat Glory twice on championship Sunday to win the title.
But after No. 2 hitter Audrey Fenn belted a two-run home run to trigger a five-run first inning, the Glory wasn't about to take its foot off the pedal. "That kind of set the tone," Middlebrook said of his team's first inning power surge.
Texas Glory added six more runs in the third to essentially put the game away. "That kind of separated us from them," Middlebrook said.
Kylie Lathers went 2 for 3 with an RBI and scored three runs for the Glory in the title game.
In the 9-7 loss earlier that day, Glory shortstop Abbie Orrick was 2 for 2 with two runs scored, while making some excellent defensive plays in the field. On one play, she chased down a fly ball behind third base, running behind her teammate before diving to make a spectacular catch.
"It was pretty amazing to see a 9-year-old make that play." Middlebrook said.
Girls must be eight or younger before January 1 to be eligible to compete at the 8U level, which was the case for Orrick.
Texas Glory first baseman Jessie Camacho, the team's clean-up hitter, doubled in the first inning, and put a heavy swing on the ball in each of her plate appearances in the loss to the Shock. Camacho also made some nifty stretches at first base to nab a few runners on close plays. "I think she made every play all weekend," Middlebrook said of his first baseman's defensive efforts.
Shock shortstop Mia Greenvweig was equally impressive in the field. Greenvweig made four diving stops to take away hits from the Glory, and didn't commit an error. She also ripped two doubles and scored twice. "She probably had the game of her life," Middlebrook said of Greenvweig.
The Shock scored five runs in the second inning after the Glory put three runs on the board in the first. Texas Glory scored one in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth. But after scoring twice in the third, the Shock tacked on a pair of late insurance runs to force another game.
"That game was pretty intense," Middlebrook said. "Our girls have a high level of confidence, kind of a swagger about them. I know they were pretty pumped up after beating us. Our girls were like, 'We're just gonna go out there and put it to 'em.' After we scored those five runs in the first inning, that game was pretty much over."
Texas Glory beat Texas Shock three times in the World Series, the first a 3-2 win to send the Mesquite club on to championship Sunday unscathed. Texas Glory's Simonne Sanders led off the game with a single. She stoled second and third base before scoring on Fenn's RBI double. Orrick doubled home Fenn to give the Glory a two-run lead. The Shock scored one in the fourth and one in the fifth, but the Glory tacked on what proved to be the game winning run in the fourth.
"Obviously, it felt pretty good to be undefeated up to that point, and know you're going to the championship game the next day," Middlebrook said. "We felt we could've done some things to open it up a little bit more. Our defense was phenomenal. We made the plays. The way we looked at it was we won that game, we were undefeated going to the championship game the next day, and our defense was top notch, at its best."
Texas Glory outscored their opponents, 86-26, in the World Series. They put the finishing touches on a season that saw the Glory win 60 of its 74 games. Texas Glory, which won the USSSA World Series July 9-10 in Moore, Okla., won five of the eight tournaments it competed in during the season. In the other three, Glory finished second. Texas Glory won three tournaments in July, including an event in Mesquite July 16-17.
"Pretty good season," Middlebrook chuckled, adding his team will move up to 10U in the fall. "We feel like we have the best team in the area to do it.
"It's got to the point they just shut teams down. Every tournament we go to, we feel like we're the best defensive team. There's no question about that. We're dangerous late on Sundays, and that's because of how well-conditioned we are."
Texas Glory's parents are active in providing extra one-on-one support for their daughters, taking them to extra training sessions on the side -- a nice luxury for Middlebrook. "It's a special group of parents," he said. "It's very great to work with a great group of people like that."
Of course, the girls aren't too bad either.
"They don't worry about what name is on the other jersey," Middlebrook said. "They're not scared to play anybody, anytime, anywhere."