The 18U Grand Rapids Blaze fastpitch travel softball team competed at the ASA Class A National Tournament last week in Normal, IL. The team placed better than the program ever has by going 5-2, before being eliminated Saturday afternoon. The team was represented by two former and one current Cedar Springs’ softball players: 2010 graduates Karli Myers and Sam Pastoor, and 2012 senior Taylor Nielsen.
The Blaze qualified for the national tournament by placing in the top four at the ASA state tournament, which was held in Mt. Pleasant, during the weekend of July 4th. They also won another ASA tournament held in Toledo, OH, during the last weekend of June. Other tournaments took them to Canton, MI; Lansing; Toledo, OH; and Decatur, IL.
With approximately 100 teams competing for the national title, The Blaze opened up Monday, Aug. 1 with a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Fusion (MO). Tuesday, they handed the Midway Organization (Delaware/New Jersey area) a 5-1 defeat. After winning their pool play, they were matched up against the Georgia Extreme Black and it took extra innings to defeat them 3-2. After earning a bye on Thursday, the ladies suffered their first defeat of the tournament, 5-1, to a tough (North) Carolina Cardinals team Friday morning, before winning in comeback fashion and eliminating Team Force (AZ) 8-5 Friday night. Saturday morning’s game was extended to extra innings. After being tied 0-0 with the Tennessee Thunderbolts after seven, The Blaze scored the only run of the game in the eighth and ended the Bolts’ tournament hopes. The later morning game was unsuccessful as they ended their season with a 7-1 loss to the Central Florida Sting.
Karli, 19, the team’s left fielder, batted second throughout the season. Myers will attend Davenport University this fall on a softball scholarship.
Sam, 19, was the team’s shortstop and right fielder. “Pasta” attends Alma College.
Taylor, 17, was the team’s center fielder. She was the team’s leadoff hitter. Nielsen has one year remaining of high school ball and has yet to commit to any university or college.
“We could not be more proud of this 18U Blaze team this year,” stated assistant coach Mike Nielsen. “These girls are a pleasure to coach and they all work hard for each other. This is the most disciplined, mature, and poised team I have ever had the privilege of coaching. There were many times this season that we would find ourselves with the opponent’s runners in scoring position with no outs or maybe only one. This team never got nervous and simply executed as they do to get out of those innings leaving the other team’s runners stranded on base. Myers and Nielsen both provided key game winning RBI’s this week at Nationals to keep the team advancing in the brackets, while Pastoor continued to be stellar in her position at short shop with some amazing diving catches for key outs to end innings. This is the type of team a coach hates to say good-bye to, but your season has to end sometime and what a great way to end with our performance at Nationals. It’s an awesome opportunity to have three strong athletes (Myers, Pastoor, and Nielsen), that I coached in high school, together again and playing in the USA/ASA 18U-A Nationals,” stated Nielsen.
It was the best finish that The Blaze 18U program has ever reached at the national level as they were one of the teams to make it to the final 24.
All results are posted at www.softball.normal.org/
To obtain further information about the GR Blaze travel softball organization, go to www.eteamz.com/grandrapidsblaze.