By DAVE UTNIK
They are guaranteed a top-32 finish in the biggest softball tournament of the summer, but with a win today Rock ‘n’ Fire could be on its way to winning the ASA Junior Olympic National Championship.
After going 4-0 over the first three days of competition, the 16-&-under all-star squad will play the defending champion and top-seeded California Desperados at 9 a.m. today in Midland, Texas.
Rock ‘n’ Fire appears to be one team capable of challenging the Desperados, especially if ace Cristi Ecks is in the pitcher’s circle. Ecks has already thrown a no-hitter — against Sugar Land, Texas — and she struck out 10 in a shutout victory over the Nebraska Fury.
Rock ‘n’ Fire has allowed only one run in 29 innings with the closest game coming in bracket play against Sugar Land. Though Ecks did not allow a hit, Rock ‘n’ Fire needed eight innings to pull out a 2-1 victory.
After capturing the USSSA 18-&-under Midsummer College Showcase in Chesterfield, Rock ‘n’ Fire arrived in Texas with six tournament championships and an opportunity to solidify itself as one of the country’s premier travel teams. With a team made up primarily of Prince William County high school players, Rock ‘n’ Fire has already accomplished that goal — beginning with a 5-0 rout of the Nebraska Fury.
While Osbourn’s Ecks tossed a complete-game shutout, Gar-Field’s Sarah Malene and Hylton’s Sarah Himan each went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBI.
Liberty’s Paige Wakefield was the hero of the extra-inning win over Sugar Land. Her eighth-inning bunt scored OP’s Adrienne Johnson with the winning run.
Ecks and Madison’s Kelly Weber teamed up for a 4-0 shutout of the Wichita Victory in the first round of championship bracket play. Hylton’s Amanda D’Attilio went 3 for 3 and drove in two runs, while Malene and Himan had two hits each. Gar-Field’s Becky Horesky and Osbourn’s Alyssa Kemmerer each drove in runs.
A 3-0 victory Thursday over the heralded California Breeze set up today’s showdown against the Desperados.
Osbourn Park’s Brittney Lyddane hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning to break open a close game, while Malene and Himan had their usual two-hit performances as Rock ‘n’ Fire improved its summer record to 42-4-1.
ROCK ‘N’ Fire winsSUMMER SHOWCASE
The Rock ‘n’ Fire softball team may need a bigger trophy case.
A first-place finish at the 18-&-under Midsummer College Showcase in Chesterfield was the sixth title in seven tournaments this summer for the 16-&-under all-star squad.
The highlight of an undefeated weekend was a pair of victories over the 18U Virginia Lady Eagles and their star pitcher Amber Straube, who led Princess Anne to the Group AAA state championship in June.
Horesky hit a pair of home runs off Straube in a 5-1 victory that knocked the Lady Eagles into the loser’s bracket and then Ecks shut the Eagles out 2-0 in the championship game.
Malene sparked the offense once again with a leadoff single in the first inning of the title game. She advanced to second on a Himan bunt and scored on a base hit by Potomac’s Shyla Rider.
Horesky walked and scored the second run on an RBI double by D’Attilio in the fourth.
Rock ‘n’ Fire also picked up tournament wins over the 18U Richmond Storm (6-2) and the 18U Northern Neck Rage (2-1).
14U BLAZE WIN THREEAT BABE RUTH REGIONALS
Kat Solarczyk and Robin Botkin had seven hits each to lead the 14- &-under Manassas Blaze to a 3-2 record at the Babe Ruth Southeast Regional Championship Tournament in Varina last week.
Botkin went 3 for 5 and Ashley Hochstrasser knocked in the winning run in the 12th inning as the Blaze beat Oviedo, Fla. 4-3, while Katie Snoots came through with the deciding hit in the 11th inning to cap a 2-1 victory over Havelock, N.C.
Kristie Kirby had a hit in four of the five games for the Blaze.
Dave Utnik covers softball for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal-Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053.