SilverStrikers dig deep at Triple Crown World Series
July 24, 2009
Summit County’s own SilverStrikers got in on the fastpitch action this week when the 16-and-under team joined the Triple Crown World Series.
The team played its opening game Tuesday against Idaho’s Diamond Queens and got a taste of the caliber of players that the tournament brings to Park City. The Queens defeated the SilverStrikers 8-0, but the girls didn’t have time to dwell on the loss.
They went straight into their second game of pool play against the Lady Freaks, a fellow Utah team, and put four runs on the board in the first inning. According to head coach Scott Chester, timely hits and fast base running fueled the offense and contributed to an 8-4 win for the Strikers.
Although the team’s veteran pitcher, Kenzie Woolstenhulme, injured her knee in a horse-riding accident a week before the tournament, teammates Katrina Baird (Wasatch), Sydney Gibbs (North Summit) and Meg Peterson (South Summit) boldly stepped up to the mound. "They’ve done a fantastic job for us," said Chester.
The SilverStrikers started their second day of pool play Wednesday with an early-morning faceoff against the undefeated Lady Dragons from Tempe, Ariz. The game was tied through the fifth inning, but the Dragons ultimately pulled ahead for a 6-4 win. "We made some errors and let them back in," said Chester.
The local girls came out swinging in their fourth and final pool game, scoring four early runs against the Colorado Stars. The Stars caught up in the fourth inning and tied the game at 5-5. The Strikers added another run in the fifth, but the Stars also scored in the final inning and the game ended in a tie.
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Kylee Adams (North Summit), Lexi Reidhead (South Summit) and Breann Greenhood (North Summit) each knocked two hits while Gibbs and Baird held the Stars’ runners off the bases with stellar pitching.
"I think that first game took a little bit out of them," said Chester. "Our defense could have been a little bit better." Still, he was pleased with the team’s performance. Compared to one win and three losses in last year’s pool play, the girls were in a desirable position going into the brackets.
With one win, two losses and one tie, the SilverStrikers were ranked as a top-seed team in the silver bracket. Teams are divided into the gold and silver brackets based on where they fall in pool play the top three go to the gold and the bottom three go to the silver.
The SilverStrikers were matched up against Idaho’s Lake City Ladies in their first round of bracket play on Thursday. When they failed to get runs on the board in the early innings, the girls seemed to lose steam and let the opposing team get the upper hand. Lake City won the game 8-4.
Despite the disappointing loss, Chester said he was grateful for the variety of experiences the tournament has provided. "Being in those situations is what makes you better," said Chester. "Even if you get your butt kicked, maybe that will make you play harder down the road."
"We’re playing in a tournament where most of these teams have played 40, 50, even up to 80 games already this year," he added. "After [Thursday], we’ve played nine. It’s really encouraging that we compete at this level without that much experience together."
As of press time, the SilverStrikers were scheduled to play at 3 p.m. Friday. A win in that game would have earned them another game at 4:45; a loss would have put them out of the tournament. "I want to see what they’re made of," said Chester. "This team has too much talent to be out of this tournament in two games."
While the 16U girls are busy at Triple Crown, the 14U and 12U SilverStrikers have been practicing and playing in local tournaments such as last weekend’s Firecracker Tourney in Salt Lake City.
Chester says he’s excited about the level of enthusiasm for the sport among the younger players. He had 65 girls try out for the SilverStrikers in May, compared with 14 girls last summer. "It’s really a cool thing," he said.
All three SilverStrikers teams will continue to play in tournaments throughout the summer and many players will continue in the fall league. Next summer, Chester plans to have all three age groups competing at Triple Crown.