Randy Gale has the utmost confidence in his U14 Firecrackers team.
And why wouldn't he?
With Colorado-based club softball teams all over the state struggling to hold their own against the nations best in showcase tournaments all over the country — including last week's Triple Crown Sparkler and Boulder IDT — his team has bucked the trend.
Playing under the nationally known Firecrackers brand, Gale's team became the first Colorado squad in quite some time to reach the final bracket at the Sparkler in Colorado Springs. They finished fifth overall and in doing so, earned an invite to the U.S. Nationals this coming week in Austin, Texas.
"I've had most of these girls since they were 10's and 12's, and I can tell you first having girls for three years plus — including some that have been with me for six years — is huge to the success we've had," said Gale, whose Firestone-based club is made of up incoming freshmen and sophomores that will shine on local BoCo rosters this fall.
"Having a lot of the girls together and having some of the national coaching come in and teach the Firecracker way. I really preach that and I coach that and a believe in that because it has a proven track record."
The core group on this team feature the strong arms of Hannah Farley (Legacy) and Kenzi Garner (incoming freshman at Broomfield) that have combined to win 52 games this season.
Alex Gilio (will attend Dawson) leads the team with a .463 batting average and has stolen over 20 bases. Kaylee Armstrong (Erie) leads the team in RBI and Alyssa Archuleta (Legacy) has clubbed a team-high nine home runs.
There are players from as far north as Fort Collins and south as Colorado Springs that made the trip to play for the Firecrackers and Gale, whose daughter Peyton is on the team and plays for Frederick in the fall.
"When we have an off weekend, we still have a group of girls that want to be together and to hang out together and in the softball world, that seldom happens," said Gale, whose team will open Nationals play on Monday against the Strikers from Pennsylvania at 8 a.m. "We are more of a family and that has to do with the character of the kids we bring in and my coaching style is that there is not one kid who is more important than the other. We are a team first."
In the Sparkler, the Firecrackers rolled through pool play by outscoring their opponents 38-4 in the four games. They won three more game in the brackets before dropping their first. They needed to win one more game in the consolation side of the draw against SoCal Athletics to punch their ticket to the elite Gold Bracket and did so in 8-0 fashion.
Once there they would bow out to eventual champions Aces Express of Marvel, Texas; but it was an experience that will prove to be huge for a team that has enjoyed success all summer long against U14 and U16 competition.
"I think we will do pretty good (when we get to Texas) and given the success we had last week, my expectations have obviously risen," Gale said. "My girls want to win it because the believe they can."