BOULDER — Their opponents may have been named the Indiana Magic, but the Beverly Bandits Premier 16U softball team were the ones with the tricks up their sleeves on Sunday afternoon.
Rallying from an early 3-1 deficit at the Stazio Fields, the savvy baserunning of the Bandits helped them capture the 16U Longmont bracket of the Boulder Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament, another in the history of the strong Chicago-area program but the first for this particular team.
They scored the game’s final six runs to post a 7-3 victory, ending a remarkable run through bracket play for the Magic.
“We’re a first-year team, and we’re young but they are learning every single day,” Bandits Premier coach Cray Allen said in the midst of a team celebration. “The guts and determination and persistence they’ve shown for basically all of the bracket play was ridiculous. Kudos to them for rising to the pressure.”
Only three of the Bandits’ seven runs in the title game were knocked in, and those came early by way of the powerful bats of Taylor Johnson and Madison Banks. Both players smacked home runs, the latter from Banks coming in the third inning to tie the game at 3-3.
From there, instinct and an aggressive approach took over for the team with eight players already verbally committed to colleges. In the fourth inning, the Bandits plated two runs on wild pitches, then got a third run when Sara Peterson legally went past first base on her way to second after drawing a walk, purposefully getting in a rundown to allow Banks to score.
It didn’t work every time, but it certainly did each time after they initially tried the move. The Magic took the bait twice more, with Jordyn Wolfe scoring the game’s final run after what essentially amounted to a double steal in the fifth inning.
“If we have a mistake, we learn from it,” said Banks, who verbally committed to Washington before she reached high school. “That play usually works for us, and when it didn’t (in the second inning), it was different for us. But you saw, the coach didn’t really didn’t get on her for it, we just learned to come back and do it again.”
“If you do the right things and have the right mindset, generating runs by running the bases properly is not a hard thing to do in softball,” added Allen. “We’ve bought into it. We took our beatings earlier this summer trying to do some things, and now they’ve figured some things out.”
The Bandits went 9-1-1 in the tournament, which began Wednesday, and that included a semifinal victory over another Bandits 16U team on Sunday. The Magic, meanwhile, started pool play 1-5 but scored upset after upset to reach the finals.
They got off to a great start in the title game, too. Kristyn Eckl, who ended up being the losing pitcher, hit a two-run single in the first inning, and the Magic plated another run in the second frame off a Karly Combs single.
The Bandits went to Amber Fiser in the circle with two outs in the second inning, and the incoming senior at Benton Community High School did not allow a hit the rest of the way.
“I knew I was going to come in at some point,” said Fiser. “I just go in there thinking to throw one pitch at a time and I know my defense is there to back me up. I’m comfortable with them.”
It wasn’t the first tournament title for the Bandits this year — they had captured a PGF qualifier in June — but the IDT title was one to be especially proud of.
“This is a huge deal for us because we played well against a lot of great teams, and we know we’re going to have to keep getting our (competitiveness) up there and playing great,” Fiser added.
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Beverly Bandits Premier 7, Indiana Magic Gold 3
At Stazio Fields
210 00 — 3 4 1
102 31 — 7 8 1
W — Amber Fiser. L — Kristyn Eckl.
Magic hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Gabbi Jenkins 3-1-1-0, Karly Combs 2-1-1-1, Ashley Prange 1-0-0-0, Jordyn Rudd 3-0-0-0, Kristyn Eckl 2-0-1-2, Addison Pixley 1-0-0-0, Danielle Watson 1-0-0-0, Maddy Newman 2-0-0-0, Shelby Grimm 1-1-0-0, Katie Quinlan 2-0-1-0. Totals 18-3-4-3.
Bandits hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Katie Polaski 3-0-0-0, MacKenzie Dunlap 3-1-2-0, Taylor Johnson 2-2-1-1, Madison Banks 2-2-2-2, Sara Peterson 1–1-0, Jordyn Wolfe 2-1-0-0, Zoe Varsbergs 1-0-0-0, Carolyn Hett 2-0-1-0, Taylor Young 1-1-1-0. Totals 17-7-8-3.
Magic pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Kristyn Eckl 4-7-6-6-7-1, Danielle Watson 0.2-1-1-0-2-0.
Bandits pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Holly Marousek 1.2-4-3-2-2-0, Amber Fiser 3.1-0-0-0-1-2.