BOULDER — Gary Fausett admitted that he was pretty hard on his 14U SoCal Choppers team early in their club season.
He brought his Orange County-based team to Boulder and employed a little bit of a different philosophy for the national showcase that is the Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament.
“I’ve been a butt to all of then. Pushing them and grinding them until this tournament and I just backed off,” said Fausett, who is on the verge of completing his 37th year of coaching.
He essentially rolled the ball out to the circle and allowed his girls to do their thing. It was a decision he was internally questioning after the Choppers were 0-2 after the first day of competition in Broomfield.
“But they (played well) ever since then,” he said, “And I’m so proud of them.”
The Choppers won 10 straight games over the final four days of the tournament and claimed both the club’s and the tournament’s first title with a 7-2 win over another Orange County team in the Corona Angels at Stazio Fields.
“Every one of them did something to get us here,” said a tearful Fausett.
After blanking California’s Victory USA 3-0 in the semifinals Fausett and his staff wondered how much their star pitcher Shealyn O’Leary had left in the tank and they were going to go another route, until the soon-to-be 15-year old changed their minds.
“She came up and said ‘I want the ball, I don’t want anyone else to pitch,'” Fausett said. “She’d never talked to me like that before, usually she is as quiet as a mouse, but I knew when she said that, she wanted to pitch and that was it.”
O’Leary was in command from the get-go and it helped that her offense jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. A two-out rally that featured RBI hits from Makenna Harper and McKenzie Barbara chased Angels starter Megan Casper.
O’Leary, who pitched every inning of every game this past season for her high school team, had to deal with traffic on the basepaths every inning but found a way to make the pitches she needed to and also got a little help from her defense behind her.
“Just deep down inside I really wanted to win this for the team because we haven’t won anything yet,” said O’Grady, who watched her center fielder, Makenna Harper (a verbal commit to Arizona State) make the defensive play of the game in the bottom of the fourth with a diving grab to rob Kierra Crocket-Pop.
“This means a lot to us.”
The Choppers offense chased Angels reliever Chloe Nightingale after just 1.1 innings. Nightingale walked the first two she faced in the fourth inning and both came around to score after she was replaced by Legacy High School’s Izzy Kelly, who plays her summer ball in California.
Kelly pitched well in her four innings of work, giving up just an unearned run on five hits and walking one.
The Choppers pounded out 11 hits and got two each from Barbara, Emily Tinkham, Melissa Spencer and Shea Graves.
The Choppers will take a week off before hitting the road again for another big tournament, the TCS Nationals, in Reno.
Boulder IDT Tournament director Dan Burns was more than pleased with the tournament’s inaugural showing of the 14U’s, and the college coaches that came out to watch were too.
“Nobody really had negative comments to me about the tournament and to be honest I rarely hear that,” Burns said. “It is usually the ‘What can we do better?’ kind of things and a lot of good things.”
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SoCal Choppers 7, Corona Angels 2
At Stazio Fields
031 200 1 — 7 11 1
000 001 1 — 2 10 2
W — Shealyn O’Leary. L — Megan Casper.
SoCal Choppers hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Makenna Harper 4-2-1-1, Jordyn Gasper 3-1-0-0, McKenzie Barbara 2-0-2-3, Shealyn O’Leary 0-0-0-0, Makena Smith 4-0-1-1, Emily Tinkham 4-1-2-0, Sophia Medellin 4-0-0-0, Melissa Spencer 3-1-2-0, Shea Graves 4-1-2-1, Kyla Hardy 3-1-1-1. Totals 32-7-11-7. 2B — Tinkham, Graves, Barbara.
Corona Angels hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — McKenzie Wilson 2-0-0-0. India Kelly 2-0-1-0, Amani Bradley 4-0-2-1, Madi Huskey 4-0-1-0, Mackenzie Meech 4-1-2-0, Kierra Crocket-Pope 4-0-0-0, Megan Casper 0-0-0-0, Chloe Nightengale 0-0-0-0, Izzy Kelly 0-0-0-0, Bianca Larios 3-0-1-0, Evelyn Sablan 3-0-2-0, KP Polamalu 3-0-0-0, Penelope Russ 1-0-0-0, Hailey Bosley 2-1-1-0. Totals 32-2-10-1. 2B — Sablan, Meech.
SoCal Choppers pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — O’Leary 7-10-2-1-0-3.
Corona Angels pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Casper 1.2-4-3-1-2-1, Nightingale 1.1-2-3-3-2-0, Iz. Kelly 4-5-1-0-1-0.