An Arizona all-star softball team with talent from the Northwest has won its first two games in pool play at the American Softball Association 14-and-under national championships in Marietta, Ga.
The AZ Cats '94 softball club defeated the Mize Diamonds from San Jose, Calif., 10-0 in six innings Monday night. Earlier, the Cats beat Diamond Thunder from North Carolina 2-0.
In the San Jose win, Ashley Palmer pitched the complete game shutout and also hit a triple. Canyon del Oro athlete Kayla Bonstrom was 4-4 at the plate with an RBI. Jess Guffey had two hits and four RBIs, three on a double with the bases loaded. Ironwood Ridge's Sarah Rodriguez contributed two RBIs as well.
Bonstrom threw the complete game shut-out against the North Carolina squad. She was 2-4 at the plate with a run scored. Abby Spiel was 3-3 with a double and run, and Rodriguez knocked in three runs with two hits, including a triple.
Tuesday was an off day. The team and head coach Phil Fileccia were scheduled to tour the University of Georgia in Athens before a workout. All 122 teams in the tournament are being re-seeded for a double-elimination bracket that opens Wednesday.
It's been a whirlwind campaign for the Cats, who were second in the National Hall of Fame Tournament in Oklahoma City, and were co-champions of the 58-team, 16-and-under Surf City Classic in Huntington Beach, Calif.
"This season could not have been scripted any better," Fileccia said. "We played each tournament to progress slowly and build on our mistakes. Our motto continues to be: every pitch of every play of every inning of every game."
For the five weeks ahead of the Georgia tournament, the AZ Cats '94 club has been conditioning four days a week, then practicing for three hours four days a week.
"There is no quit in these athletes and they refuse to stop short of anything except winning a
national championship," Fileccia said.
The team's roster draws from across the state, but counts on a heavy local contingent, including Bonstrom, Rodriguez, Ironwood Ridge sophomores Lauren Robinson and Jordan Rocker, Mountain View freshman Ashley Rivera, and the youngest player on the team, Cross Middle School eighth-grader Sammy Nettling.
"Our season has already been a success no matter what happens out here," said Fileccia. "Fourteen young ladies have become better friends and each of them would do anything for one another.
"They have become better conditioned athletes, they have become better softball players," he added.
"Most of all, they have more love in their hearts now than when we started four months ago."