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Photos by Patrick Takkinen
The Cal Nuggets (Redwood City, Calif.) flew into the PGF 16U Premier Nationals unranked and under the radar, but that can no longer be the case after they knocked off Birmingham Thunderbolts '99-Roberson (Mobile, Ala.), 5-2, to reach the Elite Eight of the PGF national softball championships on Thursday at Huntington Beach Sports Complex.
The Nuggets, which were formed four years ago by former ASA All-American and Cal catcher Haley Woods, didn't even qualify for the PGF Nationals last year, but there they were upsetting the Thunderbolts, ranked No. 1 in the nation by FloSoftball, in the fourth round of the winner's bracket.
"I'm proud of the girls," Woods said. "They worked their butts off all year. Our goal all year has been top 10. We knew we were going to come in under the radar, which is just how we like it. Being the underdog is fun, but we're not afraid of anybody. Kudos to everybody who played. Thunderbolts was a great game. We just got the hits that dropped and they hit it hard right at people."
The Nuggets had a loose, fun team that sang songs such as "Kumbaya" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" throughout the game in the dugout, but they knew when to bring the intensity on the field.
Cal-commit Cam Kondo got things started for the Nuggets when she drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first. UC Santa Barbara-commit Mailey McLemore followed with a single that put runners on the corners. Kondo scored on a wild pitch and Cal-commit Sona Halajian drove in McLemore with a single, and just like that the Nuggets had a 2-0 lead on the Bolts, who have 12 players on their roster committed to SEC schools.
"I don't really think about stuff like that because it's not about where they're going or anything," Halajian said. "We just go out and play our game and that's Nuggets' softball. When all of us come together, it just overpowers a lot of things."
The Bolts cut the lead in half in the top of the third when Mississippi State-commit Kayla Boseman connected on a solo homer to center field.
Halajian drove in Kondo with an RBI single in the bottom of the third to give the Nuggets a 3-1 cushion.
The Bolts closed the gap to 3-2 when Samford-commit Mekhi Mayfield drove in Auburn-commit Jenna Olszewski with a single in the top of the fifth.
But the Nuggets answered immediately when Cal State Monterey Bay-commit Luseane Tutoe drove in Kondo and McLemore with a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-2.
McLemore started, scattering seven hits and allowing two runs in 4.2 innings to get the win for the Nuggets. Lauren Innerst, who led the Nuggets 14U team to the PGF 14U Platinum National Title last year, pitched 2.1 innings of hitless relief to get the save. She caught a line drive from Auburn-commit Mackenzie Nutt and doubled the runner up at first to end the game.
The Nuggets take on Beverly Bandits-Conroy (Orland Parl, Ill.), ranked No. 2 in the nation, in the fifth round of the winner's bracket of the double-elimination tournament on Friday at 10:15 a.m. at Field 3. The 16U Premier National Championship game is Saturday at 7 p.m. at Deanna Manning Stadium at Bill Barber Park in Irvine, Calif.
Sorcerer (Pleasanton, Calif.) 5, Suncats (Tucson, Ariz.) 2Sorcerer scored four runs with two outs in the top of the seventh and held on for the come-from-behind win over the Suncats in the fourth round. Lily Wilmot drove in Toledo-commit Ebony Garza with the tying run, Arizona-commit Riley Kuderca drove in Wilmot with a single for the go-ahead run and Maddie Kahwaty gave Sorcerer some insurance with a two-run double to make it 5-2. Michigan State-commit McKenna Gregory got the complete game win and Kuderca went 4 for 4.
Brianna Bowers helped Sorcerer get to the fourth round when she singled in the top of the sixth, stole second, stole third and scored on the overthrow at third to give Sorcerer a 1-0 win over Firecrackers-Ensey/Richmond (Fountain Valley, Calif.). Gregory threw a three-hitter to record the shutout for Sorcerer.
Sorcerer takes on South Dakota Renegades (Valley City, N.D.) in the fifth round on Friday at 10:15 a.m. at Field 4.
Beverly Bandits-Conroy (Orland Park, Ill.) 12, East Cobb Bullets-Biele (Johns Creek, Ga.) 0Michigan-committed Meghan Beaubien faced two over the minimum, allowed one hit and struck out four in five innings as the Bandits mercy-ruled the Bullets in the fourth round. Loyola-commit Madison Ebeling went 3 for 3 with a run and two RBI and Eastern Michigan-commit Casey Skeens went 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI to lead the Bandits offense against the Bullets.
Northwestern-commit Kenna Wilkey tossed a shutout, James Madison-commit Hallie Hall homered and the Bandits played error-free defense in a 3-0 victory over Explosion-Greg (Riverside, Calif.) in the third round.
South Dakota Renegades (Valley City, N.D.) 3, Jersey Intensity-Hawkins (Farmingdale, N.J.) 2 (8 innings)
Grace Glanzer lost her no-hit bid after giving up a homer and two runs to Jersey Intensity in the bottom of the seventh, but Callie Wethor drove in Carley Goetschius with a double in the top of the eighth and the Renegades held on forthe fourth-round victory.
Glanzer ended up allowing four hits and one earned run and struck out six to record the complete game win for the Renegades, who beat Corona Angels-Perez, 5-1, earlier in the day in the third round. Wethor went 1 for 4 with two RBI, Ali Lindner went 3 for 4 with two runs and Glanzer tossed a one-hitter and went 1 for 3 with an RBI double in the win over the Angels.
PGF 16U PREMIER LOSER'S BRACKET NOTESEast Cobb Bullets-Biele, Birmingham Thunderbolts '99-Roberson, the Suncats and Jersey Intensity-Hawkins are the four teams left in the loser's bracket.
The Bullets play the Bolts on Friday at 10:15 a.m. at Field 1 with the winner facing off against the Cal Nuggets vs. Beverly Bandits-Conroy loser at 12:30 p.m. at Field 3.
The Suncats take on Jersey Intensity-Hawkins on Friday at 10:15 a.m. on Field 2 with the winner advancing to face the South Dakota Renegades vs. Sorcerer loser at 12:30 p.m. on Field 4.
The Final Four games are at 2:45 p.m. If second games are necessary because one of the teams from the loser's bracket beats one of the teams from the winner's bracket, it will be played at 5 p.m.
PGF 16U PREMIER NATIONALS SCOREBOARD AT HUNTINGTON BEACH SPORTS COMPLEX
THURSDAY, AUG. 4, RESULTS WINNER'S BRACKET
Cal Nuggets 4, Georgia Impact-Lewis 3
Birmingham Thunderbolts '99-Roberson 5, Tennessee Fury 1
Beverly Bandits-Conroy 3, Explosion-Greg 0
East Cobb Bullets-Biele 2, Texas Blaze White 0
South Dakota Renegades 5, Corona Angels-Perez 1
Jersey Intensity-Hawkins 7, USA Athletics-Thompson 6
Sorcerer 1, Firecrackers-Ensey/Richmond 0
AZ Suncats 5, So Cal Choppers-Ziese 4
Cal Nuggets 5, Birmingham Thunderbolts '99-Roberson 2
Beverly Bandits-Conroy 12, East Cobb Bullets-Biele 0
South Dakota Renegades 3, Jersey Intensity-Hawkins 2 (8 innings)
Sorcerer 6, AZ Suncats 2
Beverly Bandits DeMarini 6, Georgia Impact-Lewis 5
Tennessee Fury 3, So Cal A's TO-Mercado 2
Explosion-Greg 6, OC Batbusters-Lastrapes 1
Texas Blaze White 4, Jersey Intensity-KOD 1
AZ Mizuno Storm 5, Corona Angels-Perez 4
USA Athletics-Thompson 3, Lil Rebels 1
Texas Glory-Naudin 7, Firecrackers-Ensey/Redmond 6
Courage 4, So Cal Choppers-Ziese 3
Beverly Bandits DeMarini 5, Tennessee Fury 4
Texas Blaze White 2, Explosion-Greg 1
USA Athletics-Thompson 3, AZ Mizuno Storm 0
Texas Glory-Naudin 5, Courage 4
East Cobb Bullets-Biele 1, Beverly Bandits DeMarini 0
Birmingham Thunderbolts '99-Roberson 6, Texas Blaze White 0
AZ Suncats 5, USA Athletics-Thompson 1
Jersey Intensity-Hawkins 8, Texas Glory-Naudin 0