Mike Stith's OC Batbusters are one step away from pulling off one of the most amazing feats in club softball history after winning nine straight games in the loser's bracket of the 2018 PGF Premier 18U National Championships.
The Batbusters beat Marty Tyson's Corona Angels twice in the semifinals on Thursday night at Huntington Beach Sports Complex in Huntington Beach, CA, to advance to the PGF 18U Premier national championship game, which is scheduled for 4:30 PM PT on Friday.
The Batbusters got knocked into the loser's bracket after a 4-3 loss to Beverly Bandits-Conroy, the defending PGF 18U Premier national champion, in the first round on Monday morning before the opening ceremonies. But the Batbusters bounced back with incredible determination, avenging the loss to the Bandits with a 10-4 victory to start their day on Thursday morning and culminating with the two victories over the Angels.
"We trusted ourselves," said Batbusters catcher Terra McGowan, an Arizona State signee. "There's nobody better than us out here. Our team... we're closer than any other team and we have each other's backs. We had it."
Putting together such a run featured some close calls, but they pretty much handled all their opponents on Thursday with the win over the Bandits, an 11-2 victory over Impact Gold-Jackson, a 7-2 win over Texas Glory-Shelton, which avenged a loss to the Glory at the WFC finals a couple of weeks ago, and an 8-2 win over Firecrackers-Brashear to get to the semifinals against the Angels.
"It was tough, but we have had multiple team talks saying, 'One more game. One more game. One game at a time is how we take this,'" said Batbusters center fielder Jadelyn Allchin, a Washington commit. "And that's what we're doing right now."
The Angels didn't start UCLA-bound right-hander Megan Faraimo, who hadn't given up a run in the entire tournament. Against the Batbusters in the first game, the Batbusters pounced on them for two unearned runs in the top of the first. Then came a five-run third inning that saw the Batbusters send 10 batters to the plate. Oklahoma commits Kinzie Hansen and Zaida Puni had RBI singles and Oklahoma-committed Tiare Jennings had a two-run single and stole home to complete the five-run outburst. Arizona commit Janelle Meono added an RBI single in the top of the fifth to give the Batbusters a five-inning run-rule victory.
Oklahoma commit Nicole May tossed a two-hitter with three strikeouts in five innings to pick up the win.
Faraimo, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, got the start in the second game and the Angels, who were singing songs before the game, had a renewed confidence. Fresno State-bound McKenzie Wilson led off the top of the first with a triple and scored on Louisville commit Jenna Servi's RBI double. The Angels added a pair of unearned runs and just like that the Angels had a 3-0 lead.
Faraimo struck out five in the first three innings before Arizona commit Jasmine Perezchica led off the top of the fourth with a single and ended up at third after a pair of passed balls. McGowan delivered a two-out single and the Batbusters were on the scoreboard, cutting the lead to 3-1.
McGowan struck again when she led off the top of the seventh with a solo blast to left field. Jennings connected on a solo blast to center field as the Batbusters tied the Angels, 3-3.
The game went into extra innings and ITB, but both teams had runners thrown out at the plate in the eighth inning, so the game continued. UCLA-bound Colleen Sullivan sacrificed Bruins commit Maya Brady to third in the top of the ninth. The Angels intentionally walked McGowan, who went 3 for 3 with a double, a homer, and two RBIs, to get to Washington commit Jadelyn Allchin, who drove in Brady with for the go-ahead run and a 4-3 lead with a sacrifice fly to left-center field.
Arizona-bound southpaw Vanessa Foreman retired the Angels with a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth to send the Batbusters to the finals where they will meet Patrick Lewis' Georgia Impact on Friday at 4:30 PM PT at Bill Barber Park in Irvine. Foreman pitched nine innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits and striking out five to pick up the win. Faraimo allowed four runs on six hits and struck out 14 to take the loss.
"It's crazy," said Batbusters pitcher Vanessa Foreman, who is headed to Arizona. "We didn't even think we'd come this far. We just proved ourselves wrong. We proved everybody wrong. This is what we're here to do. We're here to win and we're here to play hard. Well, for the past few years, we've lost the first game. So then I knew we were going to come out and do better than we did the past (few) years. We deserve it so much and we work so hard this whole year. We deserve it so much."
The Batbusters are back in the finals for the first time since winning back-to-back national titles in 2014 and 2015.
"We've played them (Georgia Impact) a few times and we beat them, but it's just another day," McGowan said. "It doesn't matter what's happened in the past. We'll play our game."
Georgia Impact went undefeated in the winner's bracket and beat Mel Sievers' Cal Cruisers, 10-2, via mercy rule in the semifinals to advance to the PGF 18U Premier championship game for the first time.
Alabama-bound Skylar Wallace went 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs; Michigan State-bound Charla Echols went 2 for 3 with a double, a run, and two RBIs; Florida commit Julia Cottrill went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs; and Jordan Fabian went 1 for 2 with two RBIs to lead the Impact in the semifinals.
"I mean, they (Batbusters and Angels) are both good teams, but, honestly, we can compete with them," Wallace said. "I feel like we're going to be straight and we'll play the game just like we have this whole week and I feel like we can really go out with a bang with this one."
Follow Carlos Arias on Twitter @SoCalSidelines.
PGF NATIONALS 18U PREMIER SCOREBOARD
WINNER'S BRACKET A
Firecrackers-Brashear 3, Oklahoma Athletics-Madden 1
Georgia Impact-Lewis 3, Impact Gold-Jackson 0
Georgia Impact-Lewis 9, Firecrackers-Brashear 1
WINNER'S BRACKET B
Corona Angels-Tyson 3, Sorcerer-Williams 0
Cal Cruisers-Sievers 9, So Cal Choppers-Ensey 1
Corona Angels-Tyson 6, Cal Cruisers-Sievers 0
LOSER'S BRACKET A
OC Batbusters-Stith 10, Beverly Bandits-Conroy 4
Texas Glory-Shelton 6, South Dakota Renegades 5
OC Batbusters-Stith 11, Impact Gold-Jackson 2
Texas Glory-Shelton 7, Oklahoma Athletics-Madden 3
OC Batbusters-Stith 7, Texas Glory-Shelton 2
OC Batbusters-Stith 8, Firecrackers-Brashear 2
LOSER'S BRACKET B
So Cal Athletics-Richardson 4, Tennessee Fury Premier 2
Jersey Intensity-KOD 5, East Cobb Bullets-Caymol 1
So Cal Athletics-Richardson 10, So Cal Choppers-Ensey 0
Jersey Intensity-KOD 3, Sorcerer-Williams 2
Jersey Intensity-KOD 10, So Cal Athletics-Richardson 4
Cal Cruisers-Sievers 6, Jersey Intensity-KOD 2
OC Batbusters-Stith 8, Corona Angels-Tyson 0
OC Batbusters-Stith 4, Corona Angels-Tyson 3
Georgia Impact-Lewis 10, Cal Cruisers-Sievers 2