PASO ROBLES — Last time we checked in on the 8U girls softball team they were on a roll and heading to San Diego to play in the California State Games Tournament that they qualified for during their stellar season. The girls were on a six game winning streak and during that streak they had outscored their opponents 49-4 with four of those games ending in shutouts.
The team that helped those girls dominate their competition mostly remained over the summer. The summer roster had 10 girls on the team: Aislyn Vogt, Bailey Sandoval, Dani Rivas, Emma Krilling, Izzy Murphy, Kayla Kratz, Kiley Bowman, Liliana Luera, Natalie Davis, and Nealy McCluskey and they were coached by Tina Kratz.
The California State Games is an open tournament that teams must qualify for in order to play in. The tournament was packed full of many of the best 8U teams in the state of California, many of which were much larger than the 8U Bearcats.
“In softball there are three groupings of teams,” Kratz said. “There is A, which is travel ball. There is B, which is bigger rec leagues and there is C, which is smaller rec leagues. This tournament we went to was an open tournament which means that anyone can enter. So we are a C team going down there and there really aren’t any A teams for 8U so all the teams that were down there were B teams.”
It was a chance for the Bearcats to measure themselves against the other top teams in the state and served as a learning experience as they lost their first two games.
“We opened up against Charter Oak and their bats were just crazy,” Kratz said.
The Bearcats ended up losing 10-2 to the eventual fifth place team out of 28 that entered. The Bearcats bounced back in their next game, barely losing against the San Carlos Foresters 8-7. In their third game the girls finally got to face a familiar opponent, of similar size, in the Visalia Spirits and won soundly, 11-1. In their fourth and final game the Bearcats played the tournament's eventual runner up, Downey.
The Bearcats were overmatched, but their passionate fans didn't let the score deter them from cheering on their girls.
“Our fans are totally into it, it doesn't matter if we are winning by 13 or losing by 13 because the first 11 batters had struck out and my daughter got up there, she is the 12th batter and she walked,” Kratz said. “The whole crowd goes, ‘whooooo,’ and then the next batter actually got a hit.”
The Bearcats lost the game 13-0 but the tournament served as a great source of inspiration and humility for the the girls that spent the spring blowing out team after team.
A few weekends later the girls were back in action playing in the Clovis Breast Cancer Tournament. The girls all donned pink camouflage jerseys with all the money from them being donated to cancer research. Each jersey also featured a black SF patch on the upper right shoulder to commemorate the passing of coach Kratz friend and sorority sister Sarah Fredd, who recently lost her battle to breast cancer. The girls played inspired softball the entire weekend and were led by their ace Bowman who only got stronger as the weekend went on. In their four-game stretch Bowman stuck out an astounding 48 batters and pitched two, one walk, no hitters. Meaning that she was two walks away from two perfect games over the course on one weekend.
The Bearcats actually dropped their first game 11-9 — Bowman didn't pitch the entire game and after the game asked if she could. The Bearcats wouldn't lose again, in their next game she threw her first no hitter, in the game after that she struck out 15, and in the championship game she threw her second no hitter, taking home the tournament victory and MVP.
Offensively, Bowman led the team with three homeruns and 17 RBI, however, every single girl on the team registered a hit in the Breast Cancer Tournament. Vogt registered six hits in the tournament and six RBI, and Davis recorded five hits to go along with three RBI. The Bearcats ended the season on a high note and will look to continue their success next season.