Galaxy wins state softball title

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

The Galaxy 10-and-under added the defining chapter to its storybook season recently, winning the NSA State Championship played at the historic Moyer Complex in Salem.

The double-elimination tournament featured 16 of the best fastpitch travel teams from throughout Virginia competing for the state’s most prestigious softball title.

&uot;It doesn’t get any bigger than this,&uot; said Bill Terry, president of Galaxy Fastpitch and manager of the 10U team. &uot;Despite all the success we’ve had this year, we [coaching staff] told our girls we simply had to win this tournament.&uot;

Advancing through the winner’s bracket, the Suffolk-based squad defeated the Loudoun Storm of Northern VA, 11-4, in Sunday’s championship game to cap a perfect 5-0 weekend. It is the first state title for Galaxy Fastpitch.

&uot;This win is huge for our organization,&uot; Terry said. &uot;All of our age groups have done well. But to defeat the big-money teams and to do it on the same field where our USA Olympic softball team has played many times is just phenomenal.&uot;

The Galaxy opened the tournament early Saturday morning with a 7-2 win over the Maroon Crush of Roanoke. Later in the afternoon, they knocked off the defending NSA &uot;B&uot; National Champions, the Virginia Lady Titans of Chesterfield, 10-1.

&uot;In a tournament like this, you can’t afford to lose early,&uot; Terry said. &uot;If you do, you’re looking at having to win seven or eight games in a row to get back to the championship. So the incentive was there to win those first two games. Plus, we told the girls if they won, they could go back to the motel and swim for an hour or so. It’s pretty easy to bribe nine and 10-year-olds.&uot;

Sunday morning’s third round of the winner’s bracket pitted the Galaxy against Sudden Impact of Altavista, the premier fastpitch program in Southwestern Virginia.

The Galaxy broke the game open with three runs in the fourth and fifth innings to win 8-3.

Holland’s Brooke Mizelle, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, notched her third win of the tournament while striking out seven.

Suffolk’s Bailey Key went 3-for-3 at the plate with Suffolk’s Morgan Lowers adding two hits and two runs from her leadoff slot.

The win set up a much-anticipated rematch against the Loudoun Storm, which entered the tournament as the state’s top-ranked NSA team. The Galaxy defeated the Storm, 4-3, several weeks ago in the championship game of the Colonial Invitational in Williamsburg.

&uot;There were so many good teams in this tournament including the Vienna Stars, RBI Inferno, Virginia Crushers and Diamond Fever,&uot; Terry said.

&uot;But we kind of figured our paths would cross again. Loudoun doesn’t lose very often.&uot;

The Galaxy struck quickly, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning on hits by Churchland’s Selena Thompson and Key, and a sacrifice grounder by Suffolk’s Jackie Mounie.

Mizelle’s single in the third led to a third run. It would be more than enough, with the Galaxy relying on its defense to preserve a 3-1 victory.

&uot;I’ve never seen our team play defense the way we did in that game,&uot; Terry said.

&uot;We made one incredible play after another, including two double plays that cut down runners at the plate. In the sixth inning alone, our shortstop, Ashley Newman [of Smithfield], threw out a runner at first base from her knees and our leftfielder, Carson Saunders [of Franklin], pegged a girl going to third from deep left field.&uot;

Mizelle again went the distance on the hill, striking out three while allowing only four hits.

As the only remaining undefeated team, the Galaxy then had to luxury of sitting back and waiting to see which team would advance out of the loser’s bracket. &uot;First, it gave us a chance to rest up,&uot; Terry said.

&uot;But more importantly, it meant that whichever team we played had to beat us twice.&uot;

The wait turned out to be longer than expected. Sudden Impact defeated the Virginia Heat of Richmond, then squared off against the Loudoun Storm in a game that went two extra innings. The Storm, trailing by three runs, rallied in its final at-bat to win the game.

&uot;The championship game got pushed back to 6:30 p.m,&uot; Terry said. &uot;I told our girls that unless they wanted to be playing until midnight, we better win the first game.&uot;

Once again, the Galaxy jumped on the Loudoun Storm early with two runs in the top of the first on consecutive hits by Lowers, Key and Mizelle, and an RBI single by Thompson.

The lead was pushed to 4-0 in the top of the second after hits by Newman and Carrollton’s Morgan Riddle and a two-RBI single by Key.

In the bottom of the second, the Storm sent nine batters to the plate to cut the lead to 4-3. &uot;We rode Brooke [Mizelle] hard and could tell she was about done,&uot; Terry said. &uot;But we knew the Storm pitching staff was hurting, too. The difference was that we still had an ace that was fresh.&uot;

The Galaxy upped its lead to 5-3 in the top of the third on a single by Thompson and sacrifice grounder by Newman. Terry then made his pitching change, bringing in Key.

Backed by a solid defense, Key allowed just two hits and one unearned run over the final five innings to earn the win.

At the same time, the Galaxy continued to pepper the ball at the plate, collecting three runs in the fourth inning and three more in the sixth with Thompson, Mounie and Western Branch’s Alexis Perkins each driving in two runs apiece.

&uot;Top to bottom, we hit the ball all weekend against the best pitchers in the state,&uot; Terry said. &uot;But it was our defense that separated us from the other teams. I know it must have been frustrating for our opponents.&uot;

Since play began last fall, the Galaxy has compiled a record of 52-8-3. The team has won eight of its last 10 tournaments, finishing second in the other two.

In addition to its NSA State Championship title, the Galaxy is ranked No. 1 in the state in the latest USSSA power rating poll.