It took three tournaments and then a monumental effort on Sunday for the Havre de Grace Chiefs 16U B girls softball team to win a championship.
The Chiefs, managed by Chris Mentzer, Over The Top Tournament in Hickory on Sunday. The USSSA event was hosted by the Hickory Hornets softball program. The Chiefs won the 18U open bracket with all games played at Hickory Elementary School.
But it wasn’t easy. The team went 0-1-2 in Saturday’s pool play and drew a ninth seed among 10 teams for Sunday’s championship bracket. There was a 3-3 tie, and two losses, 17-5 and 5-2.
“There is no way I thought we were going to win this tournament. They played like crap, they were miserable, the drama and all. Then we focused on the good points at the end of Saturday,” Mentzer said. “We all have a group text and I sent them three plays that they made Saturday that were huge. I said you got to come focused tomorrow and make these kind of plays all day if you want have a chance to win this thing. They were all on board so I was like, okay. They came Sunday morning with great attitudes and ready to work.”
Despite the losses, Natalie Bucci went 2-2 with a triple, run scored, 2 RBIs and a walk. Bucci broke a finger in the second game but played on.
Lilly Dalton was 2-3 with a run scored and RBI.
Sunday play opened with a 9-8 win over Inferno. The Chiefs were up, 9-3, so a bit of nail biting to get the day started. Alysa Kaptain pitched three innings for the win. She struck out one, walked one, allowed three hits and four earned runs.
The Chiefs then won 5-2 over Maryland Aftershock to reach the semifinals. Madison Johnson collected the win. She threw five innings, striking out four and walking one. She allowed six hits and a pair of earned runs. The Aftershock are the #1 team in points in Maryland for the USSSA 18U B classification.
In the semifinal, the Chiefs slid past the PA Pride for a 2-1 win. The game needed the International Tie Break rule. Kaptain tossed 5.2 innings for the win. She walked two and struck out three, while giving up three hits and an earned run. Johnson pitched an inning and two thirds for the save. She allowed one hit and no runs, while strking out two.
In the championship game the Chiefs jumped out to a 3-0 lead, en route to an 6-3 win over the Odyssey, a 16U A team.
Chiefs centerfielder Taty Sanchez made a diving catch to end the second inning and keep the Chiefs up, 3-0. The Odyssey had runners on second and third when the game-changing catch was made.
“That just got them all fired up, it was pretty fun after that,” Mentzer said.
Johnson earned the win with four innings pitched. She allowed four hits, two walks and two earned runs and she struck out one.
The Odyssey are the #2 ranked 16U A team in eastern Pennsylvania for USSSA.
Offensive leaders for Sunday were Dalton, 5-9, run, 5 RBIs; Johnson, 6-12, triple, double, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, 2 steals; and Laura Hughes, 4-8, 2 runs, 2 BB and a stolen base.
Defensive leaders were Hughes, 22 put outs; Katie Burr, 14 put outs; and Natalie Rebman, 13 put outs.
Additionally, Johnson had 12 assists; Emma Bowman had 9 assists; Kinsey Mentzer had 6 assists; and Rebman had six assists.
The Chiefs roster includes Nat Rebman, Lilly Dalton, Kinsey Mentzer, Alysa Kaptain, Emma Bowman, Laura Hughes, Autum Keyes, Madison Johnson, Lanie Mentzer, Mischa Spencer, Natalie Bucci, Katie Burr, Taty Sanchez and Bri Walls.
In two previous tournaments, the Chiefs went 0-4 in the first tournament and 1-1-1 in tournament two. The second day of this tournament was rained out. Both tournaments were played in 18B brackets.
The Havre de Grace Chiefs travel softball program also has teams managed by Ted Hendricks (18C) and Tony Veres (14C).