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It all came together for World Series champions

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2002

At the Independent Softball Association state tournament earlier this summer, the 16-and-under West Coast Lady Rockets were an average team. They won a few but could not handle some of Florida's bigger powers.

So how does that same team end up as ISA "B" World Series champions?

"Things just jelled together," coach Gene Aldrich said. "Everyone knew we had the talent, we just had to click it the right way."

And take care of some of the unfinished business from the state tournament.

Last weekend in Georgia, the Lady Rockets (a team composed of girls from around the Suncoast, including Land O'Lakes, New Port Richey, Palm Harbor and Tampa) paid back the Maitland Sting and Tampa's Da Bomb en route to the title.

After winning two preliminary games to earn the top seed in their pool, the Rockets defeated the Sting to earn a game against Da Bomb. The Rockets rallied from a 5-1 deficit, then notched the winning run in the bottom of the seventh on a deep triple from Jessica O'Brien.

"That was the most exciting game of the weekend," said Gene Aldrich, whose daughter Jessica Aldrich (Tarpon Springs) picked up the win on the mound.

In the title game against the Carolina Lightning, Rachel Ringelspaugh pitched flawlessly and the Rockets won 8-0 in a mercy rule-shortened contest. O'Brien was named the tournament's most valuable player.

BULLETS: The Clearwater 18-and-under team recently returned from a much-anticipated 12-day road trip that allowed them to avoid the rains that plagued much of their June schedule.

Instead, the team found plenty of heat and humidity in Virginia (peaking at 103 degrees) and South Carolina and mixed results in two tournaments. At a Pony League national qualifier in Virginia, the team finished seventh out of 36 teams, and in Florence, S.C., finished 16th out of 32.

"We expected actually to get to the finals in both of those tournaments," coach Dion Weaver said.

In Virginia, the Bullets lost two games in the final inning against nationally-acclaimed teams, and were eliminated by a team that advanced to the tournament final. In South Carolina, rain struck on one day, washing out the losers bracket and forcing the Bullets into an elimination game, which they lost to the Tampa Mustangs Blue team.

Breanne Hill (Ridgewood) and Jen Clark (Brooksville Central) handled most of the pitching, tossing a combined no-hitter in South Carolina. Hill threw her own no-hitter in Virginia.

The Bullets returned to Tampa last weekend and played in the Florida's Finest tournament, losing in the semifinals to the Palm Beach Gators. Hill threw a one-hitter, but fielding errors were the culprit in a 2-0 loss.

The team completes its season this weekend in Panama City Beach at the United States Fastpitch Association national championships.

-- Club softball update will be published Wednesdays in the summer. Coaches with news are encouraged to call staff writer John Schwarb at 445-4170 or send e-mail to schwarb@sptimes.com by noon Tuesday.

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