By JOHN SCHWARB
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 4, 2001
The calendar was open, and the coach figured,"Why not?"
So the Clearwater Bullets 14-and-under team loaded up and headed to last weekend's AAU national championships in Concord, N.C.
Talk about a nice piece of scheduling. What was intended to be a good road trip in preparation for other big tournaments turned into a great road trip as the Bullets won the AAU title.
"There wasn't any great strategy to it. It just fell on a good weekend," coach Ed Hofer said. "It was a good opportunity to get away."
The Bullets wasted no time on the trip, winning all eight of its games in seeding and double-elimination play and outscoring opponents by a combined 47-6.
In the championship round, the Bullets ran into a nasty curveball pitcher on the Raleigh (N.C.) Challengers, who recorded 16 fly ball outs in a 4-1 decision.
But the Bullets bounced back quickly in the rematch with six runs in the first inning en route to an 8-0 win and the title.
Pitching was key for the Bullets, who have the luxury of four solid arms in Bree Spence (Countryside), Dani Hofer (Palm Harbor U.), Jennifer Jacobs and Natalie Bale. With 10 games in three days, a deep rotation was especially handy.
"In those tournaments, you wear out your pitchers sometimes," Hofer said. "So it's nice to have four so you have someone fresh to go to."
Jacobs led all hitters, reaching base 24 times in 28 plate appearances.
As for defending the title next year, the Bullets are not ready to commit yet. The team has played a majority of its tournaments this season against 16-and-under teams and next year plans to move up into the 16-and-under division.
"We want to focus next year on college exposure tournaments and work around those," Hofer said.
"Hopefully, the schedules permit us to go back and defend because that's always fun."
MORE BULLETS: Amy McGathey (Northside Christian) pitched a five-inning no-hitter against the Tampa Wildcats last month for the 16-and-under "A" team at the Dorrie Locklear Memorial Tournament in Tampa, held June 16-17.
Earlier in the month, the team qualified for the National Softball Association World Series with a runner-up finish at the NSA No Fear tournament in Sarasota.
A nine-inning 3-2 win over the St. Petersburg Rascals clinched the berth. Jessica Byrn (Countryside) threw a complete-game three-hitter.
The Venice Vipers eliminated the Bullets 3-0 in the single-elimination event.
STEPPING UP: The 16-and-under Clearwater Lady Shockers played in the 18-and-under division at the Carolina Dynamite College Showcase Tournament last week in Columbia, S.C., and held its own in front of more than 80 college scouts.
On opening night, the Shockers lost 2-0 to a team from Oregon. After the loss, the opposing coach complimented the team and noted that two of his pitchers were college-bound on full scholarship.
"The players were saying, "You're kidding. I can handle her,"' Shockers coach Chuck Riggs said.
In another game, the Shockers faced a Mississippi team with two Division I signees. They rallied to tie the game before a storm forced it to be called with the score tied. "To us, it was a victory. To them it was a disappointment," Riggs said.
The Shockers were eliminated in the final game before the round of 16 in the 70-team event, stranding 11 runners in a 3-2 loss to a team from North Carolina.
But the week was a huge success considering players enjoyed not only top competition, but a chance to play in front of the scouts.
The Shockers will play in the Carolina tournament next year for the third consecutive summer, and scouts that have been watching them over the years will have a chance to talk to rising seniors about their college interests.
"It's sort of the whole reason why you do this," Riggs said.
RANKINGS: All three Clearwater clubs claimed at least one top spot in unofficial state rankings published in June by eteamz.com.
The Bombers are on top of the 10-and-under "A" and "B" list. The Bullets are No. 1 in 12-and-under "A," and the Lady Shockers and Bullets are 1-2, respectively, in 14-and-under "A." In 18-and-under "A," the Bombers "Gold" and "A" teams are 1-2.
Complete rankings can be found at eteamz.com/floridastaterankings/divisions.
- Club softball update will run Wednesdays during the summer. Coaches with club softball news should call John Schwarb at 445-4170 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by noon Tuesdays.