The trail-blazing Sting team did it again by winning the latest tournament it entered

By Mark Galbraith

The Albany-Berkeley Girls Softball League’s 12U team, Sting, continues its victorious streak. You may remember the team from the article Michael Lewis wrote for Berkeleyside last year. We’ve been following their progress. Here’s the latest installment:

As a previous cub reporter on the Sting beat noted last year, dropping into the Central Valley used to be a daunting journey for Albany Berkeley Girls’ Softball League’s finest. Infernal heat, adobe-hard infields, and battle-hardened opponents often added up to disappointment: players dismayed at not having a chance to play for a tournament title and its accompanying trophies, and their parents downhearted at an early exit leaving them no legitimate excuse for blowing-off weekend errands.

However, this is a new trail-blazing Sting team. Coming off a championship run earlier in the month, they entered the Valley without fear, confident in their bats and gloves. Make no mistake: there would be no trips to Pastime Ace or Berkeley Bowl for the traveling Sting faithful this weekend.

First up was a meeting with the Vacaville Bombers in the friendly confines of Hall Park in Dixon. Cow Town’s lead-off batter announced their presence by hitting a towering fly ball on the game’s first pitch. Rightfielder Griffin Campbell raced over to make it a “can of corn” and set the tone for a week-end of stingy Sting defense.

In the Sting’s home-half of the first, Adi Saaf hit an RBI single scoring Zinnia Thewlis. Erin Shurtz followed with a two-run RBI single to take an early 3-0 lead.

Quinn Lewis shut the Bombers down again in the second.  Grace Rusin kept Albany-Berkeley’s offense rolling with a lead-off single which scored Hannah Lane-Goldstein. Adi Saaf collected RBIs two and three by smoking a triple to left, resulting in a commanding 8-0 Sting lead after two.

In the third, Vacaville showed their moxie by responding with four runs of their own. Sting, however, rebutted with another 4 runs, and closed out the game 12-4.

Saturday’s second game pitted two County neighbors as Sting renewed their history with the Alameda Blaze. After pitcher Robyn Wampler set the Blaze down in order at the top of the first, Lavrov got things started for the Sting by effortlessly launching one to deep left.

Claire Kaneko singled, and then Adi Saaf continued her hot-hitting by hitting it over a now backed-up Blaze outfield. 3-0 Sting after one.

Battling as always, the Blaze put together a three-run rally to tie the game.  In fact, they might have taken the lead, but outfielder Amelia Galbraith threw out a runner trying to stretch a double to end the inning.

Galbraith next followed up her defensive gem by leading off what would turn out to be a crushing Sting response. Maeve Gallagher, Griffin Campbell, and Hannah Lane-Goldstein led the outburst which resulted in 14 runs, and a 17-3 Sting victory.

The third game on Saturday turned out to be the most exciting of the tournament, as Sting took on the Chico Flare. Pitcher Hannah Lane-Goldstein efficiently threw strikes, letting her infield make the plays behind her.

Sting again struck first with a run in the second, but the Flare matched them with a run in the third.

In Sting’s half of the third, Maeve Gallagher raced home on a passed ball to take a 2-1 lead.

In the fourth, Sting extended the lead to 4-1 when Amelia Galbraith knocked in Claire Kaneko and Robyn Wampler.

The Flare rallied with two outs to load the bases. Down to their last out, the gamers from Chico tied the game with a bases-clearing hit up the middle. Sting would put an end to the Flare’s rally, but couldn’t muster one of their own in the bottom of the fifth, and the game ended in a 4-4 tie.

Sunday was another early wake-up for Sting — this time in nearby host sister-city, Davis. Their opponent in the morning session was the Five Cities Gold. As one ardent Gold supporter explained, “the five cities are Penryn, Loomis, Newcastle, Lincoln, and another city that none of us can ever seem to remember.”

Once again, Sting got off to their patented quick start. Isabel Lavrov led-off with a double.  Zinnia Thewlis followed with a walk. They both later scored on a Claire Kaneko double. Adi Saaf, Griffin Campbell and Erin Shurtz singled, and before anyone finished their lattes, Sting finished the first with a 6-0 lead.

Quinn Lewis set the tone on the hill by striking out their first batter with a wicked change up. Grace once again “eGraced” a walk by picking a Gold runner off first, She, then followed that up by making the hardest play on the diamond — catching a foul-ball pop-up to end the first.

In the second, the Sting put the hammer down on what was an obviously very-talented Gold team.  With Saaf and Campbell on base, Erin Shurtz blasted a three-run rocket past the center fielder to make it 9-0 before Five Cities could turn-over their line-up.

After exchanging scoreless third and fourths, Erin Shurtz and Isabel Lavrov left no doubt about who was moving on by greeting a new Gold pitcher with lengthy home-run drives, and the Sting cruised to an impressive 13-1 win.

The second game was an exciting resumption of Saturday’s tie with the formidable Flare from Chico.

It would be important for Sting to stake an early lead, and Isabel Lavrov and Hannah Lane-Goldstein each singled to do exactly that, scoring a run in the top of the first. The Flare tied the score in the second, but then Sting responded by adding another run when Claire Kaneko doubled home Erin Shurtz to make it 2-1.

Sting protected their lead in the bottom of the fifth with a silky smooth Wampler to Lavrov to Kaneko inning-ending double-play.

In the sixth, Sting threatened to break the game open, as Griffin Campbell singled, Maeve Gallagher beat-out a beautifully laid down bunt, and Wampler walked to load the bases. Campbell scored on a passed ball, but that was all Sting could muster as they once-again took a 4-1 lead against the Flare into the final inning.

And, yes, once again, the Flare would not go down without a fight.  Their #4 batter led off the inning by crushing a triple to right.  She then scored on a single, decreasing their deficit, while increasing the volume of their supporters who were urging on more late-inning heroics. Wampler and her defense, however, would see that a repeat would not happen, squelching the rally and winning a chance to play for second-consecutive tournament title, 4-2.

The Championship Game matched the Sting against the Thunder from nearby Roseville. While the thermometer at 4:30 first pitch showed 95-degrees, the Sting quickly proved that they would not be the ones to wilt.

As has become their way, Sting pounced on their opponents to plate five in the first.  Erin Shurtz collected two more RBIs, driving in Zinnia Thewlis and Claire Kaneko. Griffin Campbell followed by belting a two–run triple. The Thunder was down in the scorebook and down mentally before they even took their first swings.

Solid defense also continued, as Sting rolled another 1-6-3 twin-killing to end the first, this time initiated by pitcher Hannah Lane-Goldstein.

In the second, the Thunder got on the board, but Isabel Lavrov responded by doubling and scoring in the 4th to bring the lead back to four runs.

Sting ultimately held the Thunder down to just that one run with the help of catcher Grace Rusin throwing out yet another attempted steal, and a third double-play of the day; this time with second baseman, Erin Shurtz initiating a 4-6-3 dp. Sting tacked on three more runs in the 5th, rolling to a convincing 9-1 championship victory.

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