To say that the Sparks flew high in San Diego this weekend would be an understatement. No, no, what the Sparks did was soar all the way to the top of the mountain.
Facing a gauntlet off tough teams from Southern California, the Santa Clara Sparks finished 2-1 in pool play before running the table (5-0) in the single-elimination tournament bracket. The Sparks are now the 2018 California State Games Champions for the U-12 softball division.
According to the Sparks’ staff, this is the first time the Santa Clara Police Activities League softball U-12 team has ever won the state tournament. Never in their history had they even finished in the top-3. Yet this year’s squad defeated two previously undefeated opponents in the semifinal and championship games en route to making history.
“Our first bracket game we were down 7-0, but we managed to come back in that one,” remarked Sparks Head Coach Yih-Woei Saw. “From there it was just game to game. To be honest, I didn’t think we could do it, but the girls were so pumped up and amped up. They just wanted to play hard and keep going and they did it. It was amazing, incredibly exciting.”
“We didn’t even know if we were gonna be able to make it to Sunday,” chuckled Olivia Vasquez. “We thought we were going to have Sunday off to be honest. We didn’t want to set our expectations too high.”
“Nobody thought we were going to be able to make it to Sunday,” echoed Sienna Roper. “But the same team we lost to in pool play is the one we beat in the championship on Sunday.”
Sparks players credited teammates Cece De Courcey and Keira Brady for being two of the biggest contributors in the tournament. De Courcey was the offensive juggernaut from the cleanup spot driving in runs and Brady pitched all 18 innings over the final three games on Sunday with Sophia Orozco nursing an injury and unable to pitch.
“Cece, in one of our games, when we were down a bit, she knocked in a bunch of our runs,” remarked Hailey Saw. “We were really excited after that game to come all the way back. I think it motivated us to try even harder as we continued on.”
“With Sophia hurt, Keira did amazing job on Sunday pitching all three games,” added Kylie Carmine before noting that the team felt much looser after the big comeback win. “It kinda felt like we were not supposed to be there anymore, so after we came back in that game we played more relaxed, less pressure.”
“Keira was amazing. The first thing I told her was, ‘look, Sophia is hurt, we’re going to have to ride you. Maybe Tori [Farnham] will come in, but keep the pitch count low, your defense will have your back,’” recalled coach Saw. “Our defense was solid throughout the whole day Sunday, it was just amazing. Keira was lights out and our defense was amazing.”
Congratulations Sparks — 2018 California State Games Champions.