The NorCal Swat 8 and Under softball team took a trip to Santa Rosa over the weekend for their first ever Amateur Softball Association tournament. The Swat ended up playing four closely contested games on their way to a 1-3 record overall.
“It was great. The girls had a lot of fun and we learned a lot,” said head coach Ashlee Coopman. “The most that anyone beat us by was two and that was our first game. They did incredible.”
NorCal, which is the first ever ASA softball team based in Del Norte, started pool play off on Saturday with a 4-2 loss, and a 1-0 loss before turning around to wrap up the day with a 5-4 victory.
“It was hot on Saturday and the girls kind of came out slow and sluggish in the first couple games,” Coopman said. “Then they really started seeing the level that the other teams were playing at and rose to the occasion. They really played to the level that the other teams were playing at.”
On Sunday the tournament started its bracket play and the Swat once again found themselves in a close battle, but ended up falling 9-8 and were eliminated from the tournament.
“Watching these girls rise to the occasion of a competitive level that they have never seen was great to watch,” Coopman said. “It shows that these girls are ready to learn and to be better — it shows that they want to be better. I was just really impressed with them all around. This is such a great group of girls. I can’t say enough about them.”
Coopman said that the team played well throughout the weekend, and there were several standout performances throughout the two days.
“Taylor Horner did fantastic pitching,” Coopman said. “She was really key for us in some really big innings. Kalyssa Moodie at third base had some outstanding defensive plays. Josephine Antonetti really held down the catchers position and as the weekend progressed stopped runners from moving around on the base path and putting us into situations where we weren’t going to have runs score on us.
“We definitely could have hit a little better. I think that would have helped us out in a couple of those earlier games,” she said. “But overall, for what we have seen up here and the experience that we’ve had, the girls did great.”
Coopman said the most memorable part of the tournament for her came after the team’s final game on Sunday. After talking with the coaches following the game she said she turned back around and was surprised by what she saw in the dugout.
“Every single one of those girls had tears in their eyes over the loss,” Coopmsan said. “It was so humbling to me to see that they cared so much. They wanted to be there and they wanted that win so badly.
“For them to be able to face a loss and feel those emotions, as a coach you can’t ask for anything more from those girls,” she said. “As much as we want to win, they are learning how to lose, and the character that they built in that moment was just amazing.”
The NorCal Swat had only played a total of four games throughout the summer prior to the tournament in Santa Rosa on Saturday and Sunday. All four previous games came in a pair of doubleheaders played in Humboldt County.
“I hope that they can recognize that they are capable of playing at these higher levels,” Coopman said. “As a team they have strength and every single person plays a part in those wins and losses. I hope they can keep building that love for the game, come back even stronger, and just build as the years go on.”
Coopman said there is another tournament in Santa Rosa scheduled for September that the Swat are considering attending.
“We are looking at possibly going to that one, but we are giving it a week or so break and seeing what kind of commitment we have,” Coopman said. “It is after school starts, so we are just kind of playing it by ear right now.”
Whether or not the Swat decide to hang up their gloves for the summer, Coopman said NorCal plans to be back next season with at least twice as many teams and a full non-profit organization, including a Board, behind them.
“I plan on taking another 8U team this next fall and running with it,” Coopman said. “John Horner is planning on taking a 10U team with some of our older girls, and then just building from there.”