Withstanding Florida’s 100-plus-degree heat and humidity and talented opponents from around the United States, the Port Angeles Illusion 18U girls softball team returned with a 5-0-1 record and the Space Coast Cup Super Regional Championship in June.
Made up of fastpitch softball players from Sequim, Port Angeles, Joyce, La Push, Chimacum and Port Townsend with a little help from a Kirkland pitcher and two Oregon players, the squad dispatched teams from Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee and Washington state to take the crown at the week-long (June 22-26) tournament put on by the United States Speciality Sports Association.
“I can’t be more proud of these girls and this team,” coach Warren Stevens said.
“Our defense had three errors in six games. We turned six double plays between shortstop Taylee Rome of Sequim and second baseman JoCy Kazlauskas of Joyce, which was unbelievable. They have been together and have practiced those for five-plus years and make it look so easy.”
The Port Angeles-based select team added a couple of pitchers from Oregon programs to make it through the Florida climate, a good move since Florida and the entire southeast was baking in a heat wave.
“Our pitching, what can I say, they allowed just eight total runs over six games which is phenomenal,” Stevens said. “Gracie Copeland [Sherwood, Ore.] pitched well, Port Angeles’ Cheyenne Zimmer, who works hard to be perfect was just that for this tournament. She and Mackenzie Burke of Kirkland who came to help with pitching duties in the heat were both lights out and complemented each other very well.”
Sequim’s Michaela Green, who plays catcher for the Illusion, played a pivotal role behind the plate.
Our catcher, who caught every game in the heat, called her own game for three different pitchers, two of which she had never caught before,” Stevens said.
“She did an amazing job and I can’t be more proud of her.”
Outfield play also was stellar, Stevens said.
“Our outfielders played as well as you can play, with Ava Sheahan of Port Angeles going to be a sophomore and Mikkhia Stevens, an incoming freshman for Port Angeles, the outfield will be set for the next few years,” Stevens said.
In pool play, Illusion opened the tournament with a 1-1 tie against the Georgia Lady Stars as Zimmer and Burke combined to allow just one walk and strike out two. Rome doubled, Burke tripled and Lizzy Soto of La Push also had a base hit.
Game two saw Port Angeles edge a familiar foe in Shockwaves, a Puyallup team that Illusion beat to earn a berth to the Florida tourney.
Libby Hardee, Chimacum’s Jadeah Nordberg and Green all had hits for Illusion, while Rome, Libby Hardee and Green all drove in runs in the 3-2 win.
Copeland started on the mound for Illusion, going two innings, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out two. Burke came on in relief and pitched three scoreless innings, scattering three hits.
In a 6-0 win over Tennessee’s Hustle Factory, Sheahan tripled, Green doubled and Rome, Stevens and Soto all had hits while Burke continued her scoreless streak on the mound, pitching a shutout and striking out five while the team played error-free defense.
Port Angeles dominated in a 10-1 bracket-round win over Shockwaves as Zimmer pitched a gem, limiting the Puyallup team to one run on two hits and striking out four before Burke relieved her for the final frame.
Zimmer helped her own cause as well, leading the team at the plate with three hits, including a triple, and a pair of RBIs.
Burke added two hits and three RBIs, while Soto added a base hit and Rome was plunked with a pitch.
Illusion battled back from a two-run deficit to beat Lady Stars 18U 4-3 with some great defense helping the cause, Stevens said.
Green, Soto and Hardee had RBIs for Port Angeles, while Burke kept the game close on the mound and added a double at the plate to reach the title game.
Illusion faced Shockwaves for the third time in the championship as the Puyallup team fought its way through the losers’ bracket.
Port Angeles earned a 3-2 walk-off win in extra innings when Stevens swung and connected on the first pitch of her at-bat to score Port Townsend’s Macy Aumock starting at second via the International tiebreaker.
Illusion tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth when Rome singled and later scored on an error and Zimmer singled and later scored via a wild pitch, but the Port Angeles squad couldn’t get the winning run across in regulation.
In extra innings, Aumock came on for Nordberg in a defensive change and Port Angeles set the Shockwaves down in order with Stevens making a running grab to nab what looked to be an RBI base hit in center field.
Stevens then came to the plate and lined the game winner off the glove of the Shockwaves’ shortstop and into left field for the championship.