|Verde Valley head coach Bo Shults explaining what he wants to the runners and batters. Photo courtesy of Verde Valley Little League|
Following a 2-2 run at the state tournament, the Verde Valley All-Stars 9-10 softball little league team capped off its season with a fourth place finish.
One look at the box scores shows that through the four games, the All-Stars were either on their game, or not, alternating wins and losses. In Verde Valley's two wins, the girls only allowed one run, while scoring six against Copper Hills in their first game, and 14 in their third against Sierra Vista. In its two losses, Verde Valley was blanked 4-0 and 3-0, by Casa Grande (tournament winner) and Gilbert (runner-up), respectively.
Julia Sisson led the team with five triples and one RBI through the tournament, followed by Kobe Madore and her four triples.
Julia took to the mound for all of the games, throwing 148 pitches through four games, against 9-runs and 59 batters. The pitcher even threw a complete game in Verde Valley's win over Sierra Vista.
"They played great, offensively and defensively," Verde Valley head coach Bo Shults said. "We had one game, that first game that we lost [against Casa Grande], that game we really didn't put the bat on the ball for some reason. Other than that, the other three games, they were hitting the ball, making the plays, they were doing it [and] it was good."
Overall, Shults was happy with the level of play from his team, including the six errors that were committed during the course of the tournament. The head coach commented on the fact that during a regular season game, when the girls are still learning, the errors can pile up. But at the state tournament, they reached the point where they were able to limit the number of errors committed.
Not only did the stout defense surprise Shults, but also his whole team, which played at a level that him and his coaches had not seen before.
"All of them, in one-way or another, it was like, 'hey, she never did that in practice,' or, 'we didn't see that during the season,' so they all did [surprise me]," Shults said. "With every one of them, there was something ... it was like, 'they really stepped it up,' and we didn't see that [coming]."
Shults said that while the girls enjoyed their time at the tournament, and had fun, he was not sure if his team was able to comprehend the gravity of going to state, at least not for a few more years.
"I'm not sure they quite understood what it all meant, in a few years they will really understand it," Shults said. "They had a lot of fun, they got to see what the competition level's like when you go that far.
"There were a few of them that knew it was a big deal ... Maybe subconsciously they were thinking, 'holy crap, we have to step it up,' and they did. They played great."
The road to Flagstaff, which was where state was held, was not with out its bumps for Verde Valley. From reshuffling the team by bringing in younger minors players, to having to replace a late season injury, Verde Valley's coach entered the All-Star season with seven new girls on his team.
"Those seven girls stepped it up, and it shows that the minor coaches were doing something right, because they had an idea of what to do," Shults said. "Taking those seven girls from the minors and seeing what they learned at the beginning, when we started all-stars, to now, what they know is a lot more than when they started. They improved, they all picked it up really fast, a bunch of good kids."
Now that the season is over and Shults had a chance to reflect on it, he was happy with how it turned out and the opportunities he was able to give his majors team he coached during the season.
"It was actually a really good season," said Shults. "For regular season, I coached the majors team and we got to do a bunch of special-game tournaments, where we had teams come in from out-of-town ... We got to see different teams, and play different teams, that was the first time we have done that for little league in the past several years."
As Shults moves on with some of his girls to his travel team, he is still thankful for the support of everyone that was involved with his team and how his team played.
"I'd like to say thank you to all the coaches that helped me out, and the players that played hard for me," Shults said.