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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : sports : sports May 26, 2016

8/13/2013 2:07:00 PM
Mean Machine softball cannot overcome second day slump, still impresses in first day of tournament
JoJo Strethorn connects with a pitch during the girls’ loss due to time constraints against the Sidewinders. VVN/Travis Guy
JoJo Strethorn connects with a pitch during the girls’ loss due to time constraints against the Sidewinders.

VVN/Travis Guy
Catcher Julia Sisson reaches to grab the pitch during the Mean Machine 10-Under team’s loss to the Surprise Sidewinders. VVN/Travis Guy
Catcher Julia Sisson reaches to grab the pitch during the Mean Machine 10-Under team’s loss to the Surprise Sidewinders. VVN/Travis Guy

Travis Guy
Sports Reporter

The Mean Machine softball teams concluded a first over the weekend (Aug. 10-11), when they hosted their first tournament, a challenge for head coach Bo Shults, but one he also would like to do again.

"It feels like everything went pretty smooth," Shults said. "We had a couple little hiccups, but nothing major. It was definitely a learning experience, so I kind of got a good idea on what to change and what to keep the same for next year, because its something I'd really like to try and put on every year."

Mean Machine was represented by two teams, their 10-under (10U) and 12-under (12U) teams. While the results were varied, Shults was impressed with what he saw from his teams.

"They did well," Shults said. "Both teams did well, especially the 12's for being brand new, and the 10's did exceptionally well Saturday, we just couldn't get the break we needed to get the wins, and Sunday we had a rough start."

Both teams had strong offensive showings, but could not find the gaps, hitting balls to fielders, and not able to get on base and advance runners.

"Our batting, was really strong, with both teams," Mean Machine's coach said. "It just seemed like every time we put the ball in play, it was to a fielder, or there'd be nobody on, and they'd get a great hit in the gap and they'd take it for a double, and then the next one up, a nice solid hit, but right to the short stop, or right to the right fielder to make the catch. They were hitting the ball, but couldn't hit the gaps and get the runs in that we needed."

The 12U team, despite only playing together for a month, left Shults happy with the progress they had made playing as a team. Pitcher Natalie Monge really stood out to Shults with how the young girl was able to keep her composure while pitching multiple games over the course of two days for the first time in her career.

"Pitching for the 12's ... the main pitcher, she pitched great, especially for being her first tournament, first time having to pitch multiple games in a day, multiple games in two days, she did great," Shults said. "Our second pitcher for the 12's, she did OK. She struggled a little bit, but they just need more practice. Like I said, the team has only been together for about a month."

The 10U team went with a three-pitcher rotation, but while two of Shults pitchers were doing a solid job of controlling the game, the third pitcher left something to be desired over the course of the tournament.

According to Shults, Mean Machine's 10U representatives encountered a problem that has become all too familiar to the girls. They play strong games on the first day of the tournament, when the pool play is going on, but the following day, when the bracket play begins, they are not able to continue that level of play, falling behind and not being able to recover.

"Its rough with the 10's because for some reason, the second day of every tournament they've been too, they have a rough start in the morning, for some reason, and then we play catch-up, and we didn't have time to catch up," Shults said.

Despite that, Shults was still satisfied with the level of ply the 10U team had during the first game, losing two games by one point and one ended in a tie. One of the losses could have ended in Mean Machine's favor, but since there was a time limit put on pool play, to ensure the games finish in a timely manner, the game was called before Mean Machine could bring in the necessary runs.

What really impressed the head coach was the way his 12U team played together. Often times it takes teams months to develop a rapport with each other and play productive softball. The 12U Mean Machine girls, despite only being together for a month, the girls were able to put together a complete game.

"My 12's have only been together for about a month ... they actually did very well. I was impressed," Shults said. "I wasn't sure what to expect with them, because they don't really have the chemistry yet, they haven't had the practice and the time to build that, but they did well. Nobody fell apart, they took some beatings, not too bad, but they lost all thee Saturday. Sunday, both teams lost their first game, which put them out of the tournament."

Shults is happy with the progress of his teams and their level of play, and how the tournament ran. Yes, he admitted, there were a few bumps in the road, but that did not scare him off, as he is hoping to put on another one next year. But according to Shults, all of this would not have been possible without the help of volunteers from the community.

"Thanks to all of the parents, players and everyone that helped out to put this on and make this happen," Shults said. "Thanks to the gentleman that helped drag all the fields."

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