Submitted by Lesley Schulte
NW Force 10 and under travel softball team competed in the USSSA Missouri State Softball Championship July 8-9 in Kansas City. The team went 4-0, staying in the winners bracket the entire tournament and taking the championship Saturday evening.
In game one, NW Force faced the Dirt Devils Black out of Raymore. In the first inning, NW Force stopped the scoring attempt of the Dirt Devils. Ella Schulte struck out two batters and the third out was recorded by Maggie Collins, who blocked the attempting steal at home. NW Force leadoff hitter Schulte hit a single up the middle and later scored on a hard-hit ball by Delaney Wolf. Schulte struck out the side in the second inning. NW Force leadoff hitter Amelia Wallace was hit by the pitch and later scored when Alayna Williams hit a single. Schulte, again holding the Dirt Devils to no runs, struck out the side in the third inning.
The third inning proved to be enough for NW Force, scoring four additional runs by Wolf, Collins, AnnaBelle Ball and Maci Duley with a hit from both Collins and Maleeah Bliley. Schulte closed the game for the NW Force in the fourth inning by striking out the side. Schulte allowed no runs, no hits and struck out 11, as NW Force took game one 6-0 and ended Friday night’s competition for the NW Force.
Saturday morning’s match up would put NW Force against Titanium of Lee’s Summit. With Wolf on the mound for NW Force, strong pitching produced three ground outs to second baseman Alayna Williams. NW Force pushed one run across the plate in the first inning, on a walk by Schulte, who stole second base, third base and then home plate. Again, Wolf with strong pitching struck out one batter and relied on solid defense from Carsen Burns at third base, who caught a hot line drive and Williams at second with another ground ball to end the Titanium second inning. NW Force was held scoreless in the second inning, after putting the ball in play to a good Titanium defense. In the third inning, Wolf, battling on the mound, continued to produce ground balls from the Titanium batters. With one on and two hits, Titanium took the lead 2-1.
NW Force was again held scoreless in the third inning as Titanium continued to match the defensive play of NW Force. Wolf, able to produce one more ground out in the top of the fourth inning, gave way to Duley to give the Titanium hitters a different look in the box. Duley struck out the next two hitters and NW Force was back on offense. In the top of the fourth inning, Collins led with a triple and an error to score, tying the game at two. Ball followed the Collins triple with a triple of her own and later scored on a ball put in play by Wallace. NW Force led at the end of four, 3-2. Titanium hitters went right back to work, hitting a hard ground ball to deep left center field to again go up by one. Duley produced one additional strike out and ground ball to Schulte to record the final two outs. With time nearly to expire, NW Force was down by one. With one out recorded, Burns was able to reach by error on the Titanium catcher. Schulte put the ball in play hard, moving Burns to second and reaching first safe. Wolf next at the plate hit a hard line drive to left center field for a double, scoring Burns and producing the game-winning hit. NW Force won 4-3.
After a break, NW Force faced Diamond Club Storm from Blue Springs. In the top of the first inning, Storm threatened to score after a hit batter and an infield single. The next batter hit a high fly ball to right field. Braelyn Hannigan continued the strong defensive play of NW Force with a shoestring catch that brought her to the ground. The runner at second tagged and ran to third, where Hannigan attempted to throw her out. Bliley caught the ball, realized the tag was too late and attempted to throw out the runner moving from first to second. Again, just a little late at second, Schulte, playing short stop, caught the ball and threw home to get the runner attempting to score. The tag was applied by Collins at the plate for the 9-5-6-2 double play. Storm scored one run on a single before NW Force recorded the last out of the inning.
NW Force started with a big first inning against the Storm. With five hits, one walk and one error, NW Force scored five runs to take a 5-1 lead. Duley continued her strong pitching performance on the mound with three strikeouts and strong defense in the field from NW Force. Hannigan provided another terrific play in right field and Schulte recorded four putouts from short stop. NW Force defeated Diamond Club Storm 7-3 to move to the championship game.
For the Missouri State Championship, NW Force faced Torque of Warsaw, a team they had faced twice in the summer season. As the home team, NW Force took the field with Schulte on the mound. Schulte stuck out two hitters before giving up a double down the left field line. The runner was held at second and the third out was recorded by strike out. Schulte leading off was hit by the pitch. Schulte was able to score on a single by Ball, who also scored on a single by Wallace. NW Force led 2-0 after the first inning. Schulte walked one batter and struck out the side in the top of the second inning. NW Force again sent several hitters to the plate.
Burns drew a walk and Schulte reached on an error, recording an RBI. Wolf recorded a hit and provided an RBI. Northwest Force took a 3-0 lead after two innings. In the top of the third inning, Schulte was again able to hold Torque to one base runner with a walk before striking out three hitters. NW Force would add three runs in the bottom of the fourth with hits from Schulte and Wolf to claim the state championship 7-0 over Torque.
The NW Force offense was led by Collins who had four hits and an RBI; Wolf with three hits and two RBIs; Schulte with three hits and three RBIs; Ball with three hits and two RBIs; and Wallace with two RBIs. Strong defense was led by Williams with seven put-outs; Schulte contributing six put-outs; and Hannigan with three put-outs. Schulte dominated the opposition on the mound for NW Force. In eight innings Schulte allowed only one hit, no runs scored and struck out 22 batters. Collins behind the plate only allowed one runner to steal home all weekend. NW Force concluded its summer campaign at the state tournament with a season record of 23-7. NW Force will return to action this fall in Kansas City.