OWENSBORO, Ky. — The way Bob James looks at it, ninth place in a national tournament is pretty good for any team. For his second-year Bureau County Blaze organization, he says it’s great.
James’ Blaze 16 and under softball team finished the national tournament in Owensboro, Ky. over the weekend with a 4-3 record and a ninth-place finish. They were state runners-up previously.
“That’s a huge accomplishment for a second year. We’re proud of them,” James said.
The Blaze opened with a 10-2 win over New Ulm, Minn., on Thursday with Callie Kowalski pitching a five-hitter. Erin Polte had a three-run triple in the decisive second inning which saw the Blaze score seven runs to take a 7-2 lead. Monica Wood went 3-3 with two rbi.
The Marysville (Kan.) Magic cooled the Blaze before the day was over with an 8-2 defeat, scoring seven runs over the last three innings. Brianne Blumhorst drove in both Blaze runs.
On Friday, the Blaze opened with another victory, defeating Team Express from Nebraska 6-2 with Kowalski scattering eight hits over seven innings. Jheri Emmerling drove in three runs with a homer and triple with Polte (double), Blumhorst (double) and Paige Woolley (rbi) all collected two hits.
Kalamazoo, Mich. blanked the Blaze on four hits 8-0 while rapping out 11 hits against Blaze pitchers Stephanie Angelo and Lauren Dubay. Alyssa James, Polte, Lauren Dubay and Kowalski all had hits for the Blaze.
The Blaze took a 7-6 lead into the top of the seventh against the Minnesota Prowlers, then scored the game-winning run in the home half for an 8-7 win. Kowalski picked up the win in relief of Erica Davis and Angelo. Emmerling came back after missing the Kalamazoo game with heat exhaustion to homer again. Kowalski had three hits, including two doubles and two RBIs, Polte had two hits and a RBI and Kara Bender a hit and RBI.
“Were fortunate, everyone of the kids is a good hitter,” James said.
Saturday saw the Blaze continue their jump starts with a 3-1 win over the M&M Express of Kentucky behind Kowalski. Emmerling had two RBIs with a double, and Woolley drove in the other run.
The final game of the tournament saw the Blaze meet an Illinois foe in the Lemont Sizzlers, who claimed a 6-4 victory. Emmerling, who will be a senior at St. Bede, hit her third homer of the tournament, a three-run shot in the sixth to make the score 6-3.
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