STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
ROUND ROCK — The Texas Blaze Soriano-select softball team repeated as state champions of the Independent Fastpitch Association’s 12-and-under premier tournament on June 15-18.
The team was led by Marble Falls Middle School students Maddie Hartley, a pitcher who is entering seventh grade, and Piper Guenter, an outfielder and incoming eighth-grader.
The best part of winning? Hartley was named the tournament’s most valuable player and was able to gloat about it to Guenter. Last year, when Guenter won MVP, she made sure Hartley knew it.
Both said winning last year’s state championship was easier, but this one felt better.
“This one is more satisfying, especially since we got rings,” Guenter said.
Team Soriano beat BSN Athletics 5-1 in the championship game, which ended after three in the morning June 17, to cap a four-game winning streak after dropping the tournament opener to Hot Shots 4-1.
Team Soriano defeated Waco Heat 8-4, Centex Buzz Green 8-0, and Centex Buzz Bartels 5-4.
What made the winning streak even more impressive was the fact that Hartley pitched three games in a row with only a 10-minute break in between. She pitched 18 innings with no earned runs and threw 21 strikeouts to lead the team to the championship. She relied on her curveball to confuse batters and trusted the defense when opposing sluggers got hits.
“It’s the thrill, especially when Maddie is striking people out,” Guenter said. “I get excited for her.”
Guenter made a significant contribution herself.
She batted .400, going 2 for 3 at the plate.
“When you hit really good, you feel really good,” Guenter said.
She was also the lead-off batter in six games this year because of her speed.
The state tournament drew 64 teams.
This year, the Blaze will play tournaments in Kansas City, Missouri; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Huntington Beach, California.