The Goleta Thunder, a 12-under all-star girls softball team, won the USA Softball Western National Championships in Roseville, California, making history for the 12-U age group. No Goleta team that young has ever conquered nationals.
“It was 100 percent incredible and crazy. They came together right at the perfect time for the tournament,” team parent Sean Malarkey said of the girls’ undefeated performance.
The team won the championship 8-0 last week, defeating some of the “best teams in California” in the tournament — during which temperatures reached up to 105 degrees — Malarkey said. They went 3-0 in the first series of pool play and 5-0 in double-elimination bracket play. In the first round of bracket play, the girls beat their opponents, Tacoma, Washington’s Sundodgers, by a 15-0 mercy victory.
After a close game against the San Clemente Threats and a 12-11 game against Manhattan Beach Club, the Thunder played the previously undefeated San Mateo Slammers in the semifinals.
“We were down in the semifinal game,” Thunder head coach Beau Brunner said. “We were down seven to three, and our team rallied back and made it seven to five. They got two outs, and we got hit after hit, tied the game.”
Malarkey described a breathtaking seventh inning, in which the entire Thunder lineup went to bat, the last four on two outs. “The eighth hitter tied the game, and the ninth hitter won the game on a line drive to center field,” he said.
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“Sierra Torres hit a game-winning hit to win that one,” Brunner said. “The girls just never gave up. They were determined to win.”
“It was absolutely crazy, that happened. The first time we’ve been down the whole tournament, coming from behind, and they came back,” Malarkey said of the semifinal performance.
The team went on to play Manhattan Beach for the championship game, winning 6-4.
Pitcher Lucy Holian, who occupied the mound in every inning of the tournament, threw 601 pitches, with 79 hits, 43 runs, and only 6 walks.
“Everybody just got along so well. [They] love each other, and they treat each other so well,” Malarkey said of the team. “This particular group of girls is really special.”
The Goleta Thunder includes Anastasia Brunner, Kacey Hurley, Solana Sandoval, Zella Cassidy, Jessica Vega, Lucy Holian, Isa Malarky, Sam Lorden, Jess Lordan, Ciara Torres, and Chaya Blaney, and the team is managed by Beau Brunner and assisted by Tony Sandoval, Vince Holian, Troy Hurley, and Matt Lorden.