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As good as gold

Hart Gold U-10 softball team wins 2009 ASA National Championship in its age division

Posted: August 16, 2009 9:00 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Hart Gold U-10 softball team won the 2009 ASA U-10 National Championship in Salem, Ore., earlier this month. Team members are, front row, from left: Ty Cueva, Cassidy FitzGerald, Amanda Doyle, Cayla Kessinger and Abby Sweet. Middle row: Lindsay Clare, Jessie Harper, Raquel Blanchard, Brittney Ross-Smith, Emily Anderson and Mariah Lopez. Back...

It was a week where all the stars aligned for the Hart Gold U-10 softball team.

After traveling north to Salem, Ore., the group put on a dominating performance at the 2009 ASA U-10 National Championship.

Hart Gold won all eight of its games by a total score of 80-4 to take the title in the tournament, which ran from July 27 to Aug. 2.

“It was a great overall team performance,” says Hart Gold coach Darren FitzGerald. “A lot of kids stepped up for our team, and it was great to see the team step it up when they needed to.”

The team qualified for nationals by playing six games at the state tournament in Lancaster, where they took second place.

“It was amazing how everything came together, and the girls gelled at the right time,” says Hart Gold coach Cory Kessinger. “These girls have been together for almost three years in many cases, and it just seemed like everything clicked at the right time. This is a big step for them as they look to eventually move on to a higher level.”

Offensively, Hart Gold was led by the performance of Cayla Kessinger, who hit .800 for the tournament.

“Any time one of our girls made an out, it seemed like the next one was there to pick her up,” Kessinger says. “We took great pride in ourselves and really focused on our defense, and of course, our pitching was outstanding.”

The girls helped inspire those that got to watch them.

Their performance was a great source of pride for multiple generations.

“They practiced, listened, learned, matured, committed, performed and achieved. It was a wonderful group of girls that bonded and supported one another in sickness and in health,” says Bob Blanchard, a grandfather of one of the players. “What a team.”

The whole event was a whirlwind for the team, and it is still getting adjusted to being back in a normal setting.

“It was kind of crazy,” Kessinger says. “It wasn’t just the week in Salem. It was the whole 14-month experience of the season. We got back, and it was kind of a shock. My wife told me told me to get out and cut the lawn, and I knew that I was back home, and we were finally done. You can forget about the little things when things get as busy as they were for us during the season.”

Hart Gold hit .460 and the team was anchored by the performance of pitchers Lindsay Clare and Mariah Lopez.

Both won four games apiece and only walked one batter during the week-long event.

“I don’t know if anyone ever expected this,” FitzGerald says. “Some of the teams we played in the tournament we had played before, and they had been close games, so to win by so many runs was surprising. It was really complete dominance by the girls. It was great to watch.”

Kessinger says he will never forget watching his team turn a double play, which is a rare accomplishment for a team of this age.

“The things our girls were able to accomplish were amazing,” Kessinger says. “It’s kind of a time before the girls have to make big decisions about where they are going to go to school. I think it’s a great time in their athletic lives.”

Hart Gold won the title game 11-0, which was a fitting end to a tournament that saw the team pile up lopsided victories.

“I think that it shows the girls that when you have goals you can make them happen,” Kessinger says. “This is a great achievement for them, and we couldn’t be prouder of how they played.”


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