In the past, the 10U Cherry City Crush had struggled against solid pitching.
While facing top arms at the ASA ‘C’ State Championships this past weekend in Albany, the Crush put up 44 runs and surrendered just 14 runs for a perfect 5-0 record on their way to a title.
“We challenged the girls as hitters,” Crush assistant coach Wes Faulkner said. “There was some good pitching there, and at state, it all came together at the right time. We peaked at the right time. Every girl put in the extra work during the week because this was an important tournament. They just went up there and competed. For 10-year-olds, to get up there and compete in every single at-bat and every pitch, was just awesome to see.”
In the championship versus the Wilsonville Wildcats on Sunday, Siyra Faulkner tossed a complete-game one-hitter with one walk and 10 strikeouts, and the offense, led by the slugging prowess of Maddy Sagapolutele, AizLynn Rubio, Morgan Donivan and Cleo Corbin, methodically put up runs in several innings to achieve a 9-1 triumph.
“This championship win was very exciting and special,” said Crush player Bryce Newby. “I have played with a few of these girls in past state tournaments, but for the most part, it is a brand-new team and we really came together this year.”
Friday, the Crush started its roll with an 11-4 win against the Roseburg Indians, and it gave the coaching staff and the athletes a little gauge on what they were up against.
It also gave the Crush players a glimpse on what areas they needed to improve on the most.
“Friday’s game, we were nervous, and our warmups were not so focused, so our coaches really told us how important it was to focus and set our goals,” Newby said. “Coach Ben and Coach Wes would tell us how many mistakes we made in the first game and then try to make less and less mistakes each game until we were perfect for the championship.”
After that opening-round win, the Crush added Saturday victories over the Southwest Washington Evergreens (8-4) and the Yakima Diamonds (3-1).
Through two Saturday games, Siyra Faulkner stroked a double, and Sagapolutele added two triples, and the duo of Jackie Begay and Caitlynn Gatton each posted triples.
“The second game on Saturday was tied 1-1 until the very last inning,” Newby said. “It was intense, and we had to take advantage of the other team’s one error. Every girl knew it was important to do their job.”
Sunday’s semifinal pitted the Crush opposite the Eagle Point Junior Eagles, which was a 13-4 romp.
In two Sunday tilts, Donivan socked three doubles, Sagapolutele added a triple and both Corbin and Rubio had a double each.
In her five pitching performances, Siyra Faulkner struck out 43 batters for an average of 8.6 a game and she walked 14, a 2.8 average, but in the money moments of the semifinals and finals, she combined for 15 strikeouts and two walks.
“Siyra pitched really well this season and extremely well during the tournament,” coach Donivan said. “She was spotting up pitches and changing speeds.”
On the team with Siyra Faulkner, Sagapolutele and Newby were Morgan Donivan, Taylor Tuia, Gatton, Corbin, Hailey Johnston, Rubio, Edie May, Begay, and Cadence Young, and they were coached by Wes Faulkner and manager Ben Donivan.
Leading up to the 10U program’s first state championship since 2016, in their six earlier tournaments this summer, the Crush had two first-place runs and a pair of runner-up finishes, to go along with a third-place outcome and a 2-2 record in another.
Coach Faulkner feels that the future is extremely bright for this group of 10-year-olds, not only for their prospects on the high school team, but even at the collegiate level.
For all that to happen, however, coach Faulkner credited the everyone involved for creating a team atmosphere.
“It was everybody contributing that helped us build this team,” coach Faulkner said. “It wasn’t just one or two people, this was a group effort; whether it was coaching staff, parents or kids, everybody put in the work all year long for this tournament, knowing that this is what we wanted to accomplish. In this tournament, all the girls were so dialed in and I am super-proud of them.”