Strong pitching, solid defense and a relentless offensive attack proved an imposing formula for success for both Finch’s Aces 14U squads in a thoroughly successful Jennie Finch Stars & Stripes tournament last weekend at Diamond Nation.
The Finch’s Aces 14U Campbell and 14U Gallo both reached the tournament championship game and were deemed, at that point, co-champions.
It was the first time two Aces teams reached a championship game in the same age group at a Diamond Nation tournament. Both squads also reached the final at the Jennie Finch World Series in Louisiana on June 16-19 with the older, 14U Campbell squad winning, 5-2.
“We figured what better way to commemorate how well both teams played in the Star & Stripes than for both to go out on a high note as co-champs,” said Christian Campbell, Diamond Nation’s softball coordinator. “What more could you want from your program than for both teams to reach the final.”
Campbell’s 14U Aces defeated the Electric City Bombers, 6-0, in the semifinals to secure their championship game berth. The Jim Gallo-coached 14U Aces stepped up big, too, defeating Spartan Wrath, 11-3, in the semifinals to avenge an 11-6 loss to the same team in the third game of pool play.
“Jimmy’s done a fantastic job with his 14U team,” said Campbell. “This was a really positive tournament and both staff and teams walked away with their heads high.”
The Aces 14U Campbell went 5-0 in the Star & Stripes and outscored its opponents 46-7. The Aces 14U Gallo went 4-1 and held an impressive 42-15 runs advantage on its opponents.
“Even the game we won, 7-5 (Spartan Wrath), never at any point did we feel like we weren’t in control,” said Campbell. “Last week we practiced a different kind of defense and implemented it. We emphasized team speed and our strengths. It’s complex but it was worth it.”
That steady defense was complemented by sound pitching and an offensive attack that would prove to be relentless, and that goes for both 14U Aces clubs. Every girl on the Aces 14U Gallo squad batted .300 or higher.
Camryn Campbell and Mia Simon combined to limit the Aces 14U Campbell’s five opponents to six earned runs. Campbell permitted just two runs, one of which was earned on five hits over 13 innings. She struck out 17 and walked six. Simon scattered eight hits over nine innings and struck out 14 and walked four. Camryn Campbell’s ERA was 0.53 for the weekend and Simon checked in at a solid 3.88.
The bats were truly lethal for the 14U Aces Campbell.
“We were crushing it,” said coach Campbell.
That would be hard to argue. The 14U Aces Campbell rapped out 50 hits to post a staggering .455 team batting average while showing a well-rounded game in its 24 stolen bases.
Camryn Campbell, who also batted .333 and knocked in three runs and held opposing hitters to a .111 batting average, was named the Most Valuable Player for her team. Kate Dougherty was named the 14U Aces Gallo’s Most Valuable Player.
Dougherty posted a dominating 0.51 ERA on her way to the MVP honor.
The Campbell squad had major contributions coming from all corners. Steering the ship were Katie Kopera (.714, 2 RBI, 5 SBs), Maddie Tavaglione (.625, HR, 5 RBI, 4 SBs), Zoe Totaro (.500, triple, 4 RBI), Mia Simon (.467, 3 doubles, 5 RBI), Meg McNally (.462, 2 RBI, 5 SBs), Eva Szap (.462, 3 RBI, 5 SBs), Bella Malinconico (.417, RBI), Brooke Cahill (.333, double, triple, 4 RBI), Campbell (.333, 3 RBI) and Brooklyn Liskowacki (.300, 2 RBI).
“We emphasize team above player, program above team,” said coach Campbell. “This weekend was the embodiment of that. Our team built its tournament on hits, bunts, shooting gaps, small ball and just putting together a complete, collective game.”
NOTES: One of the heartwarming stories from the Louisiana trip for the Aces 14U Campbell was Bella Malinconico’s long adventure that ended with a loud bang.
“We still had girls in school at that point, so were a little shorthanded,” said coach Campbell. “Bella had her flight delayed and there was an issue with storms in the area.”
The Aces had lost a game in the winner’s bracket and were working their way back in the consolation bracket.
“We had two games on a Monday and it was single elimination at that point,” said coach Campbell. “There was a chance Bella would land and, if we lost, turn around and go right back home without even playing. But we won and Bella showed up for the second game, which was the semifinals. The girls were all happy for her. Then Bella gets up her first time and hits a home run. It was amazing and really cool to see.”
The Aces 14U Gallo features mostly rising freshmen. The Aces 14U Campbell has mostly rising sophomores on its roster.
One of the highlights of the Aces 14U Gallo’s performance was, of course, its semifinal round victory over Spartan Wrath, which it had lost to, 11-6, in pool play.
“There is nothing better than beating a team when it matters most,” said coach Campbell. “You have to play hard and perform in those big spots and the Gallo team did exactly that.”