A couple days before the 14-and-younger Tampa Mustangs, a local softball club based in Lakewood Ranch, headed to Illinois for the ASA National Championship this summer, the hotel they were slotted to stay at was suddenly unavailable.
Most teams would panic.
Instead, head coach T.J. Goelz got things resolved when an official in the area, where the tournament was held, secured a different hotel for the team.
Goelz said he viewed it as a good omen.
Turns out, Goelz was right.
The Mustangs used the good fortune in rolling through the 124-team field to the championship game, where they finished runner-up to a squad from Texas, losing 5-4 for the title and compiling a 9-2 overall record.
"We've had a lot of continuity," Goelz said. "Seven of the 13 girls now, I've had them since they were seven years old. That's unheard of in today's age of travel ball."
By finishing in the top two, the team earned a berth into the 2014 ASA 16-and-younger National Championship in Salem, Va., watched by major college programs such as Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Florida to name a few.
Most of the team attends either Lakewood Ranch High or Braden River High.
There were just three players from neither of those schools that played on the team during the summer.
Third baseman Kasi Shaffer, who attends Englewood Lemon Bay, was one of them.
She cranked a home run, eight doubles, 14 runs batted in to go with a team-best .558 batting average.
"It was a lot of hard work," Shaffer said. "It took us a long time to get there."
Braden River's Bethany Keen batted .447 with a home run, seven doubles, two triples, 11 runs scored
and six RBIs.
The club's hitting prowess, paired with the pitching they received enabled the deep run at the national tourney.
But a key element was the innate chemistry that the girls share, having grown up playing with each other for years.
That fact wasn't lost on Keen, who plays first base.
"Being a first baseman, I know how each of them throw," Keen said. "So I know how to stand, and how to get their ball. The angles when they throw, it's just really a big deal (knowing each other)."
Other top performers included: Crystal Brown (.366, six RBIs, three doubles, triple), Kaylee Misiti (.352, five RBIs, home run, three doubles, 11 runs), Kinsey Goelz (.342, two doubles, two triples, eight runs), Myah Moy (combined with Goelz to turn six double plays), Sylvia Welsh (6-0, 0.70 earned run average, 30 strikeouts in 33 innings, three shutouts) and Logan Newton (2-1, two shutouts).
The rest of the team included: Denali Schappacher, Kylie Toler, Kyra Klarkowski, Caitlin Brown, Lexi Phelps, Maddie Biggs and Madison Wallwork.
Storm roll along
The North Manatee Storm's Tiny Mite and Junior Midget teams earned victories this past weekend in Pop Warner football action.
Demarius Smith scored the Storm's final touchdown to preserve a 21-14 victory over the Manatee Wildcats in the Tiny Mite division, while Jakobe Murrell tallied two scores in the first half.
Dominic Cardillo, Kayden Carroll, Carter Dietz, Ashton Dunbar, Liam Fernandez, Rudy Garcia, Myreon Lowe, Trevion Pendergrass and Jake Samuels were credited with strong performances.
On the Junior Midget side, a 44-0 shutout of the Wildcats started with a Ryan Overstreet blocked punt that led to John Jones scoring a touchdown. Rory Houston added two long runs, one on offense and the other came on a punt return. Korey Waters and Overstreet added rushing touchdowns behind the blocking of Donevan Ausborn, Ryan Ehrhart, Conner Etheridge, Jackson Dietz, Jackson Gaylor, Karsen Heidenreich and Jessie Dugan.
Dainon Harker found Ademole Adeobe for a 3-yard touchdown pass, while Vaughn Hayes converted 5 of 6 extra points. Jett Gillum, Gage Clarke, Mateus Urbanski, Jackson Sauerbeck, Ryan Petitfrere, Jakir Fordham and Harrison Fuller were credited with leading the defense.
Twisters hurler perfect
Jayme Prandine, a pitcher for the Manatee Twisters 03 U10s, threw a perfect game in a 2-0 victory on Sunday.
She had seven strikeouts, and induced a ground out for the final out in the game to achieve the enormous feat.
This happened in a USSSA tournament held in North Port, and Prandine pitched all five tournament games, leaving the perfecto for the championship on Sunday.
Outlaws reach title game
The 941 Outlaws were back in action this past weekend, and went 4-0 in the Suncoast Mizuno tournament at the Twin Lakes complex in Sarasota to reach the championship game.
The Outlaws finished runner up, losing the title contest 8-6 to Lakeland.
Derek Paparella (7-for-17, five runs, two doubles, triple), Jerad Paparella (6-for-12, two triples, double, nine RBIs) and Jared Taylor (5-for-12, five RBIs, two doubles) led the offense.
Charlie Skantze (six innings, 13 strikeouts, one run allowed), Daniel Schroeder (seven innings, four strikeouts, three runs allowed), P.J. Reed (six innings, five strikeouts, one earned run) and Aaron Downard (eight innings, 12 strikeouts, three earned runs) led the pitching staff. They each notched wins.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Dil