The Lompoc Cruisers 12U squad persevered through a sort of softball school of hard knocks then reaped rich rewards several months later.
The Cruisers went 9-1 to win an age group championship at the National Softball Association (NSA) Pacific Coast World Series that took place July 28-Aug. 1 in Clovis. They went 6-0 to win another age group title, at the Catch the Spirit tourney that was held in Santa Maria Aug. 7-8.
Lompoc Valley resident Lily Drysol, in searing heat, helped the Cruisers bring home the World Series title with her heroics on the mound.
“We won our first two games in that one then lost our first game Saturday and went to the loser’s bracket,” in the double elimination tournament, said Cruisers manager Codie Blea.
“Then we played five more games Saturday, and Lily pitched the whole way in 102-degree weather. We kept an eye on her. She pitched to the defense, and her arm looked really strong.”
Blea said, “The defense was really good. Our catcher, Brynn Reyna, played lights out. She was just a beast behind the plate. She threw out so many runners stealing, and she didn’t let pitches get past her. She caught in every inning except maybe two in the World Series.”
After taking five straight wins in the loser’s bracket that Saturday, the Cruisers bagged two more on Sunday, the last day of the tournament, to take the championship.
Blea said the team started practice in September of 2020 and hoped to play fall ball in Orcutt, but the COVID-19 pandemic scratched that.
“Things in California closed up so, like a lot of other teams, we decided to play tournament ball in Arizona, where (the situation was different).”
In Arizona, the Cruisers, Blea said, saw a lot of quality softball but didn’t win many games. “We took our lumps,” the manager acknowledged. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s just keep playing’”
The Cruisers did, things opened up in California and, in terms of getting W’s, things didn’t go much better for the locals in tournaments in Riverside, Bakersfield and Paso Robles than they had in Arizona.
Then things began looking up. There was a championship and a runner-up finish for the Cruisers in Paso Robles tournaments. Strong showings at Hanford, Tulare and Palmdale followed.
After all that, the Cruisers really delivered the goods, winning at the World Series and Catch the Spirit.
“The team peaked at the right time,” said Blea.
Drysol helped herself out at the World Series, going 15-for-23 at the plate, a .652 average.
Shortstop Kaylee Kopp hit .600. Third baseman Mia Jansen batted .492. Lucy Dessert, in both tournaments, and Lily Pottle at Catch the Spirit, gave the Cruisers some quality relief pitching.
“Lily Drysol pitched 90 percent of the innings,” said Blea. “Lucy and Lily Pottle were able to give her a break.”
Stacia Brunner, a 12U All-American, also gave the Cruisers some clutch play.
“Lucy and Stacia are from Goleta,” said Blea. “All our other players are from the Lompoc Valley.”
Another plus, said Blea, is that the team is young. “We have only two players who were born in 2008,” the manager said. “Everyone else was born in 2009 or 2010.” That means almost everyone is eligible to come back to the Cruisers 12U squad next season.
Team players this season included Drysol, Pottle, Dessert, Kopp, Brunner, Reyna, Jansen, Jayden Viacarra, Brooklyn Hendricks, Kaydence Friedrich, Ava Adams, Selena Gavilanes, Lily Ortega, Marlene Vazquez, Angelica Chavez and Hayden Montgomery.
Coaches were Doug Meeder, Meade Hendricks, George Pottle, Mikey Montrose and John Reyna.