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Mizuno falls early, wins nine straight games to take 16U PONY National Championship

The Mizuno 16U Showcase team bounced back from an early pool play loss to win the PONY East Zone World Series in Sterling, Virginia on July 25. Contributed photo.
Chuck Righetti’s Mizuno 16U Showcase softball team took the drive down south to Virginia for a national tournament, falling in the very first game of pool play.

His girls had just arrived the night before, and even though they didn’t play up to the level they are capable of playing at, they only lost by one run.

“We lost 5-4. It was early in the morning and we had just got there the night before and overall we didn’t play that well,” said Righetti, who coaches the team with Dave James and Bob Seeger. “They were pretty disappointed because that’s a team we should beat. But we came back and won nine straight.”

The nine straight wins not only included the remaining pool play games, but the entire week, as Righetti’s Mizuno Showcase team swept through the rest of the national tournament to capture the 2014 16U PONY East Zone Softball World Series National Championship, which took place from July 21-25 in Sterling, Virginia.

Mizuno had some pretty decisive victories on the road to the championship game, including two shutouts and a no hitter. But when it came down to the final four, the pressure was on.

“The championship game and the semifinal were very good games,” said Righetti, whose Mizuno team held a 59-6 record after nationals. “One went into extra innings. Two very good teams. But the girls just hung on and played very well.”

It was the finals that went into extra innings, as Amanda Metz (Iroquois) started on the hill and threw seven shutout innings before the game went into extras in a scoreless tie.

Alley Cutting of Grand Island took over on the mound, allowing two runs while driving in two of her own when her two-run home run at the top of the ninth drove in Hayley Kobie (Eden) and gave Mizuno a 3-1 advantage, eventually taking home the championship with a 4-3 triumph.

“You never know, you know,” said Righetti. “You could choke out and lose momentum. I mean, it was 0-0 after seven. Then it was 1-1 after eight and 4-3 after nine.”

At PONYs, the international rule comes into play in the eighth inning. Hamburg’s Maddy Tucker was on when Sara Armstrong (Williamsvillle East) drove her in at the top of eight for Mizuno’s first run.

After Cutting gave Mizuno a two-run advantage in the ninth, Jill Ahrens (Sacred Heart) hit the RBI for the fourth run after Tucker’s single.

Mizuno only held a one-run lead at the bottom of the ninth with two outs remaining, but Righetti’s team was able to buckle down and close out the game.

“They came back and scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth before we shut them down,” said Righetti.

Plenty of highlights came out of the 10 games that Mizuno played at nationals. Metz had a no-hitter in her quarterfinals shutout. Cutting threw a shutout earlier in tournament before hitting a homer in the championship game.

Kobie, along with Olivia Jankowski of Lancaster, also hit their own homers throughout the national tournament.

Righetti’s Mizuno Showcase team is full of some of the best softball players in the WNY area. Haille James (Cleveland Hill), Emily Ast (Lancaster), Chelsea Davis (Lancaster) and Gianna Zarcone (Hutch Tech) all played huge roles in Mizuno’s national championship run, as well as the rest of the summer.

“They practiced and played for nine months for that tournament, so that was their goal: to win nationals,” Righetti noted.

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