Galaxy 12U caps season with Commonwealth gold medal

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It may seem a little odd that the Galaxy 12-and-under fastpitch softball team would drive nearly 250 miles to gain a “home field” advantage.

Given its past success in Salem however, the trip last weekend made perfect sense. The Suffolk-based team outlasted 24 of the state’s top travel teams to win the Coventry Commonwealth Games of Virginia Class A championship.

In fact, for second baseman Ashley Newman and pitchers Brooke Mizelle and Bailey Key, this was their third straight gold medal performance in the event, which serves as Virginia’s State Olympics. For five more players, it was their second Commonwealth Games championship. This state title, however, may have been the sweetest.

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“We were not the favorite coming into the weekend,” Galaxy manager Kendall Edwards said. “Four of the teams we ended up beating were ranked higher than us in the state NSA [National Softball Association] poll. For a relatively young team to win this tournament is quite amazing.”

The Galaxy opened Saturday’s pool play with a 19-0 drubbing of the Buena Vista Blaze. The team exploded for 14 runs in the third inning, highlighted by consecutive triples by Key, Mizelle and catcher Sarah Bowyer. Carson Saunders, Ashley Haydu and Bo Olsavicky each had two hits. Key notched seven strikeouts in three innings for the win.

Saturday’s second game turned out to be a much stiffer test, with the Galaxy drawing the Roanoke Valley Vipers. The Galaxy took a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first on seven straight hits. The Vipers responded with seven runs in the second. The Galaxy regained the lead for good in the third, with seven more runs, thanks in part to run-producing doubles by Megan Duck, Morgan Lowers and Kaylee Edwards. Key came on in relief to quiet the Vipers’ bats and earn the 12-8 win.

Despite turning three double plays, the Galaxy dropped a tough 3-2 decision against Diamond Fever of Bassett in Saturday’s final pool game. While the loss didn’t knock the team out of the A Division, it did mean they would have to win four straight games on Sunday.

Sunday’s first elimination game pitted the Galaxy against the Blue Flames. Once again the team started fast, scoring six runs in the first inning. Mizelle delivered the big blow, clearing the bases with a triple off the rightfield fence. The game was called after four innings with the Galaxy up 11-1. Key fanned seven batters to pick up the victory.

The win set up a showdown against the River City Riot of Chesterfield. The Galaxy scored single runs in the second, third and fifth innings and three in the sixth to win 6-0. Lowers sparked the offense from her leadoff slot with three slap-hit singles and three runs scored. Edwards, Key, Bowyer and Haley Boykin added two hits apiece. Mizelle went all seven innings on the hill, allowing just two hits to earn the win.

The Galaxy’s defense turned it up a notch in the semifinal game, shutting out 3D Softball of Amherst, 4-0. Scoreless after three innings, Key led off the fourth with a walk followed by a triple by Mizelle. Bowyer than laced a single up the middle to give the Galaxy a 2-0 lead. The squad added two more runs in the fifth on sacrifice hits by Duck and Saunders. Key got the victory, holding 3D Softball to one hit and just two baserunners.

After a 10-minute break, the Galaxy lined up on the field to play the Virginia Renegades. The tournament favorite, the team from Botetourt County entered the championship game with a 25-4 record in NSA play.

“From what we heard all weekend, the Renegades were the pride of the Roanoke Valley,” Edwards said. “We’ve played against the biggest and best teams from all over the state this year. But I’ll admit, I was even a little intimidated when they walked onto the field. I’m just glad we were playing softball and not football.”

The Renegades opened the top of the first inning with a single and triple to take a 1-0 lead. Only five more batters would reach base after that. Making spectacular plays left and right and riding the complete-game, seven-strikeout performance of Mizelle, the Galaxy made the most of its seven hits to win 3-1.

“I can’t think of a better way to end the season,” said Edwards, who guided this year’s team to a 33-20 record.

“We just kept getting better and better as the season went on. If there’s ever been a team that deserved to go out a winner, this one was it. It really was a storybook ending.”