In as little as one season, a team can overcome obstacles that shadowed it in the past.
That’s what happened when the Heat — a member of the Puyallup Parks and Recreation’s 12U fastpitch league — did when they won the local tournament with a 12-5 victory over the Krushers.
“It felt really good to win because last year we didn’t play like we could,” said Megan Whaley, a seventh-grader at Kalles Junior High.
But that’s the difference a year can make. Last year, the Heat were packing up early, not progressing all that far in the tournament. This year, they found a way to come together and reach the top.
The difference between the two seasons? A little team bonding at the coach’s house.
“We had the team bond together, (and) that helped them come together as a team,” co-coach Dayna Hersey said. “It helped them understand each other more.”
“(After that) they were able to win 11 games in a row, and just had fun,” co-coach Alyse Russell added.
That bonding time gave the Heat momentum that the other fastpitch teams couldn’t overcome. Not even in the semifinals, when the Heat trailed 9-5 with one out left in their season.
That’s when the Heat made a momentous rally. Hailey “Hey Hey” Smith tied the game with a single, leaving Olivia Wood in the spot every athlete dreams about, but so few get the chance to take.
With one pitch, Wood roped a game-winning single past third, pushing the Heat into the championship game.
“Once I saw the ball go past third, I just started crying,” said Wood, a future seventh-grader at Aylen Junior High. “I was just so excited to help my team win.”
That single sent the Heat into a frenzy, but calmer heads prevailed as there was the championship still left to play.
“I was happy, but I didn’t celebrate like them,” said pitcher Lauren Russell, an eighth-grader at Cascade Christian. “We still had another game left.”
Lauren, the coach’s daughter, holds a pitchers mentality that it’s not over until the final out is made. With the championship still left to play, there wasn’t time to focus on one comeback. The comeback only mattered if the Heat finished the overall mission.
“We felt comfortable with each other and understood (one another) better on the field and off it,” said Whaley about how the bonding session led the Heat to the championship.
The team bonding led the Heat to their dominant championship victory against the Krushers, proving that all the work this past season was worth it.
“The girls that want to play should come out,” Wood said. “It’s a lot of fun and you get to make friends while doing it.”