The bat might be mighty, but the glove is better.
“We had a really good offense, but we played tremendous defense,” said coach Sean O’Keefe of his national-tournament bound Steal Breeze under 14 girls softball team.
The Breeze is headed to the Western National Tournament beginning July 31 in Roseville, Ore.
O’Keefe recalled that it took his team a while to get started this season. Petaluma, a B team, started with two A-class tournaments and had its troubles, playing well on the first day of each, but faltering in bracket play.
“After those two tournaments, we took off,” O’Keefe said. Since the difficult start, Steal has claimed two tournament championships, including their own Father’s Day Tournament, and finished third in the Northern California championship tournament to earn a spot in the Western Nationals.
In one of its best tournaments of the summer, Steal Breeze recently took first place in the Capital City Sports Association Championship in Lake Tahoe. The Breeze swept its way to the title, winning all six of its games.
On championship Sunday, Emily Hart pitched consecutive complete games in the quarter and semifinal games to help lead her team to a trip to the championship game.
In the quarterfinal game in the third inning with the game tied 0-0, Ashley Casper ripped a double down the left field line. Abby Carvajal, who hit a double in her first at-bat, got a key infield hit. The next batter, Abby Delaney, laced a solid single to center field, driving in the first two runs of the game. That timely hit by Delaney ignited the team, and eventually led to a victory. Logan Pomi and Ashley Casper lead the Breeze with hot bats all weekend, both hitting home runs on Saturday. Emma Weiand hit a line drive home run over the left field fence in the semifinal game on Sunday.
Mandy O’Keefe played a phenomenal shortstop the first two games on Sunday, making extremely tough plays deep in the hole look easy at times. Player O’Keefe’s defense was a key component of the Breeze successful Lake Tahoe championship run. She also pitched a complete game in championship final,
The tournament was typical of the way Steal Breeze has been playing going into the Western Nationals.
O”Keefe has been rotating three quality pitchers, his daughter, Mandy, Hart and Casper.
Steal Breeze is blessed with three quality catchers — Emma Weiand, who played varsity baseball for Petaluma High last spring as a freshman; Ava Luis and Logan Pomi.
The infield is solid, anchored by Alyssa Smith at first base. Casper plays second when not on the mound with Emma Hughes stepping in when Casper pitchers. Kaleigh Weiand and Mandy O’Keefe are both excellent shortstop defenders and both can hit. Katrinia Yardley and Abbie Delaney have shared third base duties.
O’Keefe is very proud of the Steal Breeze outfield. “I don’t worry when they (the opposition) hit fly balls,” he said.
Sharing playing time in the outfield are both Emma and Kaleigh Weiand, Kamryn Sobel, Abigail Carvajal and Olivia Badaglia. Helping O’Keefe with the coaching are Corey Weiand, Steve Smith, Eric Luis and Stan Hughes.
The coach said one of the keys to the Breeze’s success has been the team unity. “They are friends off the field as well as on,” he explained. “They want to play for one another and they love the game.”