National Champs! Lady Crushers overcome adversity to claim crown

THE LADY CRUSHERS 12U National Champions are: Bottom Row: Avery Hankins, Aubree Jones, Kerrigan Ezell, Emma Foster. Second Row: Shelbie Pruitt, Ava Foster, Tayte Erwin, Mary Catherine Pipes, Karley Curtis, Ellie Kate Ray. Back Row Coaches Tyler Roberts, Chris Pruitt, Tree Erwin, and Curt Curtis. (Submitted photo)

The Louisiana Lady Crushers 12U team are the 2020 Fastpitch American Softball Association (FASA) national champions.

The team, largely made up of Franklin Parish players, traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas to take on 15 other teams for the coveted national championship.

The four-year-old team has seen success the last two years, recording 40 wins in each season. This season the Lady Crushers have won five tournaments, placed second in one tournament and third in two tournaments.

“The dedication has been phenomenal,” said Coach Curt Curtis. “We are building kids here that will not only make a (high school) roster but flourish in that roster.”

Six players are from Franklin Parish, one from Mangham, two from Oak Grove and one from East Ouachita. Curtis commended the squad on their attitude.

“Every girl lifted each other up,” Curtis said. “The girls have always left a great impression during other tournaments.”

The Lady Crushers had a difficult time in pool play, losing two close contests and entered bracket play seeded 13th. But, the seeding did not deter the group as they battled for the remainder of tournament.

The squad faced Beasts in the first round of bracket play and tamed them, 3-1.

Ava Foster took the win for the Crushers inside the circle. She went four and third innings, allowing only one run on two hits and striking out five. Aubree Jones threw two thirds of an inning in relief out of the bullpen.

“Our pitchers pitched lights out the entire tournament,” Curtis said.

Anchoring the defensive infield for the Crushers was Emma Foster who caught the entire tournament.

The game was tied at one with the Crushers batting in the bottom of the fourth when Jones doubled on the first pitch at bat, scoring the go ahead run.

Lady Crushers would go on to face USA Glory. With a strong defense, Lady Crushers blanked the team, 2-0.

The Lady Crushers’ pitchers were deadly against USA Glory. The duo did not allow a hit while Jones ended the game with a strike out.

Ava Foster started the game in the circle. She lasted four and a third innings and struck out five.

Mary Catherine Pipes, Karley Curtis, Emma Foster and Ava Foster each managed one hit to offensively lead the Crushers.

Next opponent was Arkansas SWAT. The Louisiana team beat Arkansas, 3-2.

The Crushers took their game in dramatic walk-off fashion, thanks to an error at game’s end to topple SWAT.

The game was tied at two with the Crushers batting in the bottom of the sixth when an error scored the winning run. The tie was set up in the fifth inning with a sacrifice bunt by Ellie Kate Ray.

Against SWAT, Jones lasted six innings, allowing eight hits and two runs while striking out two and walking none from the circle.

Tayte Erwin and Ray each collected one hit to lead the Crushers offensively.

For seven hours, the players battled on the field until they finally found themselves facing undefeated OK Aces for the national crown.

To bring the championship home, the Lady Crushers had to beat OK Aces twice.

The first matchup, the Lady Crushers beat them 4-2.

The Crushers took the lead late. The game was tied at one with the Louisiana team batting in the top of the fifth when an error scored one run.

Foster toed the rubber for the Crushers, going four innings, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out five and walking one. Foster also had a strong game at the plate batting 2-for-3.

After fighting their way through bracket play, the Lady Crushers found themselves in the last game of the tournament. Whoever won this game would come away as FASA national champions.

The Lady Crushers summoned whatever strength they had left after the marathon-length match ups and again overcame the Aces, 5-3.

Jones got the win for the Crushers. She scattered eight hits and three runs over five innings, striking out three and walking none.

Tayte Erwin led the Crushers with two hits in two at bats.

Curtis called the four-year road to the championship a “learning experience” and gave the Crushers’ fan base a lot of the credit for their success.

“The first year we won four games,” Curtis said. “This was a learning experience, and we stuck with it. The second year we received a few rings, but the third year we started turning it on.”

As far as the fans, Curtis said, ““The stands were full. They really turned the switch for our girls.”

It was a switch that lighted the Louisiana Lady Crushers to a national championship.

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