By Ray Hamill — A never-say-die attitude is paying off for one local softball team, which is getting ready to compete on the biggest stage of all.
The Mad River MIST 14U girls have qualified for the Alliance Fastpitch national 14U tournament, which will be held in Tennessee in late July, fulfilling a goal the team set when the players opted to begin competing year-round last summer.
Strong showings at the 14 tournaments they have traveled to since then, including five this year alone, has given the team enough qualification points for the prestigious summer tournament.
And the players have exceeded expectations, with a core group that has been together for a few years joined by several players who stepped up from a MIST practice squad to fill out the roster last summer.
“We didn’t know if we were good enough to play year-round travel ball, and then we went out and won four of six tournaments (in 2021),” head coach Joe Brown said. “It’s been a great run. The girls are advancing and playing at a very high level of competition, and it’s so good to watch.”
The MIST are currently ranked 114th out of 298 14U Alliance teams in the nation.
And the head coach knows his team will be challenged at the national tournament, but the players are eager to show what they can do.
“It’ll be tough competition,” Brown said. “But we’re looking forward to the opportunity to represent our area.”
The team, which is made of players from throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties, joined the NorthWest Fastpitch League last summer, specifically so they could accumulate enough points to qualify for the national tournament.
It’s a decision that has paid off for these girls, who will become the first MIST team to ever make it to the national tournament.
But that won’t surprise anyone who has watched this determined group play.
“They don’t ever quit,” the head coach said. “This team just keeps coming. Every challenge they meet head on, and they’re just gritty. They keep grinding and pressing and they don’t quit.”
They’re also young.
Very young by 14U standards, with an 11-year-old, six 12-year-olds and only one 14-year-old.
And, like many local travel teams in various sports, they’re dedicated, having to travel at least four or five hours just to compete.
This year alone, the MIST 14Us have traveled to Nevada, Oregon, Redding and Sacramento for tournaments.
According to the coach, the team has succeeded with great pitching and defense, and the team offense has been clutch at the plate when needed.
“We have great pitching and great defense and timely hitting,” Brown said. “We don’t score a lot of runs, but we have great defense and our pitching has been phenomenal.”
The pitching trio of Kennah Sargent, Isabelle Sanchez and Bailey Brown — described by the coach as a “three-headed monster” — has attracted the attention and admiration of opposing coaches.
The roster also includes Kenzie Coleman, Taylor Wade, Olivia Hayes, Lillian Wilson, Leila Coleman, Natasha DeNicholas, Jessica Kaber, Allison Mitchell, Sephora Machado, Callynn McCullough, Evalynn Little and Jaylynn Jacobs.
The tournament will take place from July 25-31.
The team is looking for local businesses or supporters to help fundraise for the trip and has set up a GoFundMe page .