Sierra Madre’s 8U Softball All-Stars Take SoCal ASA Community By Storm

Sierra Madre 8U "Golden Lightning" Northern District Champs, photo courtesy SMGSA, click to enlarge

Press Release posted 6/29/13 – Sierra Madre has made a name for itself in the Southern California softball community by its 8 and 9 year old All-Stars. Historically known as a team to beat, Sierra Madre is generally selected by tournament hosts for pool play and expectations are that parents can schedule family vacations by late June. Not this year.

For the first time ever, Sierra Madre’s 8U Gold All-star team, aptly named Gold Lightning due to weather conditions during an early season practice, has taken home championships from two of five softball tournaments in which it competed, while getting to the semi-finals in others. Several weeks ago, Sierra Madre’s Gold Lightning took home impressive first place hardware from the Carlsbad Seabreeze Tournament after winning five games in single elimination. This weekend, Sierra Madre clinched the 2013 Southern California ASA 8U All-star Northern B District Championship and qualified to advance to the Southern California All-star B State Championships July 5-7 in Lancaster.

In the double elimination Districts, Sierra Madre came out quick with a 5-2 win over West Covina Friday Night. Behind eight year old pitcher Tiara Westbrook, their bats were strong with ten hits including the team’s first home run by Izzy Jamgotchian, who still wanted to play while ill. Saturday, they battled both offensively and defensively with a 6-5 win against formidable opponent, Charter Oak, whom they faced twice in Championship play the following day. Moving deeper into the winner’s bracket, Gold Lightning beat Placentia Yorba Linda 2-0 with a strong showing by pitcher Avery Bogue, with 11 K’s and no walks.

On Sunday, the Sierra Madre pack showed up refreshed and undefeated with only the championship game ahead of them. Charter Oaks adrenaline was flowing after already playing two morning games as they faced Sierra Madre a second time. Despite a strong defensive effort with two double plays by Jessica Mysza (unassisted) and Izzy Jamgotchian to Tiara Westbrook, Charter Oak took the game in a 2-0 win, handing Sierra Madre their first loss in the double elimination tournament.

Sierra Madre got one more crack at Charter Oak, having split the wins at that point. Just twenty minutes later, following a quick bathroom break and fueled by Cheetos, Go-Gurts and the hopes of getting more coveted lightning bolt helmet stickers awarded for hits, the final game began for the championship. Charter Oak took a quick lead 2-0 in the top of the first inning. Making some defensive adjustments, Sierra Madre battled back in the second and third innings with Avery Bogue striking out 5 of 6 Charter Oak batters. Sierra Madre closed the gap to 2-1 on a hit by Tiara Westbrook scoring Nikki Garriola in the bottom of the third. Gold Lightning was able to keep Charter Oak off the bases in the fourth and fifth innings behind strong defensive plays by Jessica Mysza, Carly Ruiz, Tiara Westbrook and Avery Bogue.

Time was running out as they headed into the sixth and final inning. Charter Oak got a runner on with an error, but Sierra Madre proceeded to dust the last three batters on a fly out to 3rd baseman, Brianne Kang, a sacrifice bunt fielded by Avery Bogue and the last of ten game strikeouts by ace pitcher Bogue. Sierra Madre had their work cut out for them as they entered the bottom of the sixth, behind 2-1. Leadoff batter, Jessica Mysza, got to first on a “hit by pitch”, then stole second base. This seemed to rattle the Charter Oak crew as Tiara Westbrook reached first base on an error.  Cleanup batter Bogue stepped up with a shot to the outfield that scored Mysza and Westbrook to take the lead 3-2. Megan “Boom Boom” Underbrink, who showcased her strength at the plate during the Carlsbad Tournament, came up last, hitting a hard ground ball down the third base line which was bobbled by the third baseman, scoring Bogue. Time called. Game over. Sierra Madre wins the District Championship 4-2.

The team has a magic number. It’s 13. If they can get on base at least 13 times via hits, walks, errors, hit batters, catcher interference or Act of God, they can generally win. They strive for lucky number 13. While they missed their magic number in this last game, only reaching 12, they outdid their opponent who only got to 6. It’s the sheer will to win and the heart of this team that has turned them into the powerhouse that they are in the six short weeks they’ve been playing together as a team.

Manager Andi Mysza, Jessica’s mom, says “The beauty of this team is that we can count on our entire lineup at the plate. At any point in time, all parts of our batting order come through for us. Whether a perfectly placed bunt by Samantha Moreno or a crushed line drive by Caroline Gamez, Maddie Fraer, or Carly Knoles, the girls feed off each other’s successes. And, defensively, I have absolute confidence in our two first-year pitchers, Bogue and Westbrook, our catchers, Caroline Gamez and Brianne Kang (who all also play infield), infielders Jessica Mysza and Carly Ruiz, and outfielders Nikki Garriola, Megan Underbrink, Carly Knoles, Maddie Fraer, Samantha Moreno and Izzy Jamgotchian who have yet to let a ball get past them all season while making some spectacular catches. As a manager and a parent, I am extremely impressed and proud of these girls and what they have been able to accomplish while still having fun.”

The team is coached by Darnell Westbrook, Candido Gamez, Marty Moreno and Andi Mysza, and assisted by an incredible group of parents who help at their three weekly practices, keep score, photograph games, and plan out its always favorite “snack.” Everyone is involved.

“This team is special. I knew from the start they would be special”, claims Coach Darnell Westbrook, father of Tiara.

“It’s rare to assemble a team with this talent”, notes Mysza. “However, just as they amaze us, we’re continually reminded that they are eight and nine year olds by tying shoes, holding hands, wiping away tears, awarding a player’s doll with her “bolt award” and championship medal. We even have two lucky pennies that were found this weekend, one that Avery now keeps in a velvet jewelry box when it’s not in our pitchers’ back pocket during games. They are larger than life on the field, but off the field, they are kids having fun who still need to be in bed by 8pm.”

About Sierra Madre Girls Softball

Established more than 30 years ago, Sierra Madre Girls Softball Association (SMGSA) has become one of the best girls fast pitch softball leagues in the San Gabriel Valley, with teams competing at the state and regional levels while maintaining the spirit of a recreational league. Our goal is to help our girls build strong fundamental softball skills while having fun.

SMGSA is a member of the Amateur Softball Association (A.S.A.) and follows their rules of play. We accept girls from any local city. Many girls come to us from Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Duarte, Monrovia, Pasadena, San Gabriel, San Marino, and South Pasadena.

SMGSA is a non-profit organization run by an all-volunteer staff. Many of our managers and coaches are ASA certified youth coaches, with coaching experience of 10 to 15 years. Our spring divisions are 6 and under, 8U, 10U, 12U, 14/16U; our fall divisions are 8/10U and 12/14U.

SMGSA introduced the 8U Division in the spring of 1999. Through 15 years of competition, an SMGSA 8U all-star team reached the finals of several tournaments, but had NEVER won one until Carlsbad 2013.

Before 2013, SMGSA 8U All-Star teams have had very limited success. From 2009 through 2012, 8U teams won two games each year, and produced a combined record of 8-52-1.  The 2013 team has already won 17 tournament games to date.

From 1999-2012, SMGSA 8U All-Star teams did not participate in ASA Championship Play five years, including 2012. Five years they were eliminated winless, and three years eliminated with only one win. 

Prior to 2013, the best Sierra Madre 8U performance at District was in 2003, when they finished fourth with a 3-2 record against “C” competition.

The 2013 8U All-Star Team is the first SMGSA team in ANY age division to win a Northern District “B” Championship.