The 8U NBNM Lady Rebels Gold won the annual East Meadow “Summer Sizzle” girls softball tournament on Sunday August 11, 2013, defeating the Levittown Athletic Club’s Force 11-10 in the championship game. It was the second year in a row that the Lady Rebels captured the 8U Summer Sizzle crown. The East Meadow Summer Sizzle has become Long Island’s premier tournament, with 15 teams competing in this year’s 8U division. The 8U division is machine pitched with a 5 pitch per batter rule, and a two base maximum rule that really fosters a competitive, fact paced game.
The Lady Rebels earned the first seed via their regular tournament play, compiling a 5-1 record en route to the playoff rounds that were held over the August 10-11 weekend. Their record earned them a bye in the first round and a spot in the semi-finals. Although the LAC Force had an identical record, the Lady Rebels had beaten them 10-6 earlier in the week to earn the first seed out of the seven teams in the West Division, as well as the home field advantage.
Most Valuable Player awards were given out to a player from each team at each of the regular tournament games. For the Lady Rebels, these outstanding player awards were won by Hailey Guerrero, Konstantina Segalis, Janaye LoForte, Kerri Hatcliffe and Alexa Nilsen.
In the semi-final playoff game, The Lady Rebels “run-ruled” Massapequa 15-2. The victory was especially sweet for the Lady Rebels because they had lost earlier in the tournament to Massapequa, who had defeated the Lady Rebels 15-14 in a tough come-from-behind- victory and ruined their undefeated season. Thus, the Ladies were out for revenge as they took the field before the packed bleachers of anxious parents and family. The Lady Rebels started the game missing their regular first baseman, Kerri Hatcliffe, who was swimming for the Bellmore-Newbridge Dolphins across the turnpike at the Nassau Aquatic Center. Breathless, with her hair still wet from her first place finish in backstroke, Kerri arrived at the field to join the game in the bottom of the first to find that her teammates had already jumped out to a 5-1 lead.
The Lady Rebels were nearly flawless with their hitting and fielding in the semi-final match against Massapequa, pounding hits and scoring the maximum-allowed five runs in every inning. Kylie Persampire threw two runners out from the outfield, effectively stopping Massapequa’s only offensive threat of the day. Hailey Guerrero was particularly outstanding in her defensive plays, at one point pirouetting around the pitching machine before gunning the runner out at first to the ever-stretching Kerri Hatcliffe. Frustrated Massapequa parents dubbed Guererro “the vacuum” as they watched her suck up ground ball after ground ball for out after out. Adding to the game’s drama was the fact that two cousins, Hailey Stork of the Lady Rebels, and Mary Stork of the Massapequa were competing against each other in the game, forcing their conflicted grandparents to run back and forth between the stands. Although Massapequa’s Mary Stork had a great game, this time it was the Bellmore Storks who won the bragging rights with the 15-2 trouncing.
During the break between their semi-final victory and their championship game, the Lady Rebels wandered across the complex to cheer on their sister team, the Lady Rebels Blue, who were taking on the Merrick Surge in their own semi-final playoff in the East Division. Donning wristbands marked in solidarity to honor a teammate whose brother had suffered critical injuries earlier in the week, the Lady Rebels Blue did their best to defeat the Merrick Surge. However, the Merrick Surge was too tough an opponent. The Merrick Surge went undefeated in the 8U East Division and went on to the championship game, where they defeated the Seaford Lady Vikings for their own Summer Sizzle Championship victory.
Meanwhile, at 11 am, the Lady Rebels took the field for the championship for the West Division in a rematch of the Future’s tournament final against the LAC Force. The LAC Force had noticeably improved every time the two teams met this summer, and the Lady Rebels knew they would have to be at their best to win the championship game against the hard hitting Force girls.
It was a classic rubber band match the entire game, as both teams watched their lead come and go three times.
The LAC Force struck first with a run in the first, but the Lady Rebels came back with two of their own in second with Lexi Nilsen collecting two RBIs with a base clearing single.
Errors marred the third inning for the Lady Rebels, and it cost them dearly. The LAC Force scored the maximum 5 runs to take a 6-2 lead. The Lady Rebels were stunned, but not down. They continued to chip away at the score, getting two runs in the bottom of the third inning and five more in the fourth thanks to big hits from Gia Miccio, Konstantina Segalis, Alanna Morse and Janaye LoForte.
The LAC Force threatened again in the fourth inning, but the Lady Rebels escaped a bases loaded jam when their shortstop Kayla Weber came up with a huge defensive play, making a seemingly impossible over-the-head-back-handed grab of a line drive that appeared destined for the outfield; a play that likely saved two crucial runs and ended the inning.
Nerves seemed to get the best of the Lady Rebels again in the fifth inning, as they gave LAC back the lead with their fielding errors. However, though the Force scored four runs to take a 10-9 lead, the Lady Rebels managed to tie it up in the bottom of the inning with a clutch two out RBI from their youngest player, Lily Yepez.
The score was tied 10-10 in the sixth and final inning, as the Lady Rebels nervously took the field following one of their famous dugout chants. In the modified 8U rules, a team may score an unlimited number of runs in the 6th inning rather than the maximum of 5, so defense was of the utmost importance. The LAC Force had been pounding big hits all day, and it looked dire when their first two batters reached base. But again, the Lady Rebels came up with big defensive plays from Hatcliffe, Guererro and Weber. Although the Force threatened, the Lady Rebels somehow held them scoreless to keep the game tied.
Kylie Persampire shrugged off the pressure and led off the bottom of the sixth with a hard hit single to left field to get things started, and the Lady Rebels could feel victory within their reach. After Konstantina Segalis fouled out, Hailey Stork nervously approached the plate with instructions from her coach Jared Hatcliffe to try to hit it toward third. Following his instructions to tee, Hailey scorched a double that bounced right off third base and ricocheted into left field for a double. With one out and runners on second and third, Julianna Brocks ripped a liner up the middle that brought the crowd to their feet, but it was right at the LAC pitcher who snagged it for the second out. It was then up to lead-off hitter Gia Miccio, who had already collected 2 hits in the game. With her father, third base coach Sal Miccio anxiously cheering her on, Miccio smacked the first pitch toward third with Persampire sprinting for home at the crack of the bat. The LAC third baseman bobbled it for a second and when the dust had cleared, everyone was safe and Persampire had crossed the plate with the winning run. The rest of the Lady Rebels poured out of the dugout to the field to congratulate the three hitters for their clutch, game winning offense. It was truly a team effort as the Lady Rebels defeated the LAC Force with a final score of 11-10.
At the awards ceremony following the game, both the LAC Force coach and the tournament director Mike Inger congratulated the Lady Rebels not only for their outstanding play, but also for their exemplary behavior and sportsmanship throughout the tournament.