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Local Lady Sharks bite into national softball tournament
Their team may have won just one game at nationals, but it was a victory that will stick with locals Isabella “Izzy” Riddle and Tegan McDonald for quite some time.
“Izzy had the biggest play of the game,” said Kenmore’s McDonald of her Bothell teammate on the Northwest Lady Sharks 12U fastpitch softball team’s performance last week at the Amateur Softball Association (USA/ASA) Championships in Bloomington, Ind.
More like plays. First, Riddle smacked a two-run triple to tie the game at 3-3, then she stole home for the winning run against the Carolina Crush.
“It was nice, and it made me feel good to help my team,” said Riddle, 13. “We have a really good group of girls, we’re all pretty close and we play well together — no matter if we won or lost.”
Added McDonald, 12, about the experience: “It was pretty amazing, there’s not a lot of opportunities like it. If you start playing at a young age, it prepares you for when you’re 18 and in college — you get to see what softball is all about.”
The Lady Sharks, who were coming off a 14U National Softball Association “Fun in the Sun” championship in Tacoma, went 1-4 at nationals to finish their season.
McDonald, who pitched, played first base and contributed on offense, noted that the Lady Sharks didn’t have nationals on their minds when they rolled through the season. It was McDonald’s first year with the team and she learned a lot playing with the talented crew.
“We prepared ourselves well,” she said. “We played in 100-degree weather, with humidity beyond compare. But it’s not the outcome of the game, but how you play and the dedication you have.”
Tegan’s dad, Scott, said the Lady Sharks battled the heat for three straight days, including one day of back-to-back games. Umpires had a tough time, as well, including one that was driven away in an ambulance and another that was moved into a cooler area.
Riddle, a catcher, said the players tried to drink lots of water and turned up the encouragement level to help everyone through the games.
“We have to keep up the energy — if we got down, we were all upbeat, all happy,” said the third-year Lady Shark. “It was tough up at bat with no water, but you just have to fight through it in that type of situation.
“The key is to be confident in what your team can do — get that spark, keep it up — and we did it.”
For both local girls, this year’s Lady Sharks season was one of many memorable years playing their favorite sport. Riddle has played since 6 years old and McDonald can’t remember an exact age — she just knows she’s hooked on it.
“I don’t think I went a year without wanting to play. Softball is the kind of game ... If you love the game, you can’t get over it,” McDonald said. “It bugs me that I don’t have practice next Tuesday. I have a makeshift batting cage on the side of my house, of course, I’ll use that ... go to pitching lessons, throw the ball with my friends in the street.”
It’s a fun game, the girls say, but there are also challenges, whether it be playing in extreme heat, against older teams like in the 14U tourney or facing powerful 12U pitchers in last week’s nationals.
They focus on each game and each play as the ball comes their way.
“I’m the hardest person on myself, I’ll tell my conscience that I should have done better,” McDonald said. “It’s good to analyze how you do, how you perform. If I make a mistake, I try my best to make it up to the team.”