OSKALOOSA— This past weekend the youth in Oskaloosa had great success in baseball and softball.
Three teams from Oskaloosa all won their tournaments with a combined record of 14-2.
The 9U Oskaloosa Lightning played in the Cedar Rapids Prairie Hawks Classic this past weekend and went a perfect 5-0.
This is the second year for the majority of the players playing together. They only have two players on the Lightning that didn’t play last year.
The Lightning started off red hot Saturday beating Cedar Falls 18-2. After beating up on the Tigers they played the Xavier Saint and beat them 15-0.
Coach Josh Ashman was very impressed with how they played Saturday.
“They hit the ball very well and our pitching is outstanding. I think we’ve played 50 innings total this summer and we’ve only walked 13 batters,” he said. “It’s unbelievable for 9U.”
The Lightning strikes again on Sunday beating Cascade in their first game 15-1. After beating Cascade they played a solid ball club, Durant, and beat them 7-6 to earn a spot in the championship game.
In the championship game, it came down to a rematch against the Cedar Falls Tigers as they look to get revenge on the lightning. However, the Lightning had their eyes on a ring and did not let that happen beating them 8-5, winning the championship game.
The Oskaloosa Lightning outscored their opponents 63-14 over the weekend.
Coach Ashman said it’s important to start playing and competing at this age so that the kids can build skill and competition for later in their high school careers.
He also said the season has been treating them very good.
“I think we are 9-2 on the season and the two games we’ve lost was to a really good triple-A team and the other lost was to another solid double-A team and that game was a 3-2 ball game,” he said. “So we’re extremely competitive right now at this age group.”
The 11U Oskaloosa Fire played in the CIS Line Drive Select30 NIT tournament also going a perfect 5-0. On Saturday they played in Des Moine and on Sunday they played in Ankeny.
The Oskaloosa Fire started playing together four years ago at the age of 8.
The Fire got off to a hot start on Saturday in pool play as they beat the Titans from Ottumwa 10-2. Next game they faced, Hitmen Premier from Mailan, Illinois beating them 8-5 to earn them the number two seed on Sunday.
On Sunday morning the Fire faced a familiar team, the Hitmen Premier who was the seven seed. They won that game 12-8 making there way to the semi-finals. In the semis, they faced the Jr. Leafs from Geneseo, Illinois and breezed through them beating them 9-0 earning their spot in the championship game.
In the Championship game, the Fire faced the Urbandale J-Hawks who was the number four seed. The Fire dominated the J-Hawks and earned their championship ring winning the Gold bracket.
Coach Mark Stek was very pleased with the way the team played.
“Pitching was solid with some great defense behind them,” he said. “Had some big hits, laid down some nice bunts, and base running was excellent.”
Coach Stek and the rest of the coaching staff are very passionate about why they think it’s important to be competing and playing at this age.
“First off, we would like to give some credit to a few of the coaches before us who really got this idea going several years back. They created a model of success and it’s fun to carry it on,” he said. “We think it’s important to play and compete at this age because we want to help be a guide to them not only athletically, but as people who will grow up to be part of society. Concepts we feel are important are building a strong team philosophy, teaching fundamentals, being competitive and demonstrating strong character and sportsmanship. We hope to develop these young men so they can eventually be ready to contribute to the success and tradition of Oskaloosa Baseball!”
The Oskaloosa Fire has started out the season on fire. They are 11-1 overall and just found out they have been moved up to Triple-A.
The 14U Oskaloosa Heat played in the Battle of the Burbs Tournament in Altoona at the Sam Wise Youth Complex going 4-2.
The Heat is filled with all Osky girls. These ladies have been playing together for four years now. They have nine players on the team. Two girls are 12 years old and the other seven are 13 years old.
In softball, you can either play in the age groups of 10U, 12U or 14U. There is not an age group every year so the Heat are playing up.
On Saturday it didn’t start off too hot for the Heat as they lose their first two pool play games. The first game they lost to the Diamond Divas 2-8 and then lost to the Boone Blast 0-12.
“The issue with our team has been pitching. We basically have one pitcher that throws hard but struggled to throw strikes and she didn’t throw enough strikes the first two games.”
However, that was the end to the Heat struggle as they won their final pool game on Saturday 14-8.
“The third game she started to throw a lot more strikes and then we were able to make more defensive plays. Defensively we played really well and hit the ball really well all weekend.”
There were five teams in the tournament and they came in as the number four seed on Sunday. The Heat had to get up bright an early Sunday morning to play the number five seed, the East Polk Storm. The bats stayed rolling as they win 11 to 7 to move on to face the number one seed, Boone Blast.
This game was a nail biter. The Oskaloosa heat won this one by seconds. The game was on a time limit and they were down by a couple of runs but managed to get the final out with two seconds left to be able to bat again and give them a chance to make a comeback. That’s exactly what they did. The game ended up going into extras innings doing the international rule. The Oskaloosa Heat came back and beat the number one seed 9-7 earning a spot into the championship game.
The Heat faced the Diamond Divas in the championship game and won this one by a minute. The time limit was down to a minute but the Heat stayed calm and came back to win. These young ladies got their revenge on the Diamond Divas beating them 6-5 to end their traveling season as champions.
Coach Van Veldhuizen said they are playing and competing at this age because,
“All of our girls are from Osky so we’re just trying to teach them the fundamentals and improve their skills to prepare them to play in high school for Coach Harms and our high school team. You know we’re still not there yet but we’re learning and trying to grow them in that way,” he said. “We’re just trying to give them confidence and help them learn how to enjoy the game and just have fun with it, with their friends and classmate but also learn how to get better so if they do want to continue to play there a step ahead of the game.”
The Oskaloosa Heat ended there traveling season champions. This was their last tournament of the year because they are playing middle school ball as well. They had a short travel season with four tournaments schedule but only getting to finish one because of the weather. Two tournaments got entirely canceled and then the one in Osky, they only got to play Sunday only because Saturday got rained out.
“We still felt practice was important so we practiced twice a week since the first part of April.”
Overall Van Veldhuizen felt like the season went well.
“You always want to get better and our goal is to get better and I thought we finished well and got some momentum going into school ball. The girls played a school game yesterday against Colfax and played really well,” he said. “So just excited about the momentum that they are getting and the confidence they are gaining going into that season ready to go.
The Oskaloosa Lightning and the Oskaloosa Fires next tournament is this weekend at Lacey Complex in Oskaloosa. It is the perfect chance to get outside and watch the growing talent coming up for Oskaloosa. The future looks pretty bright for softball and baseball.