KENNEWICK — The Washington Angels 96 softball team is representing the Evergreen State well at the 14U ASA Nationals in Midland, Texas.
The Angels were the only squad out of four Washington teams to advance to the winners' bracket, finishing No. 1 in their pool and receiving a first-round bye. At 7 a.m. today, they will face the Oklahoma Force 96, which beat the Omaha Quakes Black 3-0 on Wednesday.
The Angels are OK with early wakeup calls, but the scorching temperatures have concerned head coach Robert Benson.
"It's been 106, 107 here," he said. "Playing at 9 a.m. (Central) is a little bit of a blessing."
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Benson said the Angels got into town Friday and had a few practice games, but the heat was affecting some of the players. Staying hydrated has been crucial all week.
"We're going through about 3 1/2 cases a water a game," Benson said. "But as soon as you throw the ice in the cooler, well, it's 106 degrees, so the ice melts."
The tournament field has been just as tough to handle, Benson said.
"There are pitchers here throwing high 50s, low 60s," he said. "That's stuff we rarely see at home."
But the Angels have conquered their competition with the help of several players, including leadoff hitter Hailee Bishop and Jazmynn Jesse (Moses Lake), and Kamiakin teammates Cylie and Carlie Richards, and pitcher Emily Benson.
"(Emily's) been a workhorse," Benson said. "That's how we won state — we rode her all the way to the championship game."
Madison Martinez, a soon-to-be eighth-grader from Othello, is facing high school players but has come up big for the Angels.
"We were down 1-0 (against the Texas Panthers 97 on Monday), and she opened it up with a three-run homer," Benson said.
If the Angels beat Oklahoma this morning, they will play at 7 a.m. Friday. If they lose, they will play at 3 p.m. today in hopes of avoiding elimination.
"Our goal is to get in the top 30," Benson said. "If we can get in the top 30, I'll be a happy camper."