HUNTINGTON BEACH — The Central California Dirtdogs 18-and-under Gold team placed third out of 90 teams at the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships in Huntington Beach on July 26.
The Dirtdogs placed third place after an 8-6 loss to Select Fastpitch-Kansas. It was the Dirtdogs' second loss, which eliminated them from the double-elimination tournament. The Dirtdogs' two losses were to both teams that played in the championship game.
It was the second-straight year that the girls took third place in the national tournament.
“We were proud of the way the girls played,” Dirtdogs coach Scott Gorton said. “A lot of our girls are graduating this year and they went out in a good way. We’re pretty happy for them.”
The Dirtdogs 18U squad also included former Hanford High standout Allison Heffley, who will be attending Harvard university, Josie Simas from Hanford West, who is attending Northwest Nazarene University and Lemoore's Susannah Campos. The Dirtdogs 18U squad also included players from Selma, Kingsburg, Fowler, Buchanan and Redwood High School.
The Dirtdogs started the tournament in the platinum championship B bracket with four straight wins by outscoring its opponents 18-2. After a first-round bye, the girls defeated Mountain West Fastpitch-Utah 3-0, followed by a 6-2 victory over the Las Vegas Rage, then a 3-0 win over the Lady Shark Barrera-San Jose. They also defeated All-American Sports Academy (AASA) Macias 6-0.
In the quarterfinals, the Dirtdogs suffered their first loss of the tournament losing 2-0 to Iowa Premier, who eventually were the national champions.
The Dirtdogs played its first and only consolation game in the B bracket against the AASA, but it took clutch hitting to stay alive in the tournament. Hanford's Allison Heffley tied the game 3-3 with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Kingsburg's Carla Duarte knocked in the game-winning run on single in the seventh inning for a 4-3 win.
The Dirtdogs then fell to Select Fastpitch to end its run.
For this current Dirtdogs team, it was the last tournament that this group of girls will play together, as the majority of the players will move on to college and the rest will enter their senior year of high school.
Gorton said this team was a “close-knit group.”
“A lot of these girls have played together since they were probably 9 or 10 years old,” Gorton said. “For them to come together in their last go around in travel ball and do as well as they did was pretty neat for them and for us coaches as well.”
Gorton has coached the majority of the players since they were in eighth grade. Gorton is also the head coach of the softball program at Central High School. Assistant coach (and former Hanford West head coach) Russ Heffley has coached most of this Dirtdogs team since they were around 9 to 10-years-old.
“We’ve been with them a long time, so it’s going to be hard. We’re going to miss them,” Gorton said. “They’ve been loyal and they’ve been very good players for us for a long time. It’s going to be hard to replace them.”