Members of 2009 Hart 10U softball team win gold with Team USA
Some of the memories were happy (girls dyeing their hair funky colors for opening ceremonies) and some were sad (girls sick to the point of vomiting near the end of the tournament), but memories of the 2009 Hart 10U national championship team were evoked all the same late last month when three of the team’s alumni reunited on Team USA.
Saugus High graduate Mariah Lopez, West Ranch grad Jessica Harper and Canyon High grad Amanda Doyle traveled with the U.S. for an absolutely dominant showing at the World Baseball Softball Confederation Junior Women’s World Championship in Clearwater, Florida.
The Americans outscored their opponents 99-9 en route to a 9-0 record and a gold medal.
Lopez appeared in three games, tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The Oklahoma rising sophomore struck out 16 and walked none.
Harper, a rising sophomore at Arizona, went 10-for-29 at the plate with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
Doyle, fresh off her first year at Louisiana State University, made the 24-player roster that competed in a series of exhibition games in June and the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City in early July. But she didn’t make the final 17-player roster.
Still, she traveled with the squad to Florida, where the U.S. beat Japan 13-4 in the championship game on July 30.
The Americans, it’s safe to say, weren’t tested as arduously as that Hart 10U Gold team was.
“I remember we were fighters,” Doyle said of ‘09. “A lot of us were sick during the final games in Oregon. Half of us were sick, throwing up and not feeling well. We still fought and won the whole thing.”
All these years later, Harper held on to a less stomach-roiling memory.
“Something like that is fun. There’s nothing bigger at the end of the day,” she said of the lighthearted nature of youth softball. “We dyed our hair crazy colors and put on eye black.”
At the Women’s World Championships, Harper watched in awe as 20-plus countries came together.
“It was cool how all the different cultures and countries came together and bonded over the sport we love,” said Harper, who was coming off a stellar first year at the University of Arizona.
She finished the season fourth in the Pac-12 in slugging percentage (.720) and RBIs (56). She was second in home runs, with 19, and was named a first-team All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
It’d be tough to top Lopez’s experience, though. The freshman was the winning pitcher in the Women’s College World Series clinching game for Oklahoma, played, interestingly enough, at the same stadium in Oklahoma City as the World Cup of Softball in July.
“The (USA Softball) Hall of Fame Stadium has a special place in my heart now,” Lopez said.
It was weird, though, she added, to be back in the state of Oklahoma when she hadn’t planned to return until the start of school.
That’s because, after a two-day tryout earlier in the year, Lopez hadn’t been selected as one of 24 players who would compete for a spot on the Junior Women’s National Team.
In July, though, she was watching her sister play in Colorado when she got a call. There’d been an injury and there was an opening.
Lopez drove overnight back to California, arriving at 4 in the morning, and boarded a plane four hours later.
“It was a quick turnaround,” said Lopez, who join the team for the World Cup and earned a place on the World Championship roster.
How would she sum up a whirlwind first year as a collegian?
“I feel like I’ve kind of had an experience of a little bit of everything,” she said.
The Junior Women’s National Team will next play in the MLB RBI World Series in Cincinnati on Aug. 10.
Mason Nesbitt is The Santa Clarita Valley Signal's Sports Editor.