Hart youth softball team advances to national tournament

Sophia Strum of the William S. Hart 10u Gold fast pitch softball team gets a hit during batting practice at the William S. Hart Baseball Complex on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

The William S. Hart softball 10u Gold Team had played Seaside before, but the stakes certainly weren’t this high. At the Southern California 10u B, State Championship two weeks ago, 10u Gold had to beat Seaside in order to advance to the national tournament.

Seaside had a fast pitcher, but 10u Gold was prepared. In the weeks prior, the coaches had sped up the pitching machines, getting hitters prepared for the velocity they were going to face.

The work paid off, as 10u Gold got 11 hits off of Seaside’s pitcher for a 6-3 win and a spot in the 10u Western Nationals Tournament.

“We played super hard to go to nationals,” said Kona Ramsbottom, who threw six innings, giving up three runs and eight hits with zero walks in the game. “It was actually really fun beating them.”

The Hart team has been playing together since the beginning of May, and even though securing a spot to nationals seemed to happen in an instant, the team and coaching staff put in countless hours of effort to get this far.

“(Manager Mike Dockery) always throws barbecues and get-togethers and gets them going together away from the softball field to get them to start getting along and meeting each other,” said coach Ryan Josett. “And then when they get out here they can act like they actually know each other.”

In addition to team bonding events, the team practices four days a week at the William S. Hart Baseball and Softball Complex and has tournaments on the weekends. Their first big tournament win came on Mother’s Day in Sylmar, a victory that held special significance because of the team’s devotion to “Team Kelly.”

Kelly Josett, wife to Ryan and mother to Riley, died after nearly a four-year battle against breast cancer on September 14, 2018. The team devoted the season to her, wearing “Team Kelly” T-shirts, bracelets and hair bows.

“She would tell Riley just to ‘Have fun, sweetheart’ and then she’d probably tell me take it easy on her. Go have fun,” Josett said of what Kelly’s message to the team would probably be. “She’s been a big part of this season.”

The pitching staff is comprised of Riley, Ramsbottom and Sydney Bolder. The team has capable hitters up and down the batting order, but 9-year-old Olivia Frias, the youngest on the team, is one of the best and has advice for those who want to get better:

“Stay balanced,” she said. “Not lean backwards and just stay balanced.”

Ahead of the national tournament, the coaching staff has been drilling the fundamentals while also keeping a relaxed environment where the players can just have fun.

The players said they are excited for the tournament, but are just as excited about the friendships they made this season.

“They all have great individual personalities and that’s the best thing about it,” said Dockery. “Everyone is unique in their own way. They all have a lot of fun, they have a lot of fun. Lots of pool parties, pizza parties, they go out there, they work hard, but they know how to have fun at the same time.”

The 10u Western Nationals will be held in Moorpark, starting on July 23 with a game at noon at Arroyo Vista Community Park. On Wednesday the team plays at 1 p.m. at Mountain Meadows and on Thursday it plays at 8 a.m. at Arroyo Vista Community Park.

Bracket play starts on Thursday. Game updates can be found by searching “Dockery Hart 10u Gold” on the Game Changer mobile app.

“If we keep going further with this team, we can end up somewhere good,” said Victoria Tejeda. “I’m just so grateful to play softball.”

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