The 16U Black Widows 2000 select softball team ended its season in the best possible way after capping off a heavy workload of 11 games by being crowned the champions of the USA Fast Pitch Girls’ A 16-Under Northern Nationals Sunday in Rochester, Minnesota.
The Black Widows went 9-2 in the tournament, including toppling the Minnesota Xtreme Elite twice in the championship round since the Minnesota Xtreme Elite entered the finals unbeaten in the tournament.
The 16U Black Widows squad finished the season with an outstanding 41-10 overall record and featured three incoming seniors from the Highland High School softball team: Kirsten Plocher, Sidney Harnetiaux and Kourtney Zobrist.
Plocher pitched for the Black Widows, Harnetiaux served as catcher, and Zobrist played second base.
Finishing as the northern national champions was even more special for Plocher, because it was her final time playing select softball. She has decided not to play select ball next year, because she said she will need time to relax and enjoy being home before going off to college, where she will not play ball so she can focus primarily on her studies. Plocher plans to become a nurse anesthetist, and she is still deciding on which college to pursue her career path.
“It has been such a blessing and an honor to experience this with the best team I could ever ask for,” Plocher said. “It honestly means the world to me, because I will not be playing select softball next year, so it was amazing to go out the way I did. I promised the girls I would still be out to watch or to sub in occasionally.”
Plocher said she thought the members on the team played together the best that they ever had, and that’s what was needed to win this championship.
“Everyone contributed and everyone picked each other up,” she said. “No one was the obvious MVP, which is my favorite kind of win, because it was such a team effort that everyone is able to feel the pride. This was definitely the highlight of our season in my eyes, and it was a good reward for all the hard work put in by every single girl on this team. I’m so proud of all the girls and wish them the best next season.”
In pool play, the Black Widows defeated the South Dakota Gold 3-1 before going on to lose to the Michigan Sabercats 3-2.
The Black Widows then entered bracket play as a No. 2 seed and bounced back from the defeat to win three games in a row, 6-0 over the Wisconsin Wildfire, 4-1 over the Kansas City Infinity, and 9-1 over the Michigan Elite.
Then after falling 2-0 to the Minnesota Xtreme Elite to fall into the losers bracket, the Black Widows were forced to reel off five consecutive victories ijn order to bring home the championship trophy of the USA Northern Nationals.
The Black Widows beat the Wisconsin Fusion 8-5, then took down the Michigan Sabercats 8-1 before knocking off the St. Croix Surge 5-1 to reach the championship round.
In the finals, the Black Widows had to best the Minnesota Xtreme Elite twice, and did so by scores of 5-1 and 5-3.
“This tournament was definitely something we will all remember forever; it was amazing,” Harnetiaux said. “We never gave up even when the odds were against us, and it really paid off. I think this tournament was so special because everyone contributed something every game to come out with the win. Through all 11 games, there was no definite MVP or person that carried the team, and it gave us an awesome team atmosphere to play in.
“We couldn’t have asked to end the season better, as it was definitely the most memorable thing about it. Hard work pays off and we definitely got the most out of our last summer outing together.”
Zobrist said the team members have always played well together and bonded as a cohesive group.
“If someone is getting down on themselves, there is always someone there to pick them up,” Zobrist said. “The dugout throughout the tournament was upbeat. Everyone was yelling and cheering. This was definitely the highlight of the season for me. We all work so hard on our game and it’s not always fun and sometimes we have to be pushed, but it is definitely worth it for moments like this. This is something I won’t ever forget.”