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Ceres-based teams qualify for nationals
The Tri County Smash softball organization is sending both of its teams to nationals.

The Smash 14U will participate in the USA/ASA Girls' Class A Fast Pitch National Tournament July 27-Aug. 3 in Midland, Texas.

"This is a huge accomplishment," coach Donnie Donaldson said. "We've gone to western nationals. We've never gone to the big one."

Third-year players Taiylor Sakurada, Ryan Norton, Kaycee Creek-Donaldson, Vicki Ochoa, Jessica Berndt, Alyssa Meshach and Briana Rios will finally get a chance to compete on the grandest of stages. They played for Smash teams that just missed out in 2007 and 2006.

"We've come a long ways," Donnie said.

Tri County advanced this year by taking first at the Greater San Joaquin Softball Association "A" Tournament, held June 21-22 in Stockton.

With the international tiebreaker rule in effect, the Smash edged the Tracy Titans Blue squad 2-0 for the championship. Tri County had to battle back from the loser's bracket.

"The girls were excited and tired," said Donaldson, whose team played four games between 10 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. the final day.

The Smash and Titans battled to a scoreless tie through the first seven innings of play.

In the top of the eighth, Sakurada scored from second when Alicia Paine belted a first-pitch double to left-center field. She moved to third on Kaycee's single and came home on a passed ball.

Tracy threatened in the bottom half of the inning before hitting into a fielder's choice at home and groundout to shortstop to end the game.

"They had the bases loaded with one out, which was pretty scary," Donaldson said.

All but four of Donnie's players will attend Ceres schools next year, including Sakurada, Creek-Donaldson, Norton, Ochoa, Berndt, Meshach, Jessica Ellsworth and Cierra Hammons.

Rios, Paine, Savannah Miller and Amanda Rabith go to Central Catholic, Hilmar, Waterford and Golden Valley, respectively.

The Smash 10U are headed to Las Vegas for the ASA Girls' Class B Fast Pitch Western National Tournament.

"We'll have them prepared to compete," coach Mary Hackbarth said.

Tri County and two other teams that were scheduled to play in a national-qualifier event in Stockton last month received automatic berths instead.

Don Smiley, ASA Junior Olympic Commissioner, notified the Smash on June 16 that the play-in tournament had been canceled.

"The girls were screaming, hooting and hollering when they found out," Hackbarth said. "They were all jazzed."

Tri County's 12-player roster features Lindsey Alexander, Sabrina Baisdon, Jordan Barber, Nicole Bates, Kadie Brenning, Kaytlin Donaldson, Anjelica Gomez, Kindra Hackbarth, Madison Hackbarth, Madison Marsh, Mcenna Rickles and MacKenzie Veuve.