Coming off a fifth-place finish over the weekend in their 52-team 14-and-under age group division at the National Softball Association (NSA) World Series held in Modesto, Calif., the Nevada Comets are now preparing to travel halfway across the country to play on an even larger stage.
Next up for the Comets 84-team bracket awaits them for the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) National Championships, which get under way Monday and continues through Aug. 5 in Broken Arrow, Okla.
This tournament is special for the Comets, whose roster is comprised of players from the Carson City, Carson Valley and Reno area.
"This is kind of the granddaddy of them all," Comets coach Jim Puzey said. "It's my understanding that we're only the second 14-and-under team from Nevada to qualify for this tournament, so it's an honor just to be there."
The Comets, who have compiled 53-7-2 record so far this season, aren't making the trip to Oklahoma for sightseeing purposes. For example, Puzey pointed out the Comets have already faced seven qualifiers for the ASA national event - and have beaten six of those teams.
"If we play well and get a fairly good draw, we could make some noise," coach Puzey said. "We could be around for a while. And if we could end up as one of the top 20 teams in the nation, that would be absolutely incredible."
The Comets won three of five games to finish fifth at the NSA World Series over the weekend.
They started with a 9-0 victory against Northern Cal Thunder behind the combined one-hit pitching of Brittany Puzey and Kayla Dunn. Puzey struck out nine, walked one and allowed no hits over four innings, plus she hit 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. Andrea Lazzari hit 2-for-3 and Kaycee Wilcks 2-for-2.
Next, the Comets beat California Chaos (Fullerton, Calif.) 8-7 in an eight-inning battle that went to the International tie-breaker.
Calli Fisher's two-run double down the right field line in the top of the eighth put the Comets on top and Dunn worked out of a jam in the bottom half of the inning to preserve the win. Dunn, who allowed just three hits over 5.1 innings, got the final out with the potential tying run on second base.
Puzey hit 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning that gave the Comets a 4-2 lead.
Dunn pitched six innings of one-hit ball and Shawna Vandeburgt finished up the seventh as the Comets defeated the Delta Diamonds, 6-2. Dunn doubled two runs home to spark a three-run fifth inning rally that gave the Comets a 5-1 lead.
That put the Comets into the winners bracket finals, where they played against a familiar nemesis - Katie Cotta of the San Jose Extreme. Cotta pitched a four-hitter and struck out eight as the Extreme won the game, 6-0.
"This is the third time we've faced her and we've yet to score a run," coach Puzey Puzey said. "The last time we played, she struck out 16 in the finals of a 16-and-under tournament up at Tahoe."
This time, Puzey and Fisher combined to pitch seven-hit ball for the Comets, but they were hindered by seven errors that led to six unearned runs.
The Comets were eliminated from the tournament with a 4-3 loss to the Sacramento Sting, who scored their winning run on an error in the sixth inning. The Comets gave up five errors which led to four runs, according to coach Puzey.
Now the Comets are looking forward to the ASA tournament.
"All the work that's gone into this summer, this is kind of the reward, we get to go to nationals," coach Puzey said. "Regardless of what happens, this will be a great way to cap off the summer."