LAKEWOOD RANCH — Myah Moy stood shoulder to shoulder with her Tampa Mustangs 14U fast-pitch softball teammates and looked onto the field in anticipation.
With the national anthem reverberating throughout the stadium, the second baseman held up five fingers behind her back — a silent signal to her teammates and their fans.
Each finger represented one game the Mustangs still needed to win if they were going to capture the ASA 14U National Championship, which took place July 27 through Aug. 4, in Normal, Ill.
With each game the Mustangs won, the players lowered a finger until only one remained poised behind their backs.
The Mustangs, which were one of 124 teams competing in the tournament, went 6-1 after drawing a first-round bye to advance to the championship game.
“The teams that lost were cheering for us,” Moy says. “It pumped us up, because people believed we could win and that we were a good team.”
Teammate Logan Newton agrees.
“It gave us the drive to win so much more,” Newton says. “It made us believe the national championship was ours to win.”
Making their first national championship appearance, the Mustangs battled for seven innings before eventually falling 5-4 to Texas Impact Gold.
“Even though we fell short of our goal, second place is still really good,” Moy says. “For us to finish second out of 124 teams is pretty impressive.”
The Mustangs finished as the national runner-up and became the first Florida team to reach the championship game.
“It was special knowing we were doing it with our family,” Newton says. “We’ve been playing together for seven years, so it was nice to be able to share it with all of our sisters.”
However, the Mustangs, who qualified for the national championships last fall, faced their first test before the tournament even began when the players found out the day before they were scheduled to leave that their hotel reservations had been canceled.
After some scrambling and good fortune, the players secured a block of rooms a few minutes from the ballpark.
The Mustangs opened the tournament with a narrow 1-0 victory in pool play. After their second pool-play game was rained out, the No. 1 seeded Mustangs drew a first-round bye.
The bye proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Mustangs, who spent the day playing a scrimmage game at the University of Illinois.
“We just blocked out everything that wasn’t softball,” Kaylee Misiti says.
The Mustangs went on to win their next four games before suffering their first loss Aug. 3. The team bounced back the following day, posting three straight victories, including a pair of shutouts, to advance to the championship game.
Kasi Shaffer powered the Mustangs at the plate, batting .544 with 14 RBIs, eight doubles and a home run. Bethaney Keen batted .450 with six doubles and a home run.
Pitcher Sylvia Walsh went 6-0 with a .71 ERA, 30 scoreless innings and three shutouts. Newton tossed a pair of shutouts.
As the national runner-up, the Mustangs automatically qualified for next year’s national championships in Salem, Va., where they’ll compete in the 16U division.
“It’s a huge relief, and now we know we can win,” Newton says of automatically qualifying. “This opens up what we can do now.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
BY THE NUMBERS
5 — The number of shutouts pitchers Sylvia Walsh and Logan Newton combined for throughout the tournament.
124 — The number of teams that qualified for the ASA 14U National Championship.
7 — The number of years the majority of the Tampa Mustangs, formerly the Suncoast Storm, has been playing together as a team.
15 — The number of players on the Tampa Mustangs 14U roster.