WESTMINSTER, Colo. – They say history repeats itself. For U16 Polynesia, history repeating itself could not have been any sweeter. For the second year in a row, Polynesia won the Triple Crown International Challenge on a walk-off home run.
“I am speechless,” said Polynesia Head Coach Glenelle Nitta. “Even though these kids just met each other for the first time for a lot of them, they had each other’s back and they supported each other. Even when our backs were against the wall, they never gave up or backed down. Shout out to the kids; they did awesome.”
The drumbeats and singing from the Polynesia side reached a crescendo as Kezia Lucas connected on a pitch inside and blasted it over the left field wall in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring three runs and knocking off Team USA, which hadn’t trailed in the game, 5-4.
“In Hawaiian culture it’s ‘Ohana, and in Samoan culture it is Aiga, which is family,” said Lucas. “Everybody that is here coming out to support us is all family. We all stick together through everything. It showed on the field. I had all the girls behind my back, and I knew that we could do this.”
All tournament, Polynesia looked like a team capable of repeating as champs. The team finished pool play unscathed and entered the championship game averaging over eight runs a game and enjoyed two commanding victories in bracket play over Greece and Canada to reach the title game in front of a passionate and spirited fan base.
“This is probably, hands down, one of the most fun tournaments I think that softball has to offer,” said Nitta. “It’s such a good time. Softball brings people together from all places and corners of the world. No matter where you come from, you can represent something bigger than yourself, and that’s what this tournament is all about.
In the championship game, however, Polynesia found itself facing adversity. Team USA took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI single from Zoey Abdullah. They extended their lead on a sacrifice fly in the top of the third inning after successfully putting down two bunts in the inning, putting their small ball on full display at the most crucial time of the tournament.
While USA was finding ways to manufacture runs with their small ball approach, Polynesia couldn’t sustain anything offensively. That is, until Makayla Pagampao sparked Team Polynesia with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game.
The game remained tied heading into the seventh inning, but once again Team USA put the pressure on Team Polynesia with its small ball. With two girls on, Anabela Abdullah laid down a bunt single, which scored a run on a throwing error. Kaylee Riles laced a line drive up the middle to score another run and give Team USA a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the frame.
Team Polynesia, with its backs against the wall, remained as steadfast and composed as ever. Polynesia got the first two hitters on base, which brought up Lucas. The rest, as they say, is history.