The Arizona Storm ’05 team wasn’t given much chance to make it to the PGF 14U Premier National Championship game—after all, they were only a first-year team at that level—but make it they did in a unique way.
The team is comprised exclusively of players from Arizona, all but a handful being within a 45-minute drive of the team’s headquarters in Chandler.
No wonder Head Coach Steve Appel calls his team a “gloried local all-star team!”
But don’t let that fact that the now second-year 14U squad is all home-grown fool you; this group is very talented and most will be playing at the collegiate level down the road.
We caught up with Coach Appel this week as he was on the road in Illinois attending a wedding to learn more about his Storm team which came oh-so-close to knocking off the favored TN Mojo-Fisher team in the finals.
The Storm can take solace in the fact the future is very bright with all but one player coming back…
Looking back on the summer, what do you think helped you peak at the right time?
What flashes into my mind is the number of difficult situations we found ourselves in, a lot of close games, one-run innings, games where we were needing a big hit late to win it. What struck me is we often we put our team in uncomfortable situations, playing at 18U and traveling out of state, but the end result was we became comfortable in those uncomfortable situations. And that helped us go on a run at PGF.
Is there one memory that stands out over all the others?
It’d have to be the end of the of Central Cal Dirtdogs-Pickering game, when Kate Vance got the clutch walk-off hit. To see the players and coaches running around the field and jumping up and down, all the tears and the text messages… it epitomized the whole experience. We didn’t get much sleep after that game as the parents and coaches reminisced all night and it’s something we’ll remember forever.
Here’s Extra Inning Softball video of the walk-off hit that put the Storm in the PGF National Championship! Click HERE
Was there a moment when you thought, “We can do this, we can go all the way”?
We turned a double play in ITB on Friday night against the Beverly Bandits in the fourth bracket game. We had beaten the Texas bombers 1-0 after scoring late in the game, in the 6th inning, and came out seven hours later to beat the Bandits which put us into Saturday’s games against Batbusters-Flores and then Dirtdogs-Pickering and then to the championship game. But when we made that play against the Bandits we came up with the motto, “Why the he(ck) not?” From that moment on, before every game, we sent out a group text saying, “Let’s go out and win.”
After you lost to the Mojo, what was your feeling… disappointed? Exhilarated?
The reaction was mixed. There were a lot of tears, a lot of disappointment knowing we were so close—we had the score 2-2 with the bases loaded in the 5th and were in a great position but we didn’t get the runs. Mojo did what championship teams do, they got two runs to lock down the championship. But there was also a lot of pride knowing how magical the run was. As a coaching staff everyone drove back—it was a 5 ½ hour drive back to Arizona from California—and at 2:30 in the morning we had a group text among the coaches talking about how close we were! But it was definitely mixed—we were proud but had the sadness knowing we couldn’t close the deal.
Since that big week earlier this month, have there been any team changes, either additions or subtractions, to this past year’s squad?