The Hamilton Girls Softball Association 14U Hurricanes played in the United States Specialty Sports Association’s World Series in late July, but perhaps the best indicator of how good the team is came when it qualified for a World Series it didn’t even play in.
That occurred in late June, when the Hurricanes went to Lake George, New York, for what manager John Comfort termed “a fun trip.”
During the venture, there would also be a qualifying tournament for the American Softball Association World Series. By then it was a moot point, because the Canes had already committed to the USSSA Series in Maryland.
Thus, not taking it all that serious, the team went to an Extreme Action Park the day before the qualifying tournament.
“They were out there running around, hanging from the trees for six hours,” Comfort said. “They’re swinging like Tarzan, holding on for dear life. They get done, and there are blisters all over their hands.
“The coaches are sitting there and we’re saying, ‘How are they even going to throw the ball in this tournament?’ We already didn’t think we were going to win this one, and we had booked everything and geared our season toward the World Series in Maryland.”
So what happens? Hamilton took the Adirondack Mountains by storm, going 5-1 and winning the Classie Lassies National Qualifier behind an incredible pitching performance from Morgan Comfort. The manager’s daughter went 4-1 with 49 strikeouts, and won the championship game.
“That one was a bonus,” John Comfort said.
Her teammates fell right in line, as blisters and weariness from all their fun didn’t seem to matter.
“It was a good learning experience, it taught them about becoming a team,” John Comfort said. “You hear about sports teams who stand in the woods and someone falls backwards to see if a teammate will catch them. These girls had to work together to get through a lot of obstacles in that tournament, and they did. It was pretty cool.”
It has been an outstanding season for the 14Us, which was the second team to reach a USSSA World Series. The 16U team also qualified, going 3-3-1 in their appearance in July.
It is the second straight Series appearance for the 14U team, with half the girls from that squad back. They Hurricanes qualified by going 5-0 and winning Medford’s May Madness Tournament.
“It’s all about intangibles with this team,” Comfort said. “It’s not what’s on paper, it’s the heart. They’ll be down, but they’ll come back up.”
The manager brought up a recent USSSA Tournament in which circumstances led the 14Us to play the HGSA 16Us in a second-round game. The younger teens trailed 3-0 in the seventh inning before scoring seven runs to win the game.
“That kind of sums them up,” Comfort said. “One kid gets them going, the next kid picks it up and it just goes from there.”
Leading the way have been Morgan Comfort, Kasey Giordano and Taylor Hawkes, who all played on last year’s team that finished 13th out of 60 teams in the World Series. Morgan Comfort was on the Steinert High varsity softball team as a freshman last spring and Giordano played JV for the Spartans.
“These three have provided veteran leadership and, along with Julia Martine, have been the driving force behind this year’s team,” Comfort said. “Morgan is our leadoff hitter and gets the offense going, Hawkes and Martine supply the power and run production.
“Kasey is our clutch Miss Everything. If anyone is left on base after Hawkes and Martine bat, she is sure to drive them home. Kasey will do anything defensively. She is our second pitcher, catches and plays the corners in the infield.”
The bulk of the pitching has been done by Morgan Comfort, who was 27-6 with 324 strikeouts in 187.1 innings entering the Series.
“She gives us an opportunity in every game,” her dad said.
She entered the Series batting .567, Martine was at .493, Hawkes batted .408 and Giordano was hitting .353. They were part of a Series team in 2013 that lost every game by one run.
“The goal was to get back to the World Series this year,” Comfort said. “Most of our league plays Babe Ruth but there’s no 14-year-old World Series. We knew we had a group that could make a run so that was what we set forth to do.”
Hamilton has enjoyed second-half surges by Tori Bowen (.429) and Megan Brugnoli (.325), with Bowen taking command of the pitching staff from behind the plate. Solid defense and consistent hitting have been provided by Iliana Nyktas (.357), and Jessica Angelini (.389).
And then, there are the run producers.
“Basically all Danielle Delisa and Alicyn Blanchard do is drive in runs,” Comfort said. “Every time they hit, a run scores.”
Ashley Gerstnicker, who played for the Hamilton West varsity, has played solid defense and kept the Hurricanes loose and motivated, while Lauren Texany and Alicyn Blanchard have also contributed to Hamilton’s four tournament victories.
Aside from their two qualifiers, the Hurricanes also won the Sid Lee Viking Classic in South Brunswick and the Storm Surge tournament in Robbinsville. The team compiled a 39-10-1 record by mid-July.
The 14Us have also gotten help from the 16Us.
“They’re a tight-knit group,” Comfort said. “Half of those kids on that team were on our team last year. They all get along and it was a good game when we played each other. We all know what each other does. It’s like knowing how to play against your cousins in the backyard.”
But you’d be hard pressed to find many families with this kind of talent running around.