Goleta Thunder advance to final four at nationals

The Goleta Thunder 12U Gold finished fourth at the ASA Western Nationals in Medford, Ore.

The Goleta Thunder 12U Gold finished fourth at the ASA Western Nationals in Medford, Ore.

The Goleta Thunder 12-Under Gold softball team advanced to the final four at the ASA Western National Championships in Medford, Ore.

The Thunder ran off a 6-2 record and finished fourth out of 39 teams in the week-long tournament. The team defeated Rancho Penasquitos, San Carlos, Folsom, Electric City (Great Falls, Montana), Placentia/Yorba Linda and Santa Monica. The only losses came in heartbreaking fashion. The Thunder fell to Scripps Ranch, 5-4, in 8 innings in the winner’s bracket semifinals, and were eliminated by Bonita Valley, 8-7.

Goleta Valley manager Keith Laughner said the team achieved its goal of reaching the semifinals.

“Honestly, this is what we were working for all year,” he said. “We talked about it from day one: our goal is to make it to the semifinals at nationals. We acknowledged as a team that once you get to that point anything can happen, but our goal was to give ourselves a chance and we did that. (The kids) played their hearts out, and I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”

The Thunder put up 51 runs over the course of the week, led by third baseman Savannah Tait, who batted an impressive .500 with a double, triple, home run, 12 runs and 11 RBI for the tournament. Shortstop Emilia Kling (.414 AVG, 12 RBI), second baseman Jessica Yamasaki (.556 OBP, 9 hits, 9 runs and 6 BB) and outfielder Al’asha Aparicio (.562 AVG, 7 runs, .611 OBP) also produced big numbers at the plate.

On the mound, Goleta was led by the two-headed monster of staff ace, Ali Borden (3 wins, 3 saves, 2.20 ERA, 18 strikeouts in 35 innings) and Sierra Laughner (3 wins, 15 innings pitched). Bri Castro and Morgan Jensen combined to handle the pitching staff behind the plate. Other key contributors to Goleta’s success were Kyla Robbins, Marlee Stout, Akshaya Ramko, Allison Gasper and Sarah Baker.

“It was a total team effort; every girl played a huge role in our success this season.” Keith said. “So many things happen throughout the course of a season that at some point you’re going need everyone to step up and make things happen. Our motto was the “Standard is the Standard” no matter the situation. The girls truly stuck together regardless of circumstance, and had a memorable run.”

The team played in 100-degree heat and had to cope with ash in the air from a nearby forest fire in the final games. Games were delayed due to poor air quality, according to a parent.

Goleta qualified for the Western Nationals by being named Central California Champion after winning a tournament in Clovis over Fourth of July Weekend.

In other All-Star action, the Goleta 14-Under team finished third at the ASA national tournament in Prescott, Ariz.

The Goleta 14-Under team took third at nationals in Prescott, Ariz.

The Goleta 14-Under team took third place at nationals in Prescott, Ariz.