by Aaron Garcia
In almost every way, the odds seemed to be stacked against the Charlotte Blaze during last month’s PONY Nationals 14-and-under softball tournament. For starters, the Blaze were just one of 85 teams from across the East Coast and Canada playing in the tournament, held July 25-28 in Cary. Secondly, with only nine players on the roster, the Blaze were forced to play without any substitutes, no small task for the team considering temperatures exceed 100 degrees several times during the tournament.
But in the end, the Blaze, featuring several Union County athletes, prevailed, earning the title of 2011PONY Nationals East Zone Champions.
The Blaze advanced to the final day of the tournament after going 4-2 during the first two days of bracket play. On July 28, the Blaze took a 4-0 win over the JC Clippers ’97 (NC) in the morning game. In the semifinals on the same day, the Blaze clubbed New Hampshire’s Hudson Heat Gold, 10-4, to advance to the finals against Florida’s West Pines Diamond Dusters. In the end, the Blaze downed the Dusters 6-4 to claim the
The Blaze roster included four Union County players, including Cuthbertson Middle School’s Haylee Kobziak, Sun Valley High’s Hannah Adamczyk and Forest Hill High’s Ally High. Amanda Dobner, a Union County resident who attends Charlotte’s Hickory Grove Baptist, also was on the team.