Coast Union’s Ellie Magnuson and her SLO County Nitro softball teammates made a strong talent statement at the Colorado Fireworks Sparkler Tournament last week, placing sixth overall in a national field of 208 fast-pitch teams — coming in second in their 52-team division.
After winning two games Sunday morning, July 5, to qualify for the championship game in the Nitro’s division, Magnuson’s team was defeated
9-1, but left town with the silver medal. The Nitro played 10 games in the tournament, while most teams only played six.
“We took second out of 52 teams, and our overall record was 7-3 for the week,” said Michelle Daugherty, president and head coach of the Nitro team. “We beat teams from Florida, Texas, Illinois, California and Oregon.”
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On Sunday, Magnuson pitched and won the first game, and Ashley Daugherty (the coach’s daughter) pitched the second game, but the girls ran out of gas in the championship game against the Gulf Coast Hurricanes, a team from Florida and Georgia.
“Ellie was able to pitch to her locations. She is more of a finesse pitcher, and she was able to control the game by having opponent batters put the ball into play, and the defense behind her was flawless,” Daugherty said during a phone interview as she drove through Nevada, on her way back to California from Colorado. “She did her job well above and beyond what she was expected to do. She was great.”
The SLO County Nitro, based in Paso Robles, features players 16 and younger from Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Lompoc, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Santa Maria, San Miguel and Atascadero.
“It was amazing to watch,” said Kate Magnuson, the Nitro’s team manager and Ellie’s mother. “In our first game Wednesday (July 1), we were kind of floundering. But every single kid on that team came together like I haven’t ever seen — it was phenomenal.”
Daugherty echoed Kate Magnuson’s description of the team’s rough start.
“I had a long talk with them after Wednesday; I had a stern talk and told them, ‘We’re here now, and the only thing that is keeping you from playing better is trusting your teammates, backing up your pitchers, and doing your job in the field.’
“I don’t know whether that talk had any impact, but after that when they went out in the field, they were one,” Daugherty explained.
“I don’t know whether that talk had any impact but after that when they went out in the field, they were one,” Daugherty explained.
After returning to Cambria, Ellie Magnuson said the Nitro’s opponent in that championship game “was just amazing … it was outstanding for me just to watch them. It would have been more fun if we had been on our game,” she added.
But having played two games earlier Sunday — and nine games that week — the team was exhausted.
“My bicep was huge and swollen. After that game I couldn’t even straighten my arm,” she said. Still, she added, the experience was “amazing.”
“It is an honor to be with the Nitro, and I’m so happy we came together and competed the way we did,” Ellie explained.
More information on SLO County Nitro can be accessed at www.slocountynitrosoftball.com.