by Chuck Licata
It took them two tries but the Liberty-Hill based TEXAS SWAT won a well-deserved national championship today Saturday afternoon (July 23) at the Pony National tournament, held at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock.
The SWAT (8-1 in the tournament) lost the first championship game to a team from Weslaco Saturday afternoon by 6-3 score, then came back and beat Weslaco by that same 6-3 score to walk off the field with the national title.
The SWAT earned the right to the “if” (second) championship matchup because it had gone undefeated (7-0) and entered the title game through the winner’s bracket.
SWAT team members for this tournament include Presley Walker, Payton Walker, Kyndall Savage, Alyson Sulak, Katy Mullan, Kayla Keith (injured), Macy Kirk, Ashley Tredemeyer, Alexis Zamarripa and Maddie Elderton.
Team members Megan Huppee and Aubrey Covington are both out of town so filling in for them are Shelby "Pooh Bear Blanket" Whitten, Katie Turner and Tiffany Birdwell.
“Give Weslaco credit; they lost to us Saturday morning then had to make their way through (the loser’s bracket) to face us in the championship game,” stated Billy Walker, the vice-president of the TEXAS SWAT as well as the color commentator for LHHS softball on K-MAC Sports. “We had a ball get to the fence that scored a run for (Weslaco) in the first inning of the first game that helped them with their confidence. We actually took the lead in the middle of that game but Weslaco is a good-hitting team and put enough together to come back and win that one.
“Our girls were solid all tournament long: they came out in the (second) championship (matchup) and scored five runs in the top of the first inning. That set the tone for the game. We played a full seven innings in that game and the girls toughed it out.”
Walker revealed there was one key moment he and others thought was pivotal to the SWAT winning the championship.
“They (Weslaco) had runners at first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fifth,” Walker recalled. “A pitch from Tiffany (Birdwell) bounced out of (catcher) Payton (Walker’s) glove. The runners took off but Payton recovered and nailed the runner trying to advance to third base.
“Tiffany then struck out the next two hitters. It was a big momentum swing.”
For Presley Walker, Katy Mullin and Birdwell it was their second national championship; they won a Pony league title with a Liberty-Hill based team back in 2007.
Obviously, the team chemistry was great for the SWAT.
“There was a great bond with this team,” Walker said. “Tiffany (Birdwell) had played with a few of these girls before so she felt comfortable coming in. The younger girls expressed the fact this team was the best team they’d ever played on. The girls all had one goal: to win the championship. They were incredible working together.”
What’s even more “incredible” is the fact the SWAT organization has been together for all of about two months – if that long.
“This is a special accomplishment for the organization,” Walker understated. “We have a three-foot tall trophy that says we’re National Champions as well as a national championship banner. The great thing about this, too, is these girls will never forget winning this tournament. It’s a lifetime achievement and special moment in their lives.
“We were lucky too; we had a good amount of people from Liberty Hill come out and support us, especially on Saturday. That support meant a lot to the girls on the field.”
The team started the tournament with two wins on Wednesday (July 20) and two more on Thursday (July 21), winning by scores of 10-1, 3-1, 12-1 and 13-2, respectively. They added on two more victories on Friday: a 1-0 victory in the morning and 9-1 afternoon win over a combined team from Lampasas/Burnet.
The SWAT then won Saturday morning by a 5-3 score over Weslaco and at that point was 7-0 in the tournament. That created the "just win 1-of-2" circumstance for the SWAT in the afternoon championship tilt.