|Third place finish in ASA Nationals caps 2000 season
When the 2000 softball season began, Manager John Stratton finally had accepted the fact that All-America pitcher Danielle Henderson would not be available for duty. Henderson was a member of Team USA, which would be vying for a gold medal in the Sydney, Australia, Olympics later in the fall.
Stratton knew he could not replace Henderson, but he did come up with a new No. 1 in Nicole Terpstra of Highland, Indiana, a 1999 graduate of DePaul University who owned every pitching record in the school. He felt the Brakettes would be competitive by National Tournament time with Terpstra and returning veterans Jen Smith, Robyn King and Jen Huyett.
The Brakettes also added three big bats in former pro Germaine Fairchild, and collegiate standouts Kellie Wilkerson of Mississippi State and Amber Burgess of Nebraska. Combined with the return of shortstop Jessica Yanosy, another .300-hitter, Stratton had reason to smile. Wilkerson went on to win the batting title at .386 and Fairchild finished at .321 with 27 RBI.
However, before the season began King was sidelined with an elbow injury and never pitched a game. One week into the season Yanosy decided not to play. And following a four-game series with Team USA and the WPSL Ohio Pride at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field, Terpstra (9-2, 0.64 ERA) dropped a bombshell on Stratton by signing a contract with the pro leagues Florida entry.
The Brakettes delighted the crowd of 3,300 by playing the Olympians tough in a pair of 2-0 losses on June 30.
Jen Smith (14-4, 0.18), Alicia Smith (7-0, 0.26) and Huyett (9-2, 0.20) then carried the team to a third straight Northeast Seaboard Womens Fastpitch championship as well as the title in the Bob Caravan Invitational. Both events were played in Allentown, PA.
Stratton knew he needed help for the Nationals and he added Courtney Blades, the Honda Award winner as the Collegiate Player of the Year at Southern Mississippi where she erased Hendersons single-season and career strikeout records. It was a move that enabled the team to post their second straight third place finish in the ASA tournament in Clearwater, FL.
The Brakettes opened tournament play with a 5-0 win over the Pate As of Allentown, PA, as Blades hurled a 2-hitter with 11 strikeouts. Wilkerson had RBI singles in first and third innings, driving in Keri McCallum both times. Emily Robustellis two-run single and an error delivered three runs in the fifth. McCallum, Wilkerson and Fairchild all had two hits.
In second round activity, the Brakettes beat the Clifton, NJ, Cobras 2-1 as Jen Smith got the win with relief help from Blades, who struck out five of the seven batters she faced. Jen Smiths RBI single in the first drove in McCallum, who walked and advanced on Alicia Smiths sacrifice bunt. Fairchilds run-scoring double drove in Jen Smith for the second run. Two hits and an error accounted for New Jerseys run in the fifth.
In the quarterfinals against H.I.T.S. of Illinois, Blades again relieved Jen Smith after a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth. She shut the door with three Ks. Smith allowed only one hit in picking up her second win. Burgess drove in Fairchild with a run in the second, while pinch-runner Kris MacLean scored in the sixth via a throwing error.
Blades sent the Brakettes into the winners bracket final with a 5-0, 11-strikeout perfect game effort over the Decatur, IL, Twister. It was the teams first perfecto since Henderson stopped the South Florida Sugar Canes, 7-0, in the 1998 event in Decatur. Wilkerson and Burgess had run-producing singles in the first and second innings before Jen Smith doubled in a run in the sixth. Fairchild followed with a two-run homer. Wilkerson, Donna McLean and Frankie Spruce all had two hits.
Veteran Suzy Parra stopped the Brakettes on two hits (both by Alicia Smith) as Team Texas won 3-0 in the winners bracket final. Despite jumping out to a 1-0 lead against the Phoenix Storm and outhitting them 9-5, the Brakettes then lost 3-1, thanks to four key errors behind Jen Smith.