The Cobras qualified for the National Championship event with a strong showing at the Metro Tournament in Oakland, then went on to compile a 3-2 record, going head-to-head against the best the nation has to offer.
"It was a really good experience for the girls - their first experience in a national tournament," said head coach Steve West. "They started off with a few butterflies, but once they got comfortable they played real well and sent quite a few teams home."
Those butterflies helped the Cobras drop their first game of the tournament 4-3 at the hands of the Michigan Athletics. The team led by a single run heading into the game's final inning, but a Cobra error led to a costly two-run single and place in the losers' bracket. Still, the team had life in the double-elimination event.
"What really spoke volumes about our team was the two extra-inning games we played on Friday. Staying focused and in the game for extra innings was key," said West. "I think that probably, being their first experience, next time they'll know what they need to do. I think that next year when we go back to nationals we'll be a much better team for it."
Bailey Rose and Bre Elder, the Cobras' two top pitchers, were a major factor in the team's success in Illinois.
"Bailey is our control pitcher and she has great location. She doesn't have great velocity, but she hits her spots," said West. "Bre is our fireballer. She came into the tournament struggling, but through two complete games she was on fire. One was a six-inning game with six Ks, the other was a nine-inning complete game with eight Ks - she gave up a total of three runs in the 15 innings."
Offensively, the Cobras didn't rise to their offensive potential at the National Championship, but seemed to get the big hit when they needed it. Zoe Oliver-Grey hit a two-run homer against Birmingham in a 10-3 loss. Shortstop Devon Jam-
erson and right fielder Shannon West both contributed big with their bats, as did second baseman Kelsey Murakami, who came up with clutch hits in RBI situations. Julia Surges of Antioch, who plays both second base and outfield, also hit well over the course of the event.
"I would hesitate to name a single player on our team that stood out defensively because all 12 of our girls had great tournament, but centerfielder Kirstie Strelo of Oakley played outstanding defense all week, including two game-saving plays that kept the team's tournament hopes alive."
The highlight of the event for the Cobras were two nine-inning games in one day, sending the Desert Thunder (Arizona) home by a score of 4-2, then coming back and beating the Georgia Jaguars 4-1 in the next game.
Eventually the team from Contra Costa was eliminated by the Oklahoma Sooners, who capitalized on a Cobra error in the final frame to spark a two-run rally and secure a 4-3 win, ending the Cobra run.
"It was a really strange year," said West. "We were up and down, up and down. But we seemed to get hot at just the right time. They seemed to realize what they needed to do and I'm extremely proud of them. They played up to their ability and showed that we really do know how to play some ball here in Northern California."
For more information about Cobra softball, visit www.contracostacobras.com.