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Patience pays off for 12-under Bullets

The waiting seemed to be the hardest part for the Clearwater Bullets 12-under team during last week's National Softball Association World Series in Rock Hill, S.C.

The Bullets, the first team in the nation in any age bracket to qualify for the NSA World Series, were the last team to win a title Sunday night with consecutive victories over the Nashville Firebirds.

Their road to a championship took longer because they had to go through the losers bracket to advance. On Saturday night, the Bullets, previously unbeaten in tournament play, lost to another undefeated team, the Firebirds, 5-3.

But the Bullets showed their patience Sunday and made it to the title game, where they had to beat the Firebirds twice to win. The Bullets never trailed and coasted to victory in each game.

They built a 6-0 lead in the first game before winning 7-5. Then they followed with a 12-3 victory that was called after six innings because of the eight-run mercy rule.

The Bullets became the fourth Florida team to win their age bracket. (The Tampa Mustangs 14-under, the Central Florida Diamondbacks 16-under and the Central Florida Maniacs 18-under were the others.) The Bullets were the only one to come out of the losers bracket.

The team was led by pitchers Samantha Becker, Jennifer Jacobs and Natalie Bale. Leading hitters were Ally Maddox, Stephanie Seamon, Kristina Hilberth and Nikki Delandy. The defense, which turned eight double plays, was led by Sara Stack, Ashley Arcuri, Kendra Hurless, Ashley Rowe and Dani Hofer.

"I told them we've been talking about winning the World Series since we started practicing last October," manager Ed Hofer said in the Rock Hill Herald. "Then I called them "World Champions' because I wanted to be the first to say it.

"We were at a disadvantage because (the Firebirds) beat us Saturday. We had girls passing out because of the heat, and we were down to our fourth pitcher, but we learned that dreams do come true."

BOMBERS 16-UNDER: Playing in the NSA World Series, the Bombers nearly became the second team in the county to win a title. They advanced to the championship game, where they met the Central Florida Diamondbacks.

Both teams had trouble on offense, and the game was scoreless through seven innings. With the game in extra innings, the Bombers found their rhythm and scored twice in the top of the eighth.

But the lead quickly vanished as the Diamondbacks had a two-out rally and scored three runs to win. The Diamondbacks were 15-0 in extra-inning games this season.

The Clearwater Bullets 16-under team took third place.

_ BOB PUTNAM

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