Malibu places second in

Malibu's Gnarly Nine: Front row from left: Kaitlyn Connors, Thea "Breeze" Stutsman, Jordan "Killer" Rader, Cheyenne "Queen" Cantor, Carol "Forrest" Yang and Sarah "Pucci" Zweig; back row from left: Coach Connie "Oy" Conners, coach J.R. "T.M." Rader, Sonja "Jason" Van Soelen, coach John "Scout" Haag, Lauren "Rabbit" Haag, Gina "Lefty" Rogari and coach Michael "E.L." Zweig. (Team member Lili Hodgins does not appear in photo.)

softball all-star tournament

By Lauren Haag and Michael Zweig / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Little League Juniors Division (ages 13-14) team made it to the championship game of last month’s District 25 All-Star Softball Tournament, but fell to North Venice, 10-9.

Malibu managed to climb back from an 8-0 first inning nightmare to tie the score at 9-9 in the last inning, with a two-out triple by Carol “Forrest” Yang and a game-tying single by Sarah “Pucci” Zweig. The clinching hit for North Venice in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs came from its winning pitcher, Emily Noel.

Malibu, which won the Tournament of Champions in June for the first time in history, was barely able to enter the all-star tournament because several players were on trips out of the country. As a result, Malibu had to forfeit its first game in the double-elimination competition, and was placed in the loser’s bracket. Eventually, Malibu was able to field a team of just nine players-known as the “Gnarly Nine”-for the final week of the tournament. Facing elimination each game it played, Malibu Juniors went on to defeat Santa Monica (9-5), Culver City (14-5) and defending champion North Venice (7-4). Because Malibu came out of the losers’ bracket, it had to face North Venice a second time for the championship.

Game balls were awarded to Gina “Lefty” Rogari for key relief pitching and stellar defense at first base, Thea “Breeze” Stutsman for critical relief pitching and fine defensive plays, starting pitcher Sarah Zweig for her three consecutive victories, Lauren “Rabbit” Haag for clutch hitting and fielding at shortstop and Yang for back-to-back triples against North Venice. Sonja “Jason” Van Soelen masterfully handled the catching chores, and the team could not have played at all without the inspiring return of Lili “Purple-eater” Hodgins from the disabled list. Rounding out the squad were third baseman Cheyenne “Queen” Cantor, who had several key hits, and outfielder/second baseman Jordan “Killer” Rader.

Malibu finished its season with a 22-2-1 record. The team was coached by Connie Connors, John Haag, J.R. Rader and Michael Zweig.