FC Nation: New Balance Partnership

One of our most important goals is to bring our players, coaches, and families the products with the highest demand at discounted prices. Well, we landed a big one last week when we signed a multi-year deal with New Balance, who is the current leader in softball footwear.

This means instant savings for our teams on a great variety of New Balance products when shopping at www.newbalanceteam.com/FIRECRACKERS. We are excited to see how you coordinate the New Balance cleat with our uniform options to customize your own Firecracker brand. The diversity that we have in place has allowed for hundreds of variations for you to choose from when creating your team image.

Adding New Balance to a sponsor line up that includes Wilson, DeMarini, Schutt, Easton, Mizuno, Bownet, and The Gluv means you can now affordably be at the top of your game when it comes to your gear.

FIRECRACKER SOFTBALL has partnered with NEW BALANCE ATHLETICS as our official footwear supplier. New Balance will be hosting an official FIRECRACKERS team store at www.newbalanceteam.com/FIRECRACKERS. The store will be closed every 2nd Friday starting August 30th to collect custom orders for processing. In-stock footwear and non-custom apparel are shipped within 5 business days. Custom apparel is delivered 4-6 weeks after store closure. Orders over $125 receive free shipping. You will receive an order confirmation via email from New Balance Team Sports <CustomerCare@newbalanceteam.com>.
You can share this link with family/friends to pass along the special team discount you will be receiving. *Please note, only items offered within the store are eligible for discount*

For any questions regarding login problems, selection issues, exchanges, order status, etc., please contact our Customer Care department:
 Email: CustomerCare@newbalanceteam.com
 Phone: 1-844-628-3267
 Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 9:00am – 6:00pm EST
 URL: http://www.newbalanceteam.com/NBTeam-FAQs.html

 

 

 

 


From Firecracker to WCWS Champion: Meet Brianna Tautalafua

UCLA senior and Firecracker alumnus, Brianna Tautalafua, ended her career in a Bruin uniform where every collegiate athlete hopes they finish… on top! Not only did UCLA capture the 2019 National Championship but Tautalafua shined when it counted most.

      

The Carson, CA native was a product of the Firecracker organization under Tony Rico and was a main stay in the Bruin lineup playing in 209 games over her 4 seasons in Westwood. Seeing 580 career at-bats, Tautalafua collected 160 hits including 36 homeruns, 130 RBIs, and 71 runs scored and made 4 trips to the Women’s College World Series along the way.

Of all the notable accomplishments Brianna has gained throughout her career, the most memorable may very well be her final days in a Bruin uniform. In the most talked about match-up in recent Women’s College World Series history she went a combined 4 for 7 in the two championship-series games including two homeruns. In what turned out to be the title game (game 2) Brianna led the offense going a perfect 3 for 3 with a homerun in the 5th and a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the 7th to help walk the Bruins off to their 13th National Championship.

Festivities are coming to a close and Brianna was kind enough to give us a little insight into her journey as a Bruin from her very first day at Easton all the way to those magical last days in OKC.

1) Can you describe a little bit about your early softball journey before UCLA? Who were your major influencers, why you chose softball, when did you know you had a chance to play in college?

Bri: Growing up, my dad and my older sister had the biggest impact on my softball journey. I always looked up to my older sister, Darian, and once I saw her playing softball I automatically wanted to try playing as well. I started falling in love with the sport around 8 years old and at that age I would overhear parents hyping me up and saying how good of an athlete I am for my age. As I stuck through it, I saw my sister starting to get college offers and that’s what inspired me to achieve that type of accomplishment. Then as I got older, it was my turn for the recruiting process and knew I wanted to go to UCLA.

 2) Do you remember the first time you stepped on the field with UCLA? What are some of your earliest Bruin memories?

Bri: I remember my very first day as a college student was over the summer and I was beyond excited. Once I stepped on campus it was just so surreal that all the work I’ve done leading up to this moment is finally paying off. I was so stoked to play for UCLA that I had to step on the field before team training started, to hit in the cages and on the field. Once we met up as a team to start our first day of training at Easton Stadium, I was actually very terrified. The upperclassmen were so intimidating, I was scared to do anything that I might get in trouble for, and I was so shy. But as the weeks went by, everyone made sure we were comfortable and ready to play together. My favorite memory will always be the many different traditions that UCLA holds. It definitely molds our team together and allows us to have a special bond with one another. 

3) You won a National Championship in your senior year, what a way to go out! Tell me a little bit about what that meant to you especially having such an incredible championship series. 

Bri: Right as we beat Washington in the semifinals, I was just so emotional and began crying knowing that we are actually going to be competing in the National Championship Series. Not only was it special to me, but I was beyond proud to share this experience with my family as well. They have given me endless amounts of love and support throughout my career and to end my softball journey on the biggest stage with a trophy in hand was my dream. The moment my family stepped on the field after the game to celebrate with me is a feeling that I will never forget. It still hasn’t sunken in yet that my softball career is over nor the fact that I’m a National Champion.

4) Your collegiate career has come to an end, what’s next for you?

Bri: Now that softball is done, I will still be taking classes to finish up my degree in Gender Studies through fall quarter. I will be helping out our program in the fall as a volunteer assistant coach. Once I am done, I will be on the hunt for a job while still giving back to the softball world as much as I can to help younger girls pursue their dream.

Another huge CONGRATULATIONS to you Brianna! You’ve been a joy to watch and we’re excited to see where the next chapter takes you!

 

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Jon’s 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #84-90

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

Halloween (2018)

Michael Myers is back in the latest reboot of the Halloween franchise directed by David Gordon Green. Taking place after Halloween II, thus wiping out any continuity from past Halloween films after that, this 2018 remake/sequel brings Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie back into the mix to face off with the famed slasher and she gives a fantastic performance. A24 continues to be one of the more consistent studios with their lower budgeted horror films. I can’t wait for a possible sequel, which has been hinted at by Jamie Lee Curtis and A24’s Jason Blum. Halloween can currently be found streaming on HBO.

85. Instant Family

86. A Quiet Place 

87. Date Night

 88. The Mummy

89. An American Tail

 90. The Grinch

 


Women's College World Series Match Ups and More!

This feels like one of the most talked about Women's College World Series in recent history! Why? For starters, the 8 teams participating have won a combined 27 National Championships. (UCLA-11, Arizona-8, Oklahoma-4, Florida-2, Alabama-1, Washington-1) and with the exception of #13 Oklahoma State knocking off the reigning champs #4 Florida State, all top seeded teams have advanced.

Let's take a quick look at some of the first round match ups:

#1 Oklahoma (54-3)  vs. #8 Alabama (57-8)
Championship-type series in Game 1.

Oklahoma
has been clean and consistent from day one with their only two regular season losses coming in the preseason to then #3 Florida State and #4 UCLA. They would sail through the season unscathed until dropping game one of the regional final to Wisconsin proving they're human, however, the tournament favorite doesn't seem to be lacking in any part of their game. Pitching is on point and deep and the hitters... well, they hit!

Alabama
 began the season 33-0 before dropping their first L to Texas A&M in game 3 of the SEC series. They would go on to lose six in SEC play however it was good enough to claim the regular season championship. "Gritty not pretty" is a term used by head coach Patrick Murphy when talking about his team and they proved that having to claw their way past Texas in the Super Regional. Not always pretty, but you can never count out a team who isn't afraid of anybody.


#2 UCLA (51-6) vs. #7 Minnesota (46-12)
Winningest at the WCWS takes on first timers.

UCLA
has been knocking on the door of a championship for the past few years but just haven't been able to pull it together when it really matters. This season could be different with the addition of Faraimo in the circle to help the 2x National Player of the Year, Rachel Garcia. Along with Azevedo the pitching staff has a 1.39 overall ERA and is supported by an offense that's scored one shy of 400 runs on the season. That combination is tough to beat.

Minnesota
is a team with an itch to make a statement and has already done so taking down two SEC powerhouses in post season defeating Georgia twice to take the Regional and then LSU at the Supers. Amber Fiser has an electric arm and if the bats show up to support her, things could get interesting.

 

#3 Washington (50-7) vs. #6 Arizona (47-12)
Awe, sweet revenge?

Washington
is out to avenge last year's championship series loss behind the arms of senior Taran Alvelo and one-year better Gabbi Plain. Washington has relied heavily on their pitchers in the past but it seems that the defense, anchored by the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year (and former Firecracker) Sis Bates, and the hitting is right up there to support. The series sweep in Arizona at the end of Pac-12 play kicked off an undefeated run to this point so the Huskies are riding the momentum wave.

Arizona
wants revenge. Not only is it the Cats first trip back to the world series since their championship loss to UCLA in 2010 but they will face off against the Huskies who came into their house at Hillenbrand and embarrassed them with a series sweep just a few short weeks ago. That series ignited the Wildcats who turned around and took two from UCLA the following weekend and continued on flawless through the post season. The Wilcats have 103 HRs on the season and their pitchers are throwing better than ever.

 

#5 Florida (49-16) vs. #13 Oklahoma State (44-15)
Upset in the making?

Florida
is a mainstay in the rankings year after year but after an uncharacteristically inconsistent SEC regular season (12-12) many people started to doubt that the Gators had what it takes to make it back to OKC. After an undefeated SEC tournament and regional run, and then a hard fought Supers, Florida has proven that they thrive best in the post season. Case in point, senior Kelly Barnhill is throwing better than she has all season (possibly all career) and when you have an Amanda Lorenz on your team who's batting .419 with a .563 OB%, you can almost guarantee run support. Gators are never to be taken lightly.

Oklahoma State
is a team that many people believe has what it takes to upset the best. They aren't flashy but they produce and they have a good time doing it. With a no fear and nothing-to-lose attitude, the Cowgirls will be dangerous. Senior Samantha Show is a big reason for this season's successes pitching 183 innings and slugging 18 HRs. Another fun fact about OSU, Head Coach Kenny Gajewski was on staff with Florida HC Tim Walton when Florida won it's back to back titles.

Wayne Staats from NCAA.com makes the following prediction...

It's easy to say we're heading toward the inevitable Oklahoma-UCLA showdown for the title. But OKC usually has some surprises. With the way Washington has been playing, the Huskies seem like the best candidate to keep the Sooners-Bruins meeting from happening in the finals.

Arizona could slug its way to a run, but Washington will make it back to the final series. It will end there, though, as the Huskies become the first program since California in 2003-04 to lose in the final in consecutive seasons. For the third time in four years, Oklahoma wins the title.

 

One statement I DO agree with is that OKC usually always has some surprises. The action begins TODAY!


Firecracker Alum in the Super Regionals!

Buckle up, we’re down to 16! NCAA Super Regionals kicked off yesterday with #4 Florida State hosting #13 Oklahoma State in Tallahassee and #8 Alabama hosting #9 Texas in Tuscaloosa.  All 8 Super Regionals will be in action TODAY beginning at 3:00 PM EST so be sure to tune in and catch some of your favorite athletes as they pursue the ultimate college softball dream!

To see the entire Super Regional bracket including game times CLICK HERE.

Of course we can’t talk post season softball without highlighting our very own Firecracker alumni making it onto the big stage!

#1 University of Oklahoma
Eliyah Flores – SO – INF
Grace Lyons – FR – INF  *All Big 12 Freshman team
Brooke Vestal – FR - P

 

#2 UCLA
Brianna Tautalafua – SR – INF
Anna Vines – FR – INF

 

 

 

 

 


#3 University of Washington
Sis Bates – JR – INF *1st Team All Pac 12 and Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Kaija Gibson – JR – UTL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#6 University of Arizona
Hillary Edior – SR – C
Jenna Kean – FR – OF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#7 University of Minnesota
Josey White – FR – INF

 

#9 University of Texas
Mary Iakopo – SO – C  *2nd Team All Big 12
Tuesday DerMargosian – JR – OF

    

 

#10 LSU
Amanda Sanchez – SR – INF  *2nd Team All SEC
Ali Kilponen – FR – P
Karrington Houshmandzadeh – FR – OF

 

#12 University of Tennessee
Kaitlin Parsons – FR – OF  *SEC All Freshman Team

Be sure to catch every inning of action covered on the ESPN family of networks! #MAYhem


NCAA Post Season Selection Show Summary

Here we go again! NCAA post season is upon us and if you weren't able to tune into Sunday's Selection Show, let me get you up to speed.

This past weekend saw the end of the regular season and most conferences held their conference-tournaments to decide who would represent their respective leagues in the post season. These 32 conference champions would be awarded automatic berths into the NCAA post season while the remaining 32 are chosen based on factors including, but not limited to, record, rank, and RPI or Strength of Schedule.

Since the introduction of RPI into college softball, the hype around seedings has intensified as top record-holding and top ranked teams are no longer shoe-in to host if their regular season schedule doesn’t show a favorable amount of wins versus ranked opponents. The top 16 seeded teams will host their regional and the top 8 seeds will have the opportunity to stay at home for both the regional and super-regional rounds.

For a list of all automatic berths by conference as well as more information on the NCAA post season criteria and upcoming schedule click here.

TOP 16 SEEDS FOR THE 2019 NCAA SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS:

#1 Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
#2 UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
#3 Washington (Seattle, WA)
#4 Florida State (Tallahassee, FL)
#5 Florida (Gainesville, FL)
#6 Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
#7 Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
#8 Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
#9 Texas (Austin, TX)
#10 LSU (Baton Rouge, LA)
#11 Ole Miss (Oxford, MS)
#12 Tennessee (Knoxville, TN)
#13 Oklahoma State (Stillwater, OK)
#14 Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
#15 Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
#16 Northwestern (Evanston, IL)

For the complete NCAA Tournament Bracket click here or visit the NCAA website at www.ncaa.com/softball

Also, stay tuned for updates on some of your favorite Firecracker alumni as they make a push toward that coveted National Championship!


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #77-83

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

77. Justice League vs The Fatal Five (2019) 7.5.10

The latest DC animated superhero film brings Bruce Timm’s famous art style back into the fold as the Justice League takes on a dangerous time-traveling trio from the 31st century. While Hal Jordan and John Stewart have been the primary Green Lantern characters in media outside of comics, this movie focuses on Jessica Cruz, a newer character in the Green Lantern mythos. Like most DC animated movies before it, this film offers plenty of action, heart, and great character interactions for kids and adults to enjoy. The addition of new characters helps keep the world these characters live in as fresh and interesting as they were back in the early days as well. Justice League vs The Fatal Five can be found streaming on the DC Universe streaming service.

78. The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) 6/10

79. Get Smart (2008) 6/10

80. An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000) 2/10

81. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) 7/10

82. Evolution (2001) 6.5/10

83. Take Me (2017) 5/10


Perfect Game College Softball- Behind the Scenes

About a month ago I embarked on a new journey with a good friend and broadcast colleague of mine, Daron Sutton, on Sirius XM ESPNU.  Perfect Game has hosted a college baseball show for several years now and the thought of creating a show dedicated to softball just made sense!

In just the nine shows Perfect Game College Softball has hosted so far this season we have featured many of the absolute best in the game including:

Lonni Alameda- 2018 National Champion Florida State head coach; Patrick Murphy- University of Alabama head coach; Heather Tarr- University of Washington head coach / USA Junior National Team coach; Kenny Gajewski- Oklahoma State University head coach; Mike Candrea- University of Arizona head coach / 2004 & 2008 USA Olympic Team head coach; Rachel Lawson- University of Kentucky head coach; Jessica Allister- Stanford head coach; Marissa Young- Duke head coach; Rachel Garcia- Reigning 2018 National Player of the Year and UCLA standout; And many more!

Tonight's broadcast airing at 11:00 PM EST/8:00 PM PST on Sirius channel 84 will feature University of Louisiana head coach, Gerry Glasco, University of South Carolina head coach, Beverly Smith, and James Madison University head coach, Loren LaPorte.

The extreme willingness of these elite coaches to talk openly about their programs and the "journey" is priceless for both the athlete who dreams of one day playing on the collegiate stage, and the coaches trying to help guide them there. Tune in to hear coaches like Alabama's Patrick Murphy give us real insight into what it takes to win at the highest level but then also letting us in on the one single defining question he asks all recruits in order to build that championship culture.

There are only a few weeks left in collegiate regular season play so tune in to watch your favorite teams on TV and then listen in for a recap Monday evenings!

SIRIUS XM ESPNU Channel 84
8:00 PM PST/ 11:00 PM EST

-Amanda Freed Katchka

 

 


Jon's 365 Movies in 365 Days Challenge: Movies #69-76

For every day of the year, I will be watching a movie I have never seen before. Follow me on my journey each week as I recap the films I see and give my thoughts on them. Hopefully you are exposed to new titles that you thought would never interest you or are given a new perspective on a film you have already seen.

69. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet 8/10

The sequel to the massive Disney animated hit from 2012. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet continues the story of everyone’s favorite lovable video game villain, Ralph and his happy best friend Vanellope von Schweetz as they go on an epic adventure through the vast world of the internet. While the first movie followed Ralph’s emotional journey to find meaning in his life as a video game villain, this movie focuses on Ralph’s mission to help save Vanellope’s home game world after an equipment malfunction puts her arcade game in danger. Taking these 2 charming characters through the internet was a great step forward for this Easter egg filled franchise as there are many nods to your favorite internet and Disney favorites throughout the film.

70. Still Waiting 1/10

71. The Polka King 7.5/10

72. A Futile and Stupid Gesture 7/10

73. Girlfriend’s Day 6.5/10

74. Cool Runnings 7.5/10

75+76. Leaving Neverland  7/10


The Rise of Firecrackers DFW Sykes

Firecrackers DFW Sykes stole the show at the DFW Shootout “MVP Event” going undefeated in a 6-game stretch to win the 14U Gold bracket championship. Haawa Townsend, Abby Garner, and Jess Antonacci combined for five homeruns, three of which came in the semi-final game versus Impact Gold Zaboronek, leading the team to the finals where they would ultimately defeat Texas Glory White by a score of 3-1. For head coach Sean Sykes, the road to this high-profile tournament win was not an easy one but one that is beginning to payoff in a big way. According to Sykes, “We took our lumps in the fall,” but Firecrackers DFW are well on their way to putting the program back on the map.

The Sykes' family Firecracker softball journey began back in 2016 in Lake Elsinore, California where Kat Sykes played for Firecrackers Jensen. After a successful 2016-2017 season and after 26 years in Southern California, Sean Sykes got the call that work would be relocating him and his family to Beaverton, Oregon.  This past summer, after one year in Beaverton and one season with the Oregon Blaze, the call came once again to relocate, this time to the Dallas area. With this move there was a strong desire to find that winning softball culture for Kat to be a part of now that she was into her 14U season. With experience coaching at both the travel ball and high school levels, Sean had hopes of not only creating the best possible situation for Kat, but also had a desire to return to the dugout himself.

It’s no secret that Texas holds some of the most competitive travel ball programs in the nation, but Sean and Kat preferred to continue on with the Firecracker foundation created during their time in California.  So, when the text from Firecrackers DFW 18U coach, Tony Rosales, came, it felt like home. Not long after the call, the 2018 season ended and the second year 14U coaching position opened up. Sykes was offered the position and accepted, and on the day of the team tryout, 10 athletes showed up including one returner. Sykes took all 10 and began preparing for what was assumed to be a re-building year. The first few months were “educational at best” says Sykes, as the team went on to win only 1 of its first 24 games. A game-changing contact came in early October when Sean received a call from Mission Viejo, California native Dave Gonzalez, whose daughter, Kaitlyn had also previously been in the Firecrackers organization. Understanding the culture of the organization, and also being a high school coach, Sean knew Dave could make a huge impact as part of his staff that already included Scott Shenkenberger and Shane Daniel. Together they began to build.

Despite battling some injuries and the departure of a few athletes, the team and staff remained determined to make waves on the field and by the end of October, opponents who had laughed at the struggling team were falling victim. “We started to turn the corner by just following the principles; the practice regimen, four poles, be the hunter, gunslinger, high intensity, high energy practices while driving a culture to Play with Honor."

With momentum from the DFW Shootout championship, Firecrackers DFW Sykes looks forward to several high-quality spring and summer tournaments including one of the most prestigious So Cal Triple Crown showcases, Zoom into June, where they anticipate getting to meet many teams in their extended Firecracker family. It’ll be exciting to follow as DFW Sykes inaugual 2019 season continues to unfold. “I coach with the mindset to practice hard, teach in practice, and then let them 'play the game'. I was in awe of how this scrappy team, the one that everyone laughed at in the fall, now has teams afraid to play them, and we are only beginning.” -Sean Sykes

Get to know the Firecrackers DFW Sykes team and follow their journey by visiting their website www.firecrackersdfwsykes.com or visit their Facebook page Firecrackers DFW Rosales/Sykes.