This deep in the waters of summer competition, the 16u Louisville Lady Sluggers barely have their feet wet.
Stocked with talent but a bit unsure of how to deploy it all, the team has played together on just four occasions so far in 2017, and head coach Josh Bloomer is busily trying to get the roster in sync. It’s a tough task, hoping to learn on the fly during the TC/USA Nationals, but the Lady Sluggers certainly fulfilled expectations Monday with two shutout wins at Southeast Metropolitan Park.
“We start so much later in Kentucky than a lot of these teams; going into today we’ve played 14 games together,” said Bloomer, whose team rang up wins of 3-0 versus Texas Glory-Naudin and 10-0 against the Texas Bombers 16u Futures. “We had moments where we were really good (at the recent TC Sparkler/Fireworks in Colorado), and in reality had two innings that weren’t good. It’s about figuring things out – all these kids come from high school programs where they’re the best players on their team, and sometimes you can get away with things there you can’t get away with at this level.”
In Game 2 on Monday, the Lady Sluggers jumped ahead with four runs in the first inning, keyed by an RBI triple from Bailey Woodward, and finished the debate with a five-run fifth inning, highlighted by Princess Valencia’s two-run home run to left field. Pitchers Lexi Ray (three innings) and Kennedy Sullivan (two innings) combined to allow three hits and a walk; Kennedy struck out four batters.
Monday’s games are about setting the table for the rest of the event, which draws many of the strongest programs in the nation, and getting a sense of the weather and competitive demands that lay ahead. So even if the results at Sparkler/Fireworks were a bit uneven, the team has reason to believe it can speed up on the learning curve.
“We wanted to come back in this tournament and make a name for Kentucky. We know we can play with any team,” said Allie Skaggs, who had three hits, two stolen bases, two runs and an RBI in that all-important role as No. 3 hitter in the order. “The weight of the whole game isn’t just on me; I have my teammates behind me. But I have stepped up, though – it’s an important role, and if you’re going to hit there, you have to make things happen and get runs in.”
“This boosts our confidence; we were not really nervous, but doing our best to prepare. To get these two wins helps our mindset for the rest of the week,” said Sullivan, who added three hits, including a two-run double in the fifth. “I had a rough week (batting), and coach Bloomer has been helping me with corrections. He really preaches, get on time with the ball and have the best swing. I’ve been working on (using) my legs more, and that’s what happened on that last swing, made the adjustments.”
The only threat the Bombers made came early, getting two infield singles with one out in the first inning, but Ray responded with a strikeout and popout to shortstop. Taryn Weddle added a double and an RBI for the Lady Sluggers, who will start the event in earnest Tuesday against Texas Glory-Adkins at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park.
“There’s no intimidation – we feel like we can play with anybody, but we recognize you have to play a solid seven innings at an event like this,” Bloomer added. “We’re deep in the circle; we play an aggressive style on offense. If we can avoid (opponents getting) that crooked number, we feel like we have a good shot in any game.”
Tags: Fastpitch, Softball, Triple Crown Fastpitch