by Jason Hanes
Alaina Hampton drove in three runs to help support a complete-game shutout effort in the circle by Claire Pollock as Aces Express 14U Futures (Texas) moved into the championship bracket at the Triple Crown/USA Nationals with a 5-0 win in a loser’s bracket finale against Lady Dukes Lamar (N.C.) at Shawnee Mountain Park in Cumming, Ga.
“They had a lot of fight,” said Aces Express 14U Futures head coach Chuck Peters of his team. “We started slow this week. We dropped our first two games [in pool play], came back, and the bats came to life. Our pitching has been grinding. We came here short-handed in pitching, but the two we brought have been grinding all week.”
The game against Lady Dukes Lamar was made longer by two lightning delays; however, Pollock was undaunted for Aces Express 14U Futures.
Pollock allowed only three hits, then got help from her defense along the way to keep Lady Dukes Lamar off the scoreboard.
It was a scoreless game until the fifth inning when four runs crossed the plate for Aces Express 14U Futures. With two runners on, Hampton came through with her first of two big hits in the game as her single plated a pair of runs to break the scoreless tie. “I had to fight because I had two strikes on me,” said Hampton. “I just knew I couldn’t get out. I had to support my team and bring them in.”
Later in the frame, Honor Knott came through with an RBI single to stretch the lead to 3-0. With two out in the inning, Lady Dukes Express thought the inning would come to a close, but a throw to first on a ground ball would be dropped, allowing another run to score to make it 4-0.
An inning later, Hampton came through again. With two runners on, another single would score a run to give Hampton three big RBI on the day and make the score 5-0. “I knew I had to score the run to support my pitcher,” Hampton said.
For Pollock, one run might have been all she needed, but she gladly accepted the five. “Everything was really working today,” Pollock said. “It just kind of all clicked. I was just working one batter at a time. I just had to get outs and not let any runs score.”
“She was amazing today,” Hampton said of her starting pitcher. “She stayed strong and stayed focus through the whole thing. She helped us out. She had our backs and we had her back.”
Aces Express 14U Futures now moves into the championship bracket and an 8 a.m. contest at Central Park in Cumming tomorrow against EC Bullets-Mayfield. “It’s win or go home,” said Coach Peters. “I’m really proud of our fight. We had a tough time a couple of weeks ago in Colorado, and we lost some tough games. We’ve come back two weeks later, playing against some really good teams, and we’ve really shown good fight and the grind.”