by Kyle Koso
ALPHARETTA, GA -- In the past few weeks, the 18u Aces Gold (Ashley/Creamer) have gone from 15 players populating the roster down to 13, then down to 10.
So when a good thing began to dwindle Tuesday at the TC/USA Nationals, the Aces took a deep breath and just coped with the news.
Holding a seven-run lead at one point, the Aces fought off a persistent effort from the Georgia Power Gold-Tunon and slipped away with a 13-12 victory to advance in bracket play, as the third pitcher of the seventh inning, Kylie Chung, got a strikeout after walking the two previous batters. The Power scored four times in the seventh as the Aces nearly gave up a five-run lead.
"We were just gassed, absolutely gassed," said Aces coach Bob Creamer, whose team won earlier Tuesday, 9-4 over Louisiana Bombers Gold. "We went from Colorado to Chicago to here; they are all dropping like flies, so it was amazing to see them battle through two games with essentially no subs.
"Through the years, we've been known as a team that can swing the bats. We can put up runs, and sometimes go into a drought. But we usually swing it well."
That was the strength of Julia Gubner, to put it mildly. The Brown University commit hit home runs to right, left and centerfield and closed with eight RBI; she also hit a home run in Tuesday's first game. The Aces had only a few minutes in between games, and their ability to dig right back in offensively was a key to building a lead.
"It was about re-starting mentally and physically, knowing you have to back into it as a new game. New game, new team, new people you are facing -- you just have to re-start," Gubner said. "Timing and having a clear head (was important). You can't think too much, and Bob, my hitting coach, is the biggest reason I can do that.
"I was very worried that last inning. I had to go in and catch the last few batters, and I was saying, 'Just shove, Kylie, battle through it, there's nothing else you can do.'"
Also chipping in with some power at the plate was Reese Whiteley, who smoked two solo home runs and added a walk and a single. But with the Power scoring seven runs in the final two innings, she knew it was more about the mental endurance of her team as much as the ability to dent the scoreboard.
"It was about having faith in each other. We all had each other's backs and tried to work together," she said. "It can be stressful at times, but we do trust each other. For me (offensively), I was looking for my one pitch. It's one I look for every time, until I get behind, and then I just do it for the team."
Whiteley's first bomb pushed the Aces up, 5-0, but the Power came back to make it 5-4. With six runs in the fifth, the Aces looked to be in charge, but home runs by Bailey Wilson and Maddy Campbell (who finished with four RBI) brought the Power within range.
Leading 13-8 heading to the bottom of the seventh, the Power killed it with patience, getting five walks to help spark the rally. Alex Brown hit a two-run single and Daisy Hess scored on a wild pitch. On another wild pitch, Brown was sent home from third, but the ball caromed back and Brown was called out on a close play at the plate.
Hannah Forehand came around eventually and scored on a passed ball to make it 13-12, before Chung ended the drawn-out drama with a strikeout.
The Aces will play Wednesday morning, needing one victory to reach the 18u championship bracket.
Once July hits, the fastpitch division at Triple Crown Sports peels out of the office parking lot to execute some of the most intriguing and competitive tournaments on the softball calendar.
With the gigantic, expansive Colorado 4th of July event in the rearview mirror, attention turns next to our hotly contested championship setting, the 2019 TC/USA Nationals. This marks the eighth year of the TC/USA Nationals, set for July 15-18 and located for the second straight time in the northern Atlanta suburbs of Alpharetta and Cumming, GA.
Simply put, the quality of the club programs bringing their best teams makes this a title chase that will be closely watched all around the nation. The action will involve teams at 14u, 16u and 18u.
“We are excited to see all the teams, coaches, players and fans in Georgia for the TC/USA Nationals tournament,” said event director Krista Crawford. “There will be 186 teams participating, and they are coming from all across the United States. Arguably, this the most competitive National Championship event in the country, and these teams will play four great days of competitive softball.”
The event has a few interesting additions to note, starting with College Camp Sunday on July 14. It’s a shoulder-to-shoulder workout with quality college softball programs such as Ole Miss, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Troy and Georgia State.
Teams can also look forward to the sprawling Player Party on Sunday at Fowler Park (6:30-9 p.m.), 4110 Carolene Way, Cumming, GA 30040.
Previous TC/USA Nationals champions include:
So Cal Choppers-Fausett (two wins)
Glory Adkins Gold
East Cobb Bullets-Schnute
Texas Blaze United
NW Bullets Gold
Follow scores and bracket developments HERE