By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – Getting in trouble on the scoreboard turns out to never be a reason to scold the Athletics Mercado Greg-Tidd 16u squad.
Facing comeback situations throughout the week, the Athletics continually found ways to finish off games, enough to reach the finals of the championship bracket at the TC Nationals tournament. The team worked past one last moment of danger, scoring eight runs in the top of the seventh inning to top the AZ Storm Mathis team, 12-6, at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park.
“This group has done it time and time again. Last week in Colorado (at the Boulder IDT) we had three walk-off wins against the best teams in the country, and we were down four or five runs today in every game, fifth inning or later,” said Athletics head coach Greg Borzilleri. “When we swing the bats the way we do and get the performances in the circle we absolutely have to have … I can’t say enough about the heart this group has showed all summer.”
Trailing 6-4 after six innings, the Athletics showed immediate life on an opposite field home run by Mya Perez to lead off the frame. The next three batters reached, but Storm pitcher Jocelyn Briski struck out two straight to heap on the drama and put her team on the doorstep of winning.
Next up for the Athletics was Kanisha Anderson, who had homered way back in the second inning in what then looked like the most consequential at-bat for her on the day. She fell behind 0-2 in the seventh, took a ball, fouled off two pitches and then dropped in a single to left to tie the game.
“That at-bat was probably one of the scariest I’ve ever done. I know I have a RBF, but I was panicked,” Anderson said. “I shortened up my swing, kind of half-swinging, which I usually don’t do. We just don’t get down. It’s irritating to (fall behind), but it is what it is.”
“It’s hard when you see the other team ready to storm the field, down to your last strike, But we’ve been here so many times, it’s weird how calm I was,” Borzilleri said. “I’m not surprised, but it’s hard not to have a heart attack out here.”
With the game tied, the Athletics could at least breathe again, but Kaylynn Jones followed with a firm double in the right field gap to drive in two more runs. The moment was then capped by a home run from Xiane Romero.
Making all of this relevant was the pitching effort of Rylee Wyman, who was essentially tasked with gutting out a multi-hour effort in the hot sun and keeping her team in range. She didn’t get out of the second inning in her previous start, but the grit and grind required in a title game was there in every fashion on Friday.
“Having a team this good support me as a pitcher is amazing. I love being out there and helping them, and being around them,” Wyman said. “The end of the game definitely brought my energy up; as a pitcher I have to keep pushing through no matter what happens, so I just try my best. These girls have just pulled us out of trouble so many times, so many tournaments, that I just have that trust we’ll come back.”
“I just try to get things started off, get the team going and know they can be confident,” added Jones, who at the leadoff spot had four hits. “It was stressful at first (before hitting her double); the game was on the line, and I knew I had to get my job done. It was very exciting. Rylee did great, I was so proud of her. She hasn’t been with us very long, but to see her adapt to this team has been great to watch. It’s been great, but this team has so much more it can bring out.”
Alexa Rosales homered for the Athletics in the second inning and also doubled, and Perez closed with four hits. For the Storm, Kaitlyn Terry had three hits, three runs and three RBI; Allie Hayes pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Firecrackers Rico 18’s flip the mood, fly onward to earn TC Nationals championship
By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – When the Firecrackers Rico 18u team made enough mistakes to deepen the hole they were in Friday, the only proper response was to fill up the boxscore and establish better footing.
After some careless errors allowed Athletics Mercado/Smith to post a 4-1 lead at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park in the top of the fifth inning, the Firecrackers saw their first five batters who came up in the bottom of the frame reach base safely. They all scored as well, fueling the comeback that eventually read as a 6-5 victory in the 18u championship game of the TC Nationals tournament. It’s the third title for Firecrackers Rico in the event’s 10-year history.
With the Athletics riding high after a comeback win over the Corona Angels in the semifinals, they took an early lead on a two-run homer from Keila Kamoku (who is committed to play at Ole Miss for college) in the second and an RBI double by McKenna Gibson (Tennessee) in the third. And in the fifth, a poor outfield throw and a couple other iffy decisions brought in another run as Quincee Lilio (Oklahoma) crossed home plate.
Rather than complain, the Firecrackers were uncontained as Sophia Nugent (Oklahoma) worked a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-2. Jazz Santos followed with a two-run single, and the squad added two more runs on a squeeze bunt from Emma Sellers (South Carolina) and a single by Addison Mettler.
“We try to focus on how we play the game. We always want to recognize when we make a mistake, but we aren’t lost in outcomes,” said Firecrackers head coach Tony Rico. “You do that, you start to press and stress too much, and the anxiety takes over. What happens next? That’s what we’re trying to do at this level, develop them for college. We were one play better than Mercado today, that’s all it was. They are one of the best teams in the country.”
“Tony focuses on keeping us calm in these situations, and a thing we try to do is slow the game down,” said Santos, who also singled in the first inning. “I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous there in the fifth, but I was taking deep breaths and just being myself. Do what I usually do, and drive that ball to the right side. In a seven-inning game, there is a lot of time.”
Micaela Kastor was tasked with throwing every inning for the Firecrackers, and even as the temperature escalated she stayed composed. The Athletics got a one-out triple from Lilio in the top of the seventh, and she came around to score on a two-out single from Jordan Wolery (UCLA) to draw within 6-5. Kastor wrapped it up with a grounder to second base, closing with no walks, one hit batter and four strikeouts, and the celebration was on.
“We are such a solid organization, and we know how to pick ourselves up and keep the energy going in the dugout,” Kastor said. “It was such a special moment, knowing that pitching my heart out and going back in the dugout just knowing my offense is going to come through. We just play for each other … you keep going because you know it will pay off in the end and be worth it. We had that trophy in mind all day.”
“She is a unique player and person,” Rico added. “She has an extreme amount of confidence and is learning to adapt to the stress at this level. She’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Rico finished his comments with another dose of praise for Athletics Mercado, and then returned to the pleasure of seeing his roster come up with the correct answers during the strain and drain of a championship showdown.
“We had a rough last three or four years,” he said. “I would be lying if I said emotionally you’re not for these kids, but you can’t play the game that way. If we win but don’t make good decisions, we’re really not developing. It feels good when we made the right decisions and the plays went our way.”
By Anderson Haigler
RIVERSIDE, CALIF. — Brianne Weiss had dreamed of this moment, of a chance to pitch her team to a national championship, of an opportunity to compete against the best and make good on her team’s lofty ambitions. So when a nagging back injury flared up — one that had forced her out of her last game — the left-handed pitcher did what she had to do to stay in the circle, helping to pitch the Firecrackers Weil to a 5-2 win over the Orange County Batbusters Stith in the 14U championship game at the Triple Crown Sports USA Nationals fastpitch tournament on Friday afternoon.
“(I felt) extremely stiff,” said Weiss, who threw 3.2 scoreless innings before fellow lefty Zoe Prystajko took over in the bottom of the fourth. “Being out there with a lot of obstacles to go through, it was a really good experience…I didn’t want to give up out there.”
Weiss, a 2024 high school graduate who attends Orange Lutheran, racked up four strikeouts alongside just a single walk, then Prystajko, a 2024 graduate from Huntington Beach High School, closed the game out with 3.1 strong innings of her own, fanning three Batbusters hitters before she secured the final out.
“Bri was gutty,” Firecrackers head coach Rob Weil said after the game. “She gutted it out for three or four innings, then Zoe came in and closed the door and hit spots…they both were pretty spectacular all week for us.”
A scoreless game until the contest neared its midpoint, the Firecrackers got things started in the top of the third by playing a bit of small ball. Outfielder Lily Knox singled, then Angelina Apodaca added a single of her own. Designated hitter Bella Rodriguez then laid down a bunt and reached on a defensive miscue by the Batbusters, allowing Knox to sprint home and give the Firecrackers an early 1-0 advantage. They added on via a walk by Amanda Urbina and a pair of RBI singles to left field from Faith Hernandez and Marley Cortez, and by the end of the third the Firecrackers were out to a 3-0 lead.
“I just thought that we stayed with the plan,” Weil said of his team’s pivotal third inning rally. “We used the entire field, we hit the ball where it was pitched, we didn’t try to overdo anything, we just stayed real simple…and it produced some runs.”
Ava Morales helped add some valuable insurance a frame later, blasting a towering solo home run over the left field fence in the top of the fourth before the Firecrackers added another run in the fifth after a Batbusters error.
“(I didn’t know it was gone) off the bat, but when I rounded first and I was looking at it, it was gone,” Morales said of her round-tripper, which put her team ahead by five. “It meant a lot because we had all been working hard, and our pitchers were all burnt out, so we wanted to score runs for our pitchers.”
Both late-game runs would prove to be important as the Batbusters rallied in the bottom of the seventh. Saydrie Meono began the last-chance effort with a double, then Taylor Schumaker hammered a home run to left field, pulling the “home” team to within three as they were down to their last out. But in the end, it would be the Firecrackers who would prevail as Prystajko bounced back to shut the door and secure her team the 5-2 victory.
“It’s a positive,” Prystajko said of winning the 14U title. “Since we didn’t do as well in past tournaments, it was good for our team to get this win.”
As Weiss surveyed the action on one of the major league-styled fields at Big League Dreams Riverside after the last out, minutes after her team received medals and hoisted a large wooden trophy adorned with a golden softball glove, the pitcher reflected.
“It means everything,” said Weiss. “Pretty much all of us have dreamed of winning a national championship…this is very big for our team, and I just love how happy they are right now.”
Asked if it was fitting to achieve her team’s softball aspirations at a field with such an appropriate name, Weiss paused, and then laughed.
Big League Dreams come true, indeed.
TC Nationals: 18u Roundup
By Anderson Haigler
LAKE ELSINORE, CA — Play in the Triple Crown Sports USA Nationals Fastpitch Tournament continued on Thursday, with eight 18U teams advancing to the final day of competition on Friday.
Firecrackers Brashear took down the Love The Game Lions by a score of 2-1, rallying behind a game-winning RBI single from University of San Diego commit Arissa Tovar and a pair of stellar pitching performances from Morgan McConnell (North Dakota) and Brooklyn Carreon (Utah). Aside from Tovar’s go-ahead knock, Brooklyn Carter (Washington) came around to score for the Firecrackers’ after singling and stealing a pair of bases, while the Lions’ Alexa DeMarse (UC San Diego) contributed a clutch, pinch-hit double and scored on a wild pitch for her team’s lone run of the game.
Athletics-Mercado/Smith took down Arizona Storm Mathis by a score of 5-2.
Cal Nuggets - Woods eased past West Bay Warriors McDonald by a 10-5 margin.
The Oro Valley Suncats 18U Gold - Judge won a close one against Rogue FC Kaye, 5-4.
Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks 18u vs. Firecrackers Rico (late)
Corona Angels Tyson shut out the OC Batbusters - Bennett by a score of 5-0.
Lady Magic - Munoz scored ten to beat the Firecrackers TJ 18U, 10-3.
And the Batbusters Stith had a dominant performance against the Batbusters Gomes, prevailing by a score of 13-3 in a run-rule, six-inning affair. BYU commit Ailana Agbayani led the way for the Batbusters Stith, going 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored. The infielder singled in the first, doubled in the second, singled in the fifth, and added yet another single in the sixth.
As part of a six-run sixth inning, the Batbusters Stith tallied an RBI apiece from Alexis Ramirez, Hannah Coor, Karlie Davison, and Agbayani. Maya Bland launched the Batbusters Stith’s lone homer of the day, a blast to center field in the fifth inning.
Ryan Maddox bolstered the Batbusters Stith’s big afternoon at the plate with six sharp innings in the circle, allowing only three hits and a pair of runs while striking out six.
The lone bright spot on the game for the Batbusters Gomes proved to be a towering home run from Stanford commit Johnna Schroeder, which brought home two runs to get the Batbusters Gomes on the board. Other than that, it was all Batbusters Stith, all game. Said head coach Mike Stith after the last out, “It was a nice win, we gotta get ready for tomorrow…we got a lot of work to do.”
By Anderson Haigler
LAKE ELSINORE, CALIF. — Those close to Arissa Tovar, those that have seen the catcher play before, aren’t surprised when she shows poise in big situations and rises to the occasion when her team needs her most.
So on an afternoon that saw the Firecrackers Brashshear 18U backstop guide her pitching staff through seven innings of one-run ball in the sweltering desert heat, provide plus-defense behind the dish, and deliver a game-winning RBI single to lift the Firecrackers over the Love The Game Lions 18U by a score of 2-1, you’ll have to forgive head coach Sean Brashear if he saw this one coming.
“I’m not surprised it was her who got the big hit,” said Brashear after the last out. “She’s our captain, that kid’s been in our program for five years, she’s always been clutch. She’s great behind the plate, she’s great in the dugout, and she’s great in life.”
Tovar’s game-winning hit, which came in the sixth inning of Thursday afternoon’s matchup at Rosetta Canyon Community Park as part of the TC Nationals tournament, punctuated a taut, tense affair that was as well-played as it was close. Though runs were at a premium on the “Red” field in Lake Elsinore, Firecrackers first baseman and Washington commit Brooklyn Carter wasted no time in getting the scoring started for her team, singling in the top of the first before she advanced to second on a passed ball, stole third, then scored on an errant throw from Lions catcher Brooklynn Pettis.
“She’s super aggressive (on the base paths) and looking to take advantage of misplays from defenders,” Brashear described of Carter’s prowess running the bases. “She’s the type of baserunner that we’re always gonna look to run, we’re always gonna look to get her in motion.”
The Firecrackers’ slim, one-run lead held fast until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Lions tied the score at a run apiece after UC San Diego commit Alexa DeMarse — who had reached base after contributing a clutch, pinch-hit double deep into the left field gap — came in to score on a wild pitch. The newly tied ballgame set the stage for Tovar’s big hit — and a chance for the Firecrackers to take the lead for good.
Fullerton commit Payton Kelly doubled to lead off the top of the sixth, then Alexa Sams (UC Santa Barbara) reached on an error. Kelly and Sams each advanced on a passed ball to put runners on second and third for Tovar, who laced a line drive into left field to plate Kelly and give the Firecrackers a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
“I knew that they were probably going to come inside on me because I had runners on the left side, so I just had the idea of anything in that zone, to get it elevated,” said Tovar, who is committed to the University of San Diego. “And then a line drive came out of it, so that was pretty good. You get nervous, but then at the same time with my teammates, they make it fun…the pressure like that makes you a better athlete.”
Key to keeping the game close down the stretch and preserving that 2-1 advantage were a pair of stellar outings from the Firecrackers’ pitching staff. Though the Lions’ Emma Falen and Ashleigh Dendas (Fullerton) were impressive as they combined for seven innings of two-run ball, their counterparts in North Dakota commit Morgan McConnell and Utah commit Brooklyn Carreon were dominant when it mattered most, setting forth outings of four and three innings apiece as they teamed up to keep the Lions off the board.
McConnell got things done by relying on her dropball, a pitch Tovar described as one of the best she’s seen in her career behind the plate, while for Carreon, it was just a matter of finding the groove while spotting up her off-speed pitches.
“After the first batter, I settled in and I felt confident,” said Carreon, who posted three scoreless innings in the circle to end the game as she weaved her way in and out of trouble. “I have a great defense, so as long as I keep it down, I can give them easy plays.”
All told, it was a satisfying win for the Firecrackers in a game that to their head coach, prepares them well for things to come.
“Like I told our group right now, these are the type of games that we prep for, that we’re trying to be involved in … super proud of the girls, it was a close game, nip and tuck, and at any given moment any of those kids over there could have hit a home run or make a big play…it was a good win for us,” Brashear added.
By Kyle Koso
CHINO HILLS, CA – Every softball team knows how good it feels to get that first hit of a game.
The AZ Storm Mathis 16u squad doesn’t like it when the opposing team feels good.
With Jocelyn Briski and Kaitlyn Terry combining on a no-hitter, and Alexis Dellamonica coming through in the top of the seventh with a key two-strike, two-run single, AZ Storm punched out a 4-0 victory over the Suncats Jimenez on Thursday at the TC Nationals event, earning its spot in the final eight of the championship bracket. Teams will start the last push at 8:00 a.m. Friday, with the title game set for 3:30 p.m. at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park (broadcast on FloSoftball).
Briski dictated all the action early, quite literally, as she struck out 10 batters in four innings, to go with two walks and a hit batter. She authored a golden inning in the second, striking out the side on nine pitches, and looked untouchable as multiple coaches from the Pac-12 Conference looked on.
The sight of her replacement in the fifth, Terry, was a bit of as shock, but Briski was feeling discomfort on the side of her body. AZ Storm coach Jimmy Martinez made the switch, saying there was an awful lot of softball still to go this summer and that there was no reason to gamble on Briski’s health.
Terry struck out six batters and hit one, closing the game with the last of 16 strikeouts for the Storm staff.
“I just thought of it as a regular game when I came in. It was tied, didn’t matter what inning, and I was just playing my game,” Terry said. “My curveball and rise ball were working really well today. We all stay up, no matter what, even if we get an out. We find a way to come together. We’re performing really good, and I’m happy about that. We’re making plays.”
AZ Storm had some chances to break through but hit into a 1-2-3 double play in the first inning and lined out into a double play to end the fifth. All of the sudden, Suncats pitcher Brooke Davis had a notable effort going as well, as the game went scoreless for six full ininngs.
In the top of the seventh, Sierra Daniel bounced a single off Davis’ leg with one out, and Terry and Lauren Putz each bunted and reached to load the bases. Dellamonica took a high strike and dug in for multiple pitches until she got the right one, dumping a single to right to drive in two – Putz scored as well on an errant throw to the catcher.
“After (strike one) I said, ‘Keep your head in the game. You’re going to get a hit here and put your team up.’ I fouled off anything that looked good, then got something in my zone, and it turned out really good,” Dellamonica said. “Our pitchers are absolutely amazing. They know how to keep their head in the game and throw strikes. They trust the defense. We know as a team, no matter what inning it is, we will come together and punch a run through.”
AZ Storm will play Corona Angels Howard for a chance to move into the semifinals.
“We knew we had two aces going, so that makes it easy. This team has been together for a while, and they know how to win,” Martinez said. “They can take a punch and punch right back, so there’s never any doubt. We talked about momentum and knowing who we are – I’m very proud of them.
“We work a lot in practice on staying inside the ball and working on outside pitches. Alexis is one of the most talented players I’ve ever coached. That was a clutch hit.”
Martinez didn’t hesitate on the topic of if his team was ready for the final burst of action Friday.
“We only came here to take first. That’s the only reason,” he added.
By Anderson Haigler
CHINO HILLS, CA — As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. But for the Northwest Bullets 16U, patience proved to be more than that on Wednesday — it was a key to victory.
Heading into the bottom of the second inning at Chino Hills Community Park, the Bullets were deadlocked in what looked to be a potentially back-and-forth affair with the 16U Suncats Jimenez. Then outfielder Jing Gardner drew a walk. As did catcher Karen Spadafora. As did Portland State commit Trinity Holden and second baseman Alyssa Waltermeyer. For good measure, right fielder Brynn McManus worked a free pass of her own.
The Bullets watched pitch after pitch go by, biding their time until they saw some they liked. And when the Bullets finally did get those pitches, they made them count, plating seven runs in the frame via a double from Yale commit Libby Peoples and a towering home run from shortstop Riley Peschek to cement a 10-4 victory over the Suncats as part of the TC Nationals tournament.
“We noticed that they were throwing a lot of balls, and we were trying to make sure we were hunting for the strikes,” Bullets head coach Dennis Muir said. “Patience was what the game told us we needed.”
Peschek’s monster home run just kept carrying in the arid Chino Hills air, sailing over the left field fence to put an exclamation point on what had been a relatively understated rally up to that point.
“I was just honestly looking opposite (field), trying to get runs in,” Peschek said of her home run-fated at-bat. “She was pitching outside but then just came down the middle and I just swung.”
While the Bullets’ shortstop delivered the most dramatic blow of the afternoon on Field 4, it was the Ivy-League-bound Peoples that put together perhaps the most impressive all-around performance, notching a 3-for-4 game with a pair of doubles and a run scored in the win.
“That’s Libby, Libby’s consistent, and she’s good,” Muir said of Peoples’ big day. “She does that for us all the time.”
Peoples' and Peschek’s fireworks at the dish were complemented by a dominant outing in relief from right-hander Isabelle Welch, who fired four innings in the circle while allowing just three hits and striking out four.
“I felt really good,” said Welch. “I was just having a lot of fun with my team, and it was really nice to be able to throw with the people I like the most behind me. It helps to know that I have a strong offense on my side, and it was really nice for them to be there for me.”
The Suncats rallied back with a run in the top of the fourth and a pair of runs in the top of the fifth via a double from Angelic Diaz and an RBI groundout from Emma Murchison, but could not overcome the Bullets’ offense.
“(The win felt) good,” Muir added after the final out. “We needed it.”
For the Northwest Bullets 16U, who, true to their name hail from the American Northwest, the event marked a return to competing in Southern California after a yearlong hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a home run, three RBI, and a win over the Suncats under her belt, Peschek got right to the point in describing how it felt to play in the warm weather of the Golden State once again as she looked ahead to the rest of the week.
“It’s good to be back,” she said with a laugh.
By Anderson Haigler
CHINO HILLS, CA. — As the bottom of the first inning unfolded Wednesday and Athletics Mercado 16U came to bat for the first time, head coach Greg Borzilleri implored his team to capitalize on each opportunity they were presented with at the plate and take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes.
Eight runs, seven innings and a resounding win at the Chino Hills Community Park later, it appeared his athletes had heeded his advice, taking down the Corona Angels by a score of 8-1 as part of the TC Nationals tournament.
“Absolutely,” Borzilleri replied when asked if he was impressed with his team’s offense, which took charge early and never looked back. “If anybody gives us any extra outs in any innings, they’ll probably pay a price.”
Left fielder Kaylynn Jones set the tone at the plate for Athletics Mercado, lacing a triple into the left field gap to put a runner in scoring position following just two pitches. A batter later, pitcher/first baseman Priscilla Llamas sent a sharp single back up the middle, and her team was on the board.
After shortstop Alyssa Hovermale reached on an error, Boise State commit Zoe Karam drew a walk, setting the table for a two-RBI single to center field from first baseman Mya Perez that moved the score to 3-0 in favor of the “home” team. Alexa Rosales then wore a pitch off her protective elbow guard, taking the free pass to load the bases for third baseman Hollie Farmer, who scorched a line drive off the glove of Corona shortstop Sofia Vega, keeping the rally alive while plating yet another run.
A double from catcher Abigail Cruz brought home another two runs in Perez and Rosales before Jones — who had led off the inning — batted around to deliver the finishing blow, a two-run single to center field.
And that would be all Athletics Mercado needed.
“We tried to get ahead in the first inning,” Cruz said. “We tried to put up all those runs, that way we could get ahead and get a jump on them.”
Rosales, who drew a walk in the game in addition to her run scored, summarized the effect of her team’s early outburst succinctly.
“(It was big) having that momentum toward the win.”
Opposite Athletic Mercado’s big afternoon at the plate was an impressive performance in the circle from right-hander Rylee Wyman, who cruised her way through four two-hit innings while surrendering zero earned runs and striking out eight.
By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – At 5-foot-3, Ryan Maddox is likely going to suffer when it’s time for a jump ball, or to retrieve something from the top, top shelf of a tall pantry.
But she more than gets suitable revenge in the pitching circle, where it is the height of difficulty to bring her down.
Maddox spun a fistful of terrific innings Wednesday for the OC Batbusters 18u Stith team, as her squad posted a 7-5 victory over the West Bay Warriors-McDonald at the TC Nationals tournament. Combined with an earlier win on the day, the Batbusters (Anaheim, CA) earned a first-round bye in Bracket A, with single-elim play beginning Thursday. The score got close in the end as the Warriors eked out a few hits and the Batbusters defense made two major mistakes in the outfield; through four innings, the score was 7-0.
After three unearned runs came across in the fifth, Maddox authored a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts. In the seventh, she quelled the final push with a pop out to the circle and a flyout to centerfield, closing the book in allowing six hits and three walks to go with eight strikeouts.
“I never really thought about throwing hard; growing up, I focused on hitting my locations and spinning the ball. I knew that speed would come as I got stronger. It was hitting my spots, making good pitches, and the speed would come,” said Maddox, who will be a junior next fall. “I focused on one pitch at a time (during the Warriors rally); if they make an error, I know they will make the next play, so it’s about moving on and going after the next batter.
“I was feeling good in a lot of those big moments; spinning the ball and hitting my location was a big part.”
The Batbusters got rolling with the long ball. Alexis Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and one pitch later, Aby Vieira (a Clemson signee) hit another one to the same spot in right-center. Olivia Gigante hit a solo shot in the third, and Jenna Sniffen hit a monster solo bomb in the fourth. Aliana Agbayani (BYU) and Ella Parker also drove in runs.
Ramirez’s big shot came in an interesting sequence, when she took strike one on a pitch that was at the top of the top of the zone. Another high pitch came and went, and then she seized upon a changeup for her homer.
“After the high strike, I was getting a feel for the zone. I was looking for a pitch I could drive and hopefully do something with it … you look for line drives, and the home runs will come,” she said. “We have to stay locked in. We lost our energy and focus at the end of the game. When it was a closer game, we did lock in again. We need focus on our goals and keep the pressure on the other team.”
Batbusters coach Mike Stith agreed the game had that glass-was-half-full-and-empty vibe to it, especially on defense. The squad made some great plays early, like Abby Dayton’s catch in right field in the first frame, and Sniffen’s scoop of a wobbly grounder to third for the final out of the fourth inning. But a lot of that seven-run lead got chewed up by other mistakes.
“Ryan is very focused, tough-minded, and when the defense let her down she stepped back in and did what she needed to do,” Stith said. “This is a typical game in July. They’re not real locked in, but these are good reps and they have to overcome that stuff. The mental part is what these games are for.
“We’re an interesting team. We are capable of doing some neat things, but we tend to get lost in the day sometimes. It’s been a great summer, and the kids are doing well. As we get to the elimination games, they will know what they are doing.”
For the Warriors, Gabriella Lee had two hits including a triple, with two runs scored and one driven in. Avery Motroni (a high school freshman next fall) had a single and an RBI.