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.