By Kyle Koso
ALPHARETTA, GA – For a large chunk of Wednesday’s TC Nationals championship bracket game, the offensive opportunities for the 14u Batbusters Fernandez squad seemed to have deserted the roster.
But an oasis of runs would eventually appear, as the Batbusters tied the game against the Indiana Magic 08 Moore with a seventh-inning home run from Taylor Day. That was followed up by a six-run outburst in the top of the eighth as the Batbusters closed with a 9-3 victory at North Park, putting the Southern California-based unit into Thursday’s semifinals where it will take on Virginia Unity-Johnson.
After two innings, the score was knotted at 2-all, with the Magic grabbing a 3-2 lead in the third on a lashed single by Zoey Whittaker. Then, the scoreless innings just piled up, with Magic hurlers Brooklyn Kemp and Sophia Klawitter hanging tough and Batbusters reliever Citlaly Valencia matching up in the moment, pitch by pitch.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Day made the swing that had been missing, launching an arcing home run over the left field fence.
“Lollie had been dealing the whole game; we had to provide. We were able to in the end, which is all that counts,” Day said. “We keep the energy up all the time, that’s what we thrive off of. On the home run, the first pitch, I didn’t agree that that was a strike, and I took that personal. I’m not going to let her ‘K’ me, no way. We had to win it.”
Valencia got the final out in the circle in the third, stranding two runners, and she allowed just two hits and a walk the rest of the way.
“I knew my team needed me in that moment, so I tried to stay calm and collected and do what I do best,” she said. “I mean, we deserved, so did I, and I wanted to close it out. I really believed we would come back in that last inning, and we did. That’s what kept me in it.”
In the top of the eighth, Arianna Salas dropped a one-out, two-run double into center field as the Batbusters moved ahead, 5-3. Four straight hits followed, including doubles from Zena Edwards and Day, the latter who closed the scoring by bringing in Shae McMorrow. Valencia then turned around and rang up three quick outs at first base, two on foul popups and one a grounder to the bag.
“This team never gives up; we have a lot of heart. We say, pass the bat, do your job, pass it to the next girl and someone will make something happen,” said Batbusters coach Saul Fernandez. “That’s the mentality. Our pitcher, she’s tough as nails, and in big pressure situations she’s come through.”
The Batbusters were certainly aggressive throughout, even if the Magic were ready for it, making outstanding plays from the outfield and also deploying catcher Maggie Thorne, who rang up a couple of would-be basestealers.
“We play a bit more aggressive style. Some of those plays, it took perfect plays to get them out, and you have to give that (Magic) team a lot of credit,” Fernandez added. “That was a great game. They had perfect relays, perfect throws, but that’s our style to go for it. The mentality never goes away.”
Harper Moore had three hits for the Magic, including a double in the second inning.