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.