Eight proved to be the magic number for Firecrackers-TJ.
Seven wins put TJ Houshmandzadeh’s squad in the 14u Championship game at TC/USA Nationals and their pitcher Grace Uribe, number eight, boasted a near-perfect performance for Firecrackers’ eighth win, 4-1, over the Texas Dirt Divas, claiming the 2017 title.
“It wasn’t an easy road,” said head coach Houshmandzadeh. “We made it hard on ourselves at times. Games that we played cleaned, we won easy. This championship game wasn’t easy, but our pitchers pitched great and we got timely hits.”
Great might have been a gross understatement for how the Firecrackers looked in the circle. Starting pitcher Grace Uribe brought her best when it mattered most. Through the first couple of innings, she was nearly untouchable.
“The Dirt Divas are good hitting team,” said Uribe. “I knew if I was going to have any kind of success I was going to need to keep the ball down. Knowing that I had a great defense behind also gave me a lot of confidence.”
Uribe’s pitching style wasn’t conducive to a high volume of strikeouts, but her team was up to the task defensively. Through the first four innings, Uribe tallied just two strikeouts, but the defense picked up 10 putouts, blanking every Dirt Diva that came to the plate.
In the second inning, it was time for Firecrackers’ offense to help its pitcher. Hailey Smith kicked things off with a single to left field. Two batters and a stolen base later, Macey Keester drove Smith home with a sacrifice fly, taking the lead, 1-0.
Same story, different inning in the fourth. This time, Smith led off with a double, allowing Rachel Allen to stretch the lead, 2-0, with an RBI single.
“At first I was seeing a lot of inside pitches,” said Smith. “When their pitcher made a mistake, I was able to put the bat on it and hit it hard.”
While Uribe and the Firecracker defense was building four innings of perfect softball, production on the offensive end seemed to sprout when Hailey Smith was around the plate.
Already with two runs scored, Smith climbed into the RBI column in the sixth inning with a single, scoring Elianna Reyes who represented the third run of the ballgame for Firecrackers.
The Dirt Divas threatened in the bottom half of the sixth inning, though. With runners in scoring position, Houshmandzadeh was forced to call in Amanda Johnson to finish things off.
“The kids make mistakes sometimes,” said Houshmandzadeh. “They’ve been great at rebounding, though. Like water off a duck’s back, these girls have been incredibly resilient.”
Looking for even more insurance, the Firecrackers plated a run via an RBI double from Abigail Mulvey that scored Macey Keest to make it 4-0. It was the only inning in which Smith was not involved in the Firecrackers scoring.
Texas once again made it a game in the final frame. Three hits pushed across a run, but Johnson forced the final pop up before anything life-threatening occurred, securing the championship, 4-1.
“This shows that we can come together as a team and proved to people just how good we are,” said Smith.”We’ve been together as a single unit all year long and this is the culmination of all our hard work.”
Tags: TC Fastpitch, Triple Crown Fastpitch, Triple Crown Sports