By Thomas Hoffman
ALPHARETTA, GA -- Since the start of bracket play, the 16u Gold Coast Hurricanes – Hammonds (FL) have been virtually untouchable. After back-to-back wins on Tuesday, Gold Coast awarded itself with a spot in the Championship Bracket, sliding past Turnin2 – Pezzoni Robeson (MI), 4-3.
“The team is playing really well,” said head coach Kevin Hammonds. “We’ve relied heavily on our pitching but yesterday we found our power stroke and started to hit the ball with purpose. Once we get out there, we’ll usually put a lot of pressure on you from the base pads.”
Following a quiet top half of the first inning, the Hurricanes went right to work, offensively. Taylor Morgan led the bottom end off with a single and a stolen base to quickly put herself in scoring position. Three batters later, Amaya Ross brought both Morgan and Lauren Bevis home with a base knock. Gold Coast finished with three runs in the frame and the early lead.
“You just have to go for it,” Morgan said of her team’s offensive mentality. “You always want to play with a lead and we wanted to go out there and get it.”
Turnin2 countered with two runs of its own in the second inning. Hurricanes starting pitcher Macie Welch nearly left the second without any damage, but an illegal pitch brought everyone back and eventually let Turnin2 back into the contest.
“These girls never panic,” Hammonds said. “You always feel confident when Macie or any one of our pitchers have the ball. They have ice in their veins.”
Leading off the third inning, Taylor Morgan’s hot bat would not cool down. Flying around the bases for a triple, Morgan scored her second run on Kylie Hammonds' sacrifice fly and edged Gold Coast out to a two-run lead, 4-2.
“I was seeing a lot of low and inside pitches,” explained Morgan. “I knew it was a good lefty versus lefty type of action, so I just had to be ready for something on the inside part of the plate.”
Morgan ended her morning 2-3 with two runs scored and a stolen base.
In the circle, Welch began to settle into a grove. An error in the fifth inning led to a Turnin2 run, representing only a small dent in an otherwise spotless performance. The left-hander went six and two-thirds innings, all while keeping her team in front.
“I was just focusing on my spin and where the batters were,” Welch said. “I knew if I threw it in places that would be hard for their bats to get to, I’d either get them to miss or get a ground ball for my defense.
“You always know these girls behind you are going to make a play. Even if you miss, you can rely on them to come up with something amazing.”
Clinging to its 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, coach Hammonds turned to Hannah Pitts to with two outs and two on.
“Macie gave us all she had,” said Hammonds. “I wanted to let her finish it out but when two runners got on, I knew it was time to go with Hannah. They hadn’t seen a rise ball all day and I knew they’d be a bit thrown off by her.”
Just as coach Hammonds predicted, Pitts dialed up her trusty rise ball, recording a strikeout to end the game, 4-3.
“I was just thinking hit my spots,” Pitts said. “Hit my spots and trust my defense. You can’t think too far ahead. Just take it pitch-by-pitch.”
Following a win over Aces Express 16u Futures, 3-2, Gold Coast continues its journey through the 16u bracket. Just two wins away from a championship berth, a Triple Crown USA Nationals title is well within reach.