Technically, you’re not supposed to carry a lot of emotion and history from previous games into the contests still to be played.
But it’s a good thing the So Cal Athletics 18u team have a least a little long-term memory.
Boosted by their one-run victory in comeback fashion at the semifinals Thursday of the TC/USA Nationals in Austin, the Athletics were solid in every respect in the final, taking down the Gold Coast Hurricanes 8-1 to earn championship honors. Clutch hits early, steady offensive pressure throughout, and dynamite work in the pitching circle had the Athletics (ranked No. 2 in US Club Rankings) looking the part of a dominant squad.
“We were buried there for a while (in the semifinals), down 3-0 going into the fifth inning … we scored three to tie it, got one in the sixth, got three outs in the seventh and ran out of there. But that had a huge part in what happened here today,” said Athletics coach Bruce Richardson. “There’s nothing I can fault with these girls in the final. They hit the ball when we needed it, got clutch hits, and executed some nice stuff.
“Earlier we won three straight games, 7-1, and just couldn’t put anyone away. We talked about putting teams away early, to save some arms and get out of the heat, but it never really happened.”
Lauren Espalin (a California commit) had a sharp two-run single in the first inning for the Athletics; she also got hits in the third and fifth innings, which allowed her team to slowly build the lead. Hannah McEwen (Arkansas) came through with three hits, including an RBI triple in the sixth inning, and she also scored twice.
“It was a really good start for us (in the semis); we came out a little flat, but we were able to scrape and get the ‘W.’ It prepared us for later, as we worked through the struggles,” Espalin said. “It gave us more energy. I wasn’t trying to do anything too much (in the first inning); just knowing I needed to drive them in any way I could. I was fortunate to make a pretty good hit there, squaring up the ball, keeping it simple and calm.”
Starting pitcher Maddy Dwyer (Stanford) allowed Hurricanes leadoff hitter Sam Russ (North Carolina State) to reach first base and later score in the first, but that was all the wobble Dwyer displayed. She allowed four hits and a walk in her five innings of work.
“In that situation, you have to settle down and realize, that’s a good-hitting team. We played them (earlier), so we have to make plays and not get in over your head,” said Dwyer, who attends the same high school (Orange Lutheran) as Espalin. “If you do that, you’ll be more prone to make mistakes. I didn’t get riled up; you try to get the momentum going forward.
“The games in the beginning, we were kind of cruising, so it was important for us to be able to get through a game that’s hard to win and see what it’s like to get it done in those situations. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it was good for us.”
Danielle Romanello had a single, triple and RBI for the Hurricanes; Briana Marcelino added two singles.
Tags: TC Fastpitch, Triple Crown Fastpitch, Triple Crown Sports