By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – Some nickel-and-dime contributions from the Universal Fastpitch 18u Garcia team’s offense led to some pretty important runs Wednesday as the squad looked to advance at the TC Nationals event.
And thanks to the work and resilience of pitcher Daniella Hunter, Universal had the satisfaction of banking a big victory at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park, 4-0 over OC Batbusters Lara for their second win of the day. Universal (Fairfield, CA) settles into the only first-round bye in Bracket C and will hope to emerge at the top in time for Friday’s championship bracket – the TC Nationals title game is at 1:00 p.m. Friday at Rosetta Park.
Hunter scattered 10 hits to go with six strikeouts, while Universal built its modest lead on everything but the long ball. Two runs came across on wild pitches and two more on infield groundouts, with all the scoring done by the top of the third inning.
There were numerous two-out threats assembled by Batbusters Lara (La Puente, CA), but Hunter doused them all with strikeouts, grounders and at the very end, a long fly ball to center field with the bases loaded.
“I try to attack the zone and get ahead so I don’t have to come back in the count, and I know I have my teammates behind me to pick me up. If I make a mistake, they’ll be right here, and that’s a lot of motivation,” Hunter said. “I made sure to have enough time to warm up; the heat here helps me stay warm, and I’m thankful for that. In between innings I would do some spins and make sure I was ready to finish the game.”
Kira Nelson (a San Francisco State signee) made a superior running catch against the fence in center field for the last out of the second inning, and while the Batbusters made progress with bunts and chop hits, the Universal fielders minimized damage with good throws. Another key play came with one out in the seventh, as Alyssa Onyeagwa moved in at left field and caught a short shot that helped ease the tension.
“Daniella seemed to get more tough as the game went on; she seems to bear down a bit when the pressure is on,” said Universal coach Hannah Williams. “She was throwing hard, and it was great to see. It’s hot out here, and to put it together like we did and get big outs, that was impressive.”
Keeli Smith and Lucy Morgan (UC Santa Barbara) scored on wild pitches in the second, and Ashley Frantz (Dartmouth) drove in a run on a bounced to second. In the third inning, Smith brought in another run with a grounder to third.
“It’s about trusting each other, honestly, and that if I ground out, someone behind me will do their job and score someone else,” Smith said. “I’m the newest player on the team, and it was cool to see how they reacted when I came in – they were very welcoming and supportive, and they push me to get better. It’s a great group of girls, and I’m lucky to be part of it.
“Daniella’s mental game really stands out to me. She doesn’t crack under pressure; she keeps fighting, and it’s awesome to have her on the staff.”
For the Batbusters, Anika Ewert had four hits, two bunts and two chops, and Kayla Zamora added a single and a double. Stellar relief pitching work was done by Sydney Somerndike (Arizona), who threw four innings and allowed one hit, one walk to go with five strikeouts.