By Kyle Koso
CHINO HILLS, CA – Every softball team knows how good it feels to get that first hit of a game.
The AZ Storm Mathis 16u squad doesn’t like it when the opposing team feels good.
With Jocelyn Briski and Kaitlyn Terry combining on a no-hitter, and Alexis Dellamonica coming through in the top of the seventh with a key two-strike, two-run single, AZ Storm punched out a 4-0 victory over the Suncats Jimenez on Thursday at the TC Nationals event, earning its spot in the final eight of the championship bracket. Teams will start the last push at 8:00 a.m. Friday, with the title game set for 3:30 p.m. at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park (broadcast on FloSoftball).
Briski dictated all the action early, quite literally, as she struck out 10 batters in four innings, to go with two walks and a hit batter. She authored a golden inning in the second, striking out the side on nine pitches, and looked untouchable as multiple coaches from the Pac-12 Conference looked on.
The sight of her replacement in the fifth, Terry, was a bit of as shock, but Briski was feeling discomfort on the side of her body. AZ Storm coach Jimmy Martinez made the switch, saying there was an awful lot of softball still to go this summer and that there was no reason to gamble on Briski’s health.
Terry struck out six batters and hit one, closing the game with the last of 16 strikeouts for the Storm staff.
“I just thought of it as a regular game when I came in. It was tied, didn’t matter what inning, and I was just playing my game,” Terry said. “My curveball and rise ball were working really well today. We all stay up, no matter what, even if we get an out. We find a way to come together. We’re performing really good, and I’m happy about that. We’re making plays.”
AZ Storm had some chances to break through but hit into a 1-2-3 double play in the first inning and lined out into a double play to end the fifth. All of the sudden, Suncats pitcher Brooke Davis had a notable effort going as well, as the game went scoreless for six full ininngs.
In the top of the seventh, Sierra Daniel bounced a single off Davis’ leg with one out, and Terry and Lauren Putz each bunted and reached to load the bases. Dellamonica took a high strike and dug in for multiple pitches until she got the right one, dumping a single to right to drive in two – Putz scored as well on an errant throw to the catcher.
“After (strike one) I said, ‘Keep your head in the game. You’re going to get a hit here and put your team up.’ I fouled off anything that looked good, then got something in my zone, and it turned out really good,” Dellamonica said. “Our pitchers are absolutely amazing. They know how to keep their head in the game and throw strikes. They trust the defense. We know as a team, no matter what inning it is, we will come together and punch a run through.”
AZ Storm will play Corona Angels Howard for a chance to move into the semifinals.
“We knew we had two aces going, so that makes it easy. This team has been together for a while, and they know how to win,” Martinez said. “They can take a punch and punch right back, so there’s never any doubt. We talked about momentum and knowing who we are – I’m very proud of them.
“We work a lot in practice on staying inside the ball and working on outside pitches. Alexis is one of the most talented players I’ve ever coached. That was a clutch hit.”
Martinez didn’t hesitate on the topic of if his team was ready for the final burst of action Friday.
“We only came here to take first. That’s the only reason,” he added.