By Kyle Koso
LAKE ELSINORE, CA – At 5-foot-3, Ryan Maddox is likely going to suffer when it’s time for a jump ball, or to retrieve something from the top, top shelf of a tall pantry.
But she more than gets suitable revenge in the pitching circle, where it is the height of difficulty to bring her down.
Maddox spun a fistful of terrific innings Wednesday for the OC Batbusters 18u Stith team, as her squad posted a 7-5 victory over the West Bay Warriors-McDonald at the TC Nationals tournament. Combined with an earlier win on the day, the Batbusters (Anaheim, CA) earned a first-round bye in Bracket A, with single-elim play beginning Thursday. The score got close in the end as the Warriors eked out a few hits and the Batbusters defense made two major mistakes in the outfield; through four innings, the score was 7-0.
After three unearned runs came across in the fifth, Maddox authored a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts. In the seventh, she quelled the final push with a pop out to the circle and a flyout to centerfield, closing the book in allowing six hits and three walks to go with eight strikeouts.
“I never really thought about throwing hard; growing up, I focused on hitting my locations and spinning the ball. I knew that speed would come as I got stronger. It was hitting my spots, making good pitches, and the speed would come,” said Maddox, who will be a junior next fall. “I focused on one pitch at a time (during the Warriors rally); if they make an error, I know they will make the next play, so it’s about moving on and going after the next batter.
“I was feeling good in a lot of those big moments; spinning the ball and hitting my location was a big part.”
The Batbusters got rolling with the long ball. Alexis Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and one pitch later, Aby Vieira (a Clemson signee) hit another one to the same spot in right-center. Olivia Gigante hit a solo shot in the third, and Jenna Sniffen hit a monster solo bomb in the fourth. Aliana Agbayani (BYU) and Ella Parker also drove in runs.
Ramirez’s big shot came in an interesting sequence, when she took strike one on a pitch that was at the top of the top of the zone. Another high pitch came and went, and then she seized upon a changeup for her homer.
“After the high strike, I was getting a feel for the zone. I was looking for a pitch I could drive and hopefully do something with it … you look for line drives, and the home runs will come,” she said. “We have to stay locked in. We lost our energy and focus at the end of the game. When it was a closer game, we did lock in again. We need focus on our goals and keep the pressure on the other team.”
Batbusters coach Mike Stith agreed the game had that glass-was-half-full-and-empty vibe to it, especially on defense. The squad made some great plays early, like Abby Dayton’s catch in right field in the first frame, and Sniffen’s scoop of a wobbly grounder to third for the final out of the fourth inning. But a lot of that seven-run lead got chewed up by other mistakes.
“Ryan is very focused, tough-minded, and when the defense let her down she stepped back in and did what she needed to do,” Stith said. “This is a typical game in July. They’re not real locked in, but these are good reps and they have to overcome that stuff. The mental part is what these games are for.
“We’re an interesting team. We are capable of doing some neat things, but we tend to get lost in the day sometimes. It’s been a great summer, and the kids are doing well. As we get to the elimination games, they will know what they are doing.”
For the Warriors, Gabriella Lee had two hits including a triple, with two runs scored and one driven in. Avery Motroni (a high school freshman next fall) had a single and an RBI.