ALPHARETTA, GA -- After a lackluster start in its matchup games on Monday, Michigan Finesse 18u – Rex was determined to get out on the right foot Tuesday morning at USA Nationals. Tallying three home runs to topple Virginia Glory Mertz – Griffith, Finesse found six additional runs in its second contest of the day, moving past Bandits 18u (NC), 6-3.
“The girls were really disappointed in how the day ended yesterday,” said coach Jeremy Coberley. “They came out today determined, got us three home runs back-to-back-to-back, and it got us going when we really needed it.”
Starting pitcher Lauren Esman set down the Bandits in order in the opening half-inning, quickly letting her offense go to work. The first six Finesse batters all reached safely, including an RBI triple from Esman herself. In total, Finesse plated four runs in the first inning, highlighted by an inside-the-park home run from Skylar Coberley.
“I was focused on getting my hands out in front,” Coberley said. “I haven’t been hitting well lately. I started to hit the ball hard in the first game today and then I finally put a good swing on one.
“I was going to stop at third but coach Dan was giving me the go sign and I thought, ‘oh no!’ Luckily, I made it.”
The two squads went back and forth in the second and third innings. Bandits pushed a run across in the second and followed up with two more in the third. Finesse nearly kept with the Bandits’ pace, scoring a run apiece in each inning with Hannah Cady and Kayla Skapyak recording RBI. When the dust settled, Finesse clung to a 6-3 advantage.
“Our enthusiasm for the game was awesome today,” said Esman. “Yesterday, we weren’t having any fun but today we were smiling and giddy, even in the tense moments. I feel like we had a more positive attitude the whole way through.”
As the lineup turned over for the second time in the fifth inning, Finesse’s ace pitcher seemed to get stronger with each at bat. Only once did Esman allow a runner in scoring position, eventually dialing up a strikeout to end the threat.
“She’s a pretty resilient kid,” said coach Coberley. “They hit the ball hard on her a couple of times but she just kept fighting. She changed up her pitches around a little bit and did a really good job of keeping them guessing.”
The mere thought of comeback seemed improbable as Esman went back to work in the top of the seventh inning. Never wavering, the left-hander went 1-2-3 for the fourth time in the game to seal Finesse’s victory, 6-3.
“I just get in a rhythm,” explained Esman. “As soon as I get it rolling, I do everything I can to keep it going.”
Finesse will try to keep its momentum rolling all the way to the 18u Championship Bracket. A win against hometown Atlanta Premier Gold on Wednesday would do just that.
“I think our comradery is really going to help us out this week,” coach Coberley said. “A lot of our parents didn’t make the trip down and I think the time the girls are spending together off the field is really beneficial.”