by Kyle Koso
With a nail-biting loss still lingering in their memories, the NC Louisville Slugger-Eaton team wanted to chomp into a fresh opportunity to turn the tables.
That drove the squad to play with precision and purpose on Wednesday, taking down the Miami Stingrays Red by a 7-1 score to clinch a spot in the 14 Open single-elimination bracket at TC/USA Nationals in Cumming, GA. NC Louisville Slugger (which lost a 2-1 game to the Stingrays earlier this month at Colorado Sparkler Juniors) is one of eight teams left in the championship chase and will face the PA Strikers 14u team at 8 a.m. Thursday at Central Park.
While Slugger pitcher Olivia Cainey muzzled a Stingrays offense that had scored 36 runs in its previous four games, the team's offense staked her to an early lead and added useful insurance runs in the fourth and sixth innings. In sultry, steamy conditions at Central Park, Cainey delivered a gem.
"We really wanted to beat them because we lost to them in Colorado; we had the motivation," said Cainey, who allowed four hits in a complete-game effort with two walks and four strikeouts. "I'm just happy my team can hit that way, and that makes me pitch better. We're all about taking it one game at a time and seeing how it goes."
Emma Tisdale drove in the Slugger's first run on a single in the second that brought in Hailea Skeens. Leadoff hitter Atalyia Rijo tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Sylvia Burroughs in the third, and three runs came across in the fourth on a double from Tisdale and a two-run single from Kinsley Caldwell.
Rijo tripled again in the sixth and drove in two runs with two outs, in an inning that was extended when Macy Aikia legged out an infield single.
"I want to set the tone for the game and set a good example for my team," Rijo said. "I felt this game was one we needed to win, to show them we could do it. Olivia was hitting her spots and doing what she needed to do."
Stingrays leadoff hitter Brooke Rebhan singled to lead off the sixth and came home on a groundout from Cristina Pena to score the team's sole run.
"The girls were excited about this game, specifically, because of what happened in Colorado. That was an 8 a.m. game, and out bats were definitely not awake," said Slugger coach Nathan Eaton. "We come off a big win (Tuesday) night, and there's a lot of confidence right now. We felt good going into it.
"We try to press teams early; we have speed and we have a lot of weapons on the bench who can play anywhere. We like to use them to press the other team's defense as much as possible."
In the rest of the eight-team 14 Open single-elim bracket, SoCal Choppers Fausett will play Glory Adkins-Locke; Texas Bombers Gold faces PA Chaos Harvey; and East Cobb Bullets Biele/Heath face Impact Gold National Lang.