By Anderson Haigler
CHINO HILLS, CA — As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. But for the Northwest Bullets 16U, patience proved to be more than that on Wednesday — it was a key to victory.
Heading into the bottom of the second inning at Chino Hills Community Park, the Bullets were deadlocked in what looked to be a potentially back-and-forth affair with the 16U Suncats Jimenez. Then outfielder Jing Gardner drew a walk. As did catcher Karen Spadafora. As did Portland State commit Trinity Holden and second baseman Alyssa Waltermeyer. For good measure, right fielder Brynn McManus worked a free pass of her own.
The Bullets watched pitch after pitch go by, biding their time until they saw some they liked. And when the Bullets finally did get those pitches, they made them count, plating seven runs in the frame via a double from Yale commit Libby Peoples and a towering home run from shortstop Riley Peschek to cement a 10-4 victory over the Suncats as part of the TC Nationals tournament.
“We noticed that they were throwing a lot of balls, and we were trying to make sure we were hunting for the strikes,” Bullets head coach Dennis Muir said. “Patience was what the game told us we needed.”
Peschek’s monster home run just kept carrying in the arid Chino Hills air, sailing over the left field fence to put an exclamation point on what had been a relatively understated rally up to that point.
“I was just honestly looking opposite (field), trying to get runs in,” Peschek said of her home run-fated at-bat. “She was pitching outside but then just came down the middle and I just swung.”
While the Bullets’ shortstop delivered the most dramatic blow of the afternoon on Field 4, it was the Ivy-League-bound Peoples that put together perhaps the most impressive all-around performance, notching a 3-for-4 game with a pair of doubles and a run scored in the win.
“That’s Libby, Libby’s consistent, and she’s good,” Muir said of Peoples’ big day. “She does that for us all the time.”
Peoples' and Peschek’s fireworks at the dish were complemented by a dominant outing in relief from right-hander Isabelle Welch, who fired four innings in the circle while allowing just three hits and striking out four.
“I felt really good,” said Welch. “I was just having a lot of fun with my team, and it was really nice to be able to throw with the people I like the most behind me. It helps to know that I have a strong offense on my side, and it was really nice for them to be there for me.”
The Suncats rallied back with a run in the top of the fourth and a pair of runs in the top of the fifth via a double from Angelic Diaz and an RBI groundout from Emma Murchison, but could not overcome the Bullets’ offense.
“(The win felt) good,” Muir added after the final out. “We needed it.”
For the Northwest Bullets 16U, who, true to their name hail from the American Northwest, the event marked a return to competing in Southern California after a yearlong hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a home run, three RBI, and a win over the Suncats under her belt, Peschek got right to the point in describing how it felt to play in the warm weather of the Golden State once again as she looked ahead to the rest of the week.
“It’s good to be back,” she said with a laugh.