By Kyle Koso
CHINO HILLS, CA – Taylor Shumaker said she’s been pressing lately, making it tough to perform the way she wanted for the 18u Batbusters Stith team.
She spent her day impressing as the championship bracket was decided for the 2022 TC Nationals.
Shumaker was an all-category force for the Batbusters with three hits, three runs and two RBI out of the leadoff spot, coupled with two heart-stopping catches at the centerfield fence. The last one robbed the Athletic of a home run and preserved her team’s lead in the seventh inning, and the Batbusters held on for a 7-5 victory over Athletics Mercado/Smith at the Chino Hills Community Park complex.
Alexis Ramirez (a UCLA commit) had two two-run singles; Sydney Saldana (Utah State) pitched into the sixth inning and Ailana Agbayani (BYU) came on in relief to notch huge strikeouts in her 1 1/3 innings to secure the win.
Shumaker’s first at-bat was a clinical exercise in leadoff hitting, working the count and seeing an assortment of pitches before lashing a double to the fence. Her two-run homer in the second pushed the Batbusters ahead, 5-0.
“I’ve been struggling with being patient with myself; I’ve been pushing for hits and wanting to get them so bad, I’ve been struggling,” she said. “I figured, it’s important once I got my opportunities to capitalize on it and be there for my team. I like hitting leadoff, I like taking pitches and I actually like not knowing what’s going to come. Over time, I knew what to prepare myself for, and I think it’s important to do that.”
Her seventh-inning catch was a true sacrifice-the-body decision as she reached over the fence to grab the ball before tumbling into the outfield barrier. The Athletics kept fighting and got runners on first and second with one out, but Agbayani got a strikeout and, fittingly, a fly ball to center caught by Shumaker as she sped in from her position.
“We were playing back in the outfield, knowing (the Athletics) can really hit, and honestly in my head I’m saying, I have to catch this ball,” Shumaker said. “To get the opportunity and to put it to use is pretty exciting.”
Persy Llamas hit a two-run homer for the Athletics in the third inning, and Brooklyn Lee’s homer in the sixth drew the score tighter, 7-5. To get out of the sixth, coach Mike Stith turned to two relievers, ultimately leaning on Agbayani to end the frame with a big strikeout.
“In the moment I’m just focusing on the batter and not what is surrounding me, the noise, just on every single pitch and that I hit my spots,” said Agbayani, the reigning Gatorade player of the year from Hawaii. “Every pitch is a new pitch; I do have to say thanks to Taylor for saving my butt out there. We take pride in our defense, picking each other up if someone makes an error. The biggest thing is to pick each other up.”
“This is an ongoing grind, a development process for all these kids, and Taylor has had her shares of ups and downs. But in the pressure of this moment it was wonderful to see her step up,” Stith said. “I mean, 3-for-4 batting to go with that (outfield) play? And she threw out a runner at the plate earlier – that was a pretty good day.
“I felt that Ailana’s senior leadership would be more effective. She has the composure, and whether they hit it or not is one thing, but we couldn’t be all over the place and not throw strikes. I let her give it a rip, and she’s a competitor.”