by Jason Hanes
Team North Carolina Eaton punched its ticket into the 14U Championship
Bracket at the Triple Crown/USA Nationals Wednesday morning with an
8-5 win over EC Bullets ’04 Central Florida at Sawnee Mountain Park in
“We had to get what the game gives us,” said Team North Carolina Eaton
head coach Nathan Eaton. “Today, the game gave us a field that was
really soft. It was tough defensively. We saw it on our side. We saw early that they were having a hard time fielding balls. The way we play the game is based on what the game gives us, so that worked for us today.”
With the game tied 2-2 after two, Team North Carolina Eaton scored twice to take the lead in the third. Atalya Rijo singled to start the inning, then stole second. One batter later, a single by Emma Tisdale brought Rijo around third, looking to score.
On the play at the plate, Rijo slid around the plate and around the catcher, with the catcher missing the tag and Eaton missing the plate. Rijo would get a hand back onto home in time to give her side the lead. With a pinch runner on base, M.C. Eaton would connect for an RBI single to make it 4-2.
In the bottom of the inning, EC Bullets ’04 Central Florida tied the game back up. With two runners on, Emily Perry connected on a two-run single to knot the score at 4-4. That would prove to be the last time that EC Bullets ’04 Central Florida would score before the seventh inning as Tayven Stephenson was brought in to pitch in relief.
Stephenson would get out of the inning unscathed, keeping the game tied in the process.
“I just had to get it done,” Stephenson said. “My curveball was really working. I just needed to get some outs and pick it up.”
The lead went back to Team North Carolina Eaton an inning later as an RBI single by Janelle Ilacqua made it 5-4. Later in the game, small ball would play a huge role in a three-run inning for Team North Carolina Eaton. With runners on second and third after a bunt single by Ellie Goins, Syliva Burroughs laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to get an RBI to make it 6-4, with Burroughs taking second uncontested.
Later in the frame, a grounder to third by Rijo would lead to chaos on the bases and a run coming home, making it 7-4. Rijo would score during the next at-bat on an illegal pitch to give her side an 8-4 lead.
From there, Stephenson had the game under control. An error would help EC Bullets ’04 Central Florida bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but a fly out to right would end it with Team North Carolina Eaton taking an 8-5 win.
The win gives Team North Carolina Eaton a ticket into the championship bracket at Central Park in Cumming tomorrow with a first pitch set for 8 a.m. against Miami Stingrays Gold. “We just need to play hard like we know how to do, and we’re going to win,” Stephenson said.
“Our goal is to deliver a national championship back to North Carolina,” Coach Eaton said. “That’s really been the goal; but development of my team has been by number one priority. It’s important to keep these kids playing in these competitive tournaments so that, when they go to the next level, they know what it’s like to compete at a high level.
"My pitchers today had to pitch against two players on the Bullets who are the best players I’ve seen. When they’re able to see players like that, they’re able to develop in the circle and good things happen for them.”