With less than a week off in the last six weeks, the 14u Texas Dirt Divas finally felt right at home playing in Austin, Texas, at Triple Crown’s USA Nationals.
Knocking off The Factory, 9-0, in round one Tuesda set up a Texas-versus-Oklahoma border war between the Dirt Divas and the Exclusive. A big third inning was all the Divas needed to edge out the Exclusive, 3-0, securing a spot in the next round of double elimination play.
“We came out a little flat offensively,” said head coach JD Chandler. “But we’re always in the game defensively and with our pitchers. We have three of the best pitchers in the state of Texas and behind them it’s normal business.”
Starting pitcher Kaci West got the nod to face the Exclusive and though two runners reached safely in the opening frame, West settled into a groove, forcing a strikeout and ground out to end the scoring opportunity.
As the game wore on, however, West picked up momentum and began to knock down batters left and right. In the first three innings, West compiled six strikeouts, three of which were looking.
“My curveball was working very well for me today,” said West. “Even if I messed up, I knew that I had a great team behind and they could pick me up easily.”
Following three near-perfect innings, coach Chandler finally started to see some of his offense begin to produce. West herself kicked off the bottom of the third inning with a single. Three batters later, Bayleee Chandler drove her home with an RBI sacrifice fly to right field. With two on and nobody out, catcher Sydney Collazos stepped to the plate.
“I was looking for a pitch inside,” said Collazos. “That’s my sweet spot and I just cut it loose and tried to hit it as far as I could.”
Callazos promptly rocketed a double to left field, scoring both Hannah Earls and Baylee Chandler. Earls was the only Diva to go perfect at the dish, finishing 3-3 with a run scored and two stolen bases.
Even though the Exclusive trailed by a mere three runs, it could have easily felt like 10 with the way West was commanding the strike zone. West pitched six full innings, amassing 11 strikeouts and not walking a single hitter.
“It was important to continue to be aggressive towards the batters,” explained West. “It was a matter of just throwing hard at them and focusing on my spins.”
Oklahoma began the final inning with a single and a hit-by-pitch, forcing Chandler to call upon Kaitlyn Dutton to finish things off. Dutton keenly tallied two pop ups and the team’s 12th strikeout to end the game and claim the win.
“Our goal at the beginning of the week was to win it all,” said Collazos. “I feel like it is partly my responsibility to make sure my team has energy and is ready to play each game just like we were today.”
The Dirt Divas will await the winner Vision Gold-Brown and Firecrackers Gale-Texas; its to-be-determined opponent are slated for a first pitch at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning at Krieg Softball Complex.
“I just want to see the same kinds of things I saw today,” said coach Chandler. “This is supposedly the game they love. If you really love something, it isn’t your parents or your coaches that have to get you up in the morning to do it. I have no doubt they’ll be ready to go again tomorrow.”
Tags: Fastpitch, Softball, Triple Crown Fastpitch, Triple Crown Sports