MIRA LOMA, Calif. – Three up, three down. It was a pitcher’s duel worthy of the occasion when Mia Valbuena (Athletics Mercado 2025 Tidd) and Reece Uehara (OC Batbusters Lastrapes) squared off against each other in the quarterfinals of the TC Nationals. Valbuena ultimately came out on top as Athletics Mercado advanced to the semifinals on Sunday morning with a 2-0 win.
Valbuena pitched 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball with her only blemish of the day coming on the final out when a hit batter and a double put the Batbusters in scoring position for the first time all game. Ultimately though, it didn’t matter as Valbuena took complete control of the game from the start.
“She has multiple pitches that she throws, and when she’s on, she’s on,” Athletics Mercado head coach Brian Tidd said. “She’s been our number one all season, and these are the games that she’s meant to pitch in.”
With Valbuena dominating on the mound, it was up to Mercado’s offense to get rolling, but through three innings, the team only had a couple of singles to show for it.
“We hit a lot of balls up and out, and the wind was blowing the ball in,” Tidd said. “We had to change our mentality and just try to hit a lot of ground balls. The first few innings, we couldn’t get anything through. The last few innings we were finally able to find some holes and move some runners and we had a couple of key hits.”
In the fourth inning, however, Mercado found its opening. With the wind blowing in and the long ball not a realistic option, Athletics Mercado needed to find another way to manufacture runs. With runners on first and second, they did just that becoming ultra-aggressive on the basepaths with a double-steal. The move put the pressure on the Batbusters to execute, but a missed communication in covering third base led the baseball to be thrown into the outfield and allowing Kiele Ho-Ching to score. On the next play, Taylor Johns drove in a run with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
“I wanted the opportunity to get a kid in scoring position so a flyball could score a run,” Tidd said of the double-steal. “Fortunately for us, the rotation just wasn’t there 100% for them and we lucked out a little bit.”
That was all Valbuena and Athletics Mercado needed. Next up, Athletics Mercado will square off against OC Batbusters Stith on Sunday at 10:30 am for a spot in the championship.
“We are inning by inning, pitch by pitch,” Tidd said of the highly anticipated semifinal matchup. “We know them pretty well; they know us pretty well. I wouldn’t doubt that being a tight one tomorrow.”