The Finch’s Aces 18U Premier squad opened the Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals 18U championship game by registering four straight outs. It looked like a very difficult final loomed against a very strong Syracuse Sports Zone 18U team.
Then the Aces bats sprung to life with an aggressive urgency, suddenly turning what appeared to be a tight pitchers battle into a runaway.
Lefthander Julia Aspel limited Syracuse Sports Zone to two hits over four innings as the deep Aces lineup erupted for 13 hits on the way to a 12-1 victory and the 18U championship at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“Sometimes we start out a bit slow,” said Aces 18U Premier coach Jackie Tarulli. “But the girls are really good at communicating with each other what a pitcher is throwing, and adjusting.”
The championship capped a great three-day tournament that also included the National Softball College Camp and a visit from softball legend Jennie Finch. Finch, in fact, coached first base for the Aces 18U Premier during the championship game.
Olivia Burd, the Aces speedy center fielder, ripped a one-out single through the right side of the Syracuse infield to ignite a four-run rally in the second inning. Lea Kosinski then hit a spinner off the end of her bat to the right side that went for an infield single. Mia Robb stepped in with two outs and shot an RBI single into left field to tie the game at 1-1.
Chloe Pocchesci then delivered the big hit of the inning, slashing a double down the left field line to score Kosinski and Robb for a 3-1 lead. Taylor Huck, the No. 10 hitter, then capped the rally with an RBI single to right field.
“It’s starts with the seniors, like Julia,” said Tarulli. “It’s good pitching and quality defense. Everything builds from that.”
Apsel had surrendered an unearned run in the first inning and Sidney Chafee was standing on second base with no outs after doubling to left field. But the lefthander from North Hunterdon High went into lockdown mode from there. She retired the next three batters in order to strand Chafee and would, in fact, retire eight straight Syracuse batters.
“My screwball was really good for me today,” said Apsel, who helped guide North Hunterdon to a sectional championship in the spring. “My curveball was there, too, before the rain started and I had my changeup working toward the end.”
Apsel consistently commanded the strike zone, striking out three and walking just one and that came when she was one batter away from closing out the victory. Apsel was named the 18U Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Aces 18U Premier erupted again in the third inning, striking for five runs on five hits as the top of the lineup joined the hit brigade. Leadoff batter Rileigh Glynn got the engine started by singling through the middle of the diamond and promptly stealing second base. Dewey Grundhauser was hit by a pitch and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. That set up Gianna Colalillo’s timely two-run single to center field that boosted the lead to 6-1. Kylie Gletow and Burd put Syracuse right back on its heels with back-to-back singles to load the bases.
Kosinski and Apsel followed with sac flies to center field to lift the lead to 8-1 and Robb slapped a single up the middle to score Burd and boost the lead to 9-1. The Aces would put the game away in the fourth via the 10-run mercy rule.
Hucke (2-for-2, RBI, run) started that rally with a leadoff triple and she scored on Glynn’s one-out infield single. Colalillo drew a two-out walk before her Hunterdon Central teammate Gletow hit a laser down the left field line for a two-run triple and a 12-1 lead.
Andrea Sumida, who had reached on an infield error and scored in the first inning, had the only other hit for Syracuse, a two-out single through the left side in the third. Maddie Ancone drew a two-out walk in the fourth but Apsel got the next batter to bounce out to Gletow at first to end the game.
Gletow had shut out the Aces 18U Showcase team, 2-0, in the semifinals. It was a cleanly played one hour and 10 minute game in which the Monmouth University-bound Gletow outdueled the Showcase’s Jenna Crampton, a rising junior at Voorhees High School. Crampton was impressive containing the potent Aces Premier lineup.
“Jenna did a great job and I’m proud of coach Lauren (Aspiazu) and how well the Showcase team played in the tournament,” said Tarulli.
Glynn, Colallilo (two RBI) and Burd each had two hits and scored two runs. Robb had two hits, two RBI and scored a run. Gletow was 2-for-3 with two RBI and scored a run. The Aces Premier (5-0-1) outscored their tournament opponents 49-14. Syracuse Sports Zone (3-1-1) held a 33-22 runs advantage on its opponents.
Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals recaps
Infinity Shock 8, NW Explosion 0
Infinity Shock defeated NW Explosion, 8-0, in the 16U Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals championship game. Melissa Sano of Infinity Shock was named the 16U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Infinity Shock (5-0-1) outscored its opponents 41-11. NW Explosion (2-5) was outscored by its opponents 61-42.
Chicago Cheetahs 7, NJ Vipers 4
The Chicago Cheetahs defeated the NJ Vipers, 7-4, in the 14U Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals championship game. The Cheetahs (6-0) outscored their tournament opponents 53-11. The NJ Vipers (5-1) held a 42-14 runs advantage on their opponents.
Syracuse Sports Zone 7, Finch’s Aces 12U 5
Syracuse Sports Zone defeated Finch’s Aces 12U, 7-5, in the 12U Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals championship game. Kiara McMahon of Syracuse Sports Zone was named the 12U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Syracuse Sports Zone (5-2) outscored its opponents 56-29. Finch’s Aces 12U (5-2) held a 29-21 runs advantage on its opponents.