Vienna Conklin did not allow a base hit through four innings for the Orange County Bombers.
By Rich Bevensee
Two weeks ago the Orange County Bombers 10U club grabbed a Frozen Ropes tournament championship. Subsequently, their coach, Tia Celano, was curious to see how her squad would respond to a wider range of competition by bringing the girls down to Flemington and the Diamond Nation complex.
Coach, everything seems just fine.
The Bombers, based in New Hampton, N.Y., were advantageous in a four-inning affair, scoring nine runs on two hits and six walks in a 9-4 pool play victory over the West Warwick (R.I.) Warriors in the Jennie Finch Spring Invitational on Saturday morning.
“They were nervous because they have certain expectations (of winning),” Celano said. “I reminded them that my expectations are for them to have fun and play hard.”
The Bombers finished the day 3-0, after beating Rockaway Rampage 10U Gold 6-3, and the Hudson Valley Hurricanes 9-2.
Finch, the nation’s most famous softball player, was a college All-America selection and a two-time U.S. Olympian. She was on ‘The Nation’s’ campus Saturday to meet players and to offer encouragement and advice. A resident of Louisiana and a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Finch makes three visits annually to the complex.
Bombers pitcher Vienna Conklin battled through early game nerves to chalk up a tremendous outing. She didn’t allow a single hit while giving up four walks and two hit batters, and she struck out 10.
Conklin walked the first batter of the game – Ella Lacroix, who eventually scored on a wild pitch – and hit the next one, Gianna Amore. But then Conklin settled down by striking out the next three batters.
In fact, after facing Lacroix and Amore, Conklin struck out eight of the next nine batters and retired nine of the next 10.
“They (the Warriors) were cheering loudly because they wanted me to walk more people, so I used the cheering for motivation to strike them out,” Conklin said. “I was releasing early so I fixed that and I fixed my stride to get closer to the plate. It felt way more comfortable.”
“She was definitely battling nerves and she came out of it. She stuck with her team, and didn’t let that alter her. After those two batters I said to her, no one cares, let it go, get back into it. Throw one bad pitch? Throw a strike the next.”
The Bombers entered the bottom of the first inning trailing 1-0 and never looked back. Ashley Jordan walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. After Kendall Eckert and Conklin walked, Charli Ringus laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Eckert from third and Conklin came around to score on a throwing error after the bunt for a 3-1 lead.
The Bombers added six more runs in the third inning, with the key at bat coming from Amelia Sherwood, who zipped a bases-loaded two-run single up the middle.
“Being in that situation makes me nervous and excited at the same time,” Sherwood said. “Excited because I know if I hit the ball I can score some runs, but then also nervous about maybe getting out.”
Also in that frame, Eckert scored on a wild pitch, Emma Springer and Sherwood scored on an infield throwing error, and Grace Morgan scored on a wild pitch for a 9-1 Bombers bulge.
The Warriors padded their lead with two runs before the game clock expired in the top of the fourth. Amore walked and scored on a wild pitch, and Carly Fernandes had an RBI groundout.
The Warriors closed out Saturday at 1-2. They lost to the Northwest Explosion 5-3, and bounced back to edge the East Coast Tsunami, 6-5.