While Sam Hausman delivered the big hit and Natasha Mendez drove in the decisive run, the well-rounded game of both EC Bullets NY and Spitfire Softball 18U made the Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational the biggest winner this past weekend at Diamond Nation.
The Bullets and Spitfire put forth excellent pitching and defense and played the 18U championship game right down to the final out as the third-seeded Bullets prevailed, 2-1, to derail the fifth-seeded Spitfire’s bid for a second straight Fall Invitational championship.
Kylie Murray and Shannon Becker combined on a four-hitter, while striking out five and walking none for the EC Bullets (5-1). That efficiency on the mound was much needed to outduel Spitfire Softball’s Lexi Rogers, who threw a three-hitter and struck out eight and walked none as well. The hard-throwing Rogers did hit two batters. Murray was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The West Chester County, N.Y.-based Bullets struck for both of their runs off Rogers in the bottom of the fourth inning and both would be unearned after Sophia Pak led off and reached on an infield error. Hausman followed with a blast into the right-center field gap that went for an RBI triple and the game’s first run.
“I was at 0-1 after I fouled off a riser,” said Hausman. “I like a count with less than two strikes and I was looking for something middle-in and got it. It was either a fastball or riser, I’m not sure.” Hausman, impressively, stayed right on the heater and sent it on a line the other way, splitting the gap as Pak raced home unabated.
“The last two pitchers I saw in the tournament weren’t throwing as hard as (Rogers),” said Hausman, who also singled through the right side in the sixth inning. Hausman’s triple, in fact, was the first hit of the game for the Bullets.
“I was concerned we wouldn’t score off her,” said Bullets coach Jay Hausman. “A kid like that can string together 10 strikeouts in a row. We did a pretty good job of putting the ball in play.”
Rogers nearly got out of the fourth inning without further trouble and probably should have. She got Zoey Kovach on a liner back to the mound and struck out Becker for the second out. But when Mendez lofted a high pop up behind second base, no one really took charge and the ball fell for a single that allowed Hausman to score the second run.
Spitfire Softball (5-2) finally broke through in its last at bat. Alyssa Fisher reached on an infield error leading off the seventh before Becker got a strikeout and groundout to inch to one out away from closing out the victory. But Izzy Griswold hit a sharp single toward left-center field that took a bad bounce and got past Pak in left field. Fisher scored easily and Griswold raced to second with the tying run.
All this seemed appropriate after the way both teams had battled to that point.
Then the Spitfire’s center fielder Watson, nicknamed Smoke, very nearly tied the game, but her shot to left field was hauled in nicely by Pak to end the game.
“We played well defensively,” said coach Hausman.
Actually, though all three of the game’s runs were unearned, both teams were impressive defensively.
The Bullets turned a 4-6-3 double play in the first inning to get Murray out of trouble. Murray made a nice play on a comebacker off the bat of Griswold in the second. Rogers hit a shot back to the box in the fourth that deflected off the foot of Murray and landed harmlessly in the alert glove of second baseman Julia Vesey. Spitfire third baseman Jayla Bartholomew made a terrific play on a roller by Gabby Milczarski in the third and Murray and Becker each got an out by perfectly handling bunt attempts by the Bullets.
The Bullets’ Sasha Persaud was hit by a pitch in both of her at bats, the first of which hit her in the helmet. While that first plunking obviously drew the concern of both teams’ coaches, Persaud simply flashed a big smile and trotted to first base.
NOTES: Murray shut out the Spitfire on two hits over the first four innings. While she neither struck out or walked a batter she simply pounded the zone with strikes. … Becker worked the final three innings, permitting a run that was unearned on two hits. She struck out five and walked none. Megan King had an infield hit in the fifth inning for Spitfire before Becker got out of a one-out, two-on jam with a strikeout and groundout. … Spitfire Softball, based in Waynesboro, Pa., won the 2019 18U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational championship.
Empire State Huskies 12, NW Explosion (Kametz) 2
The Empire State Huskies defeated NW Explosion (Kametz), 12-2, in the 10U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational. Lila Conrad of the Huskies was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Huskies (4-0) outscored their opponents 48-10. NW Explosion (4-1) held a 37-24 runs advantage on its opponents.
Team Long Island ‘08 3, NJ Pride 2
Team Long Island ‘08 defeated NJ Pride, 3-2, in the 12U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational. The MVP was awarded to the entire Team Long Island team. Team Long Island ‘08 (7-0) outscored its opponents 62-17. NJ Pride (5-2) held a 33-14 runs advantage on their opponents.
Delaware Tribe 5, Phoenix Warriors 4
Delaware Tribe defeated the Phoenix Warriors, 5-4, in the 14U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational. Grace Hoban of the Tribe was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Tribe (7-0) outscored its opponents 62-21. The Warriors (6-1) held a 54-20 runs advantage on their opponents.
Delaware Tribe 7, Long Island Pride Futures 2
Delaware Tribe defeated Long Island Pride Futures, 7-2, in the 16U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational. Kinsley Hall of the Tribe was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Tribe (5-0-1) outscored its opponents 47-20. Long Island Pride Futures (4-2) held a 43-20 runs advantage on their opponents.