Avianna Hul of the Empire State Huskies blasted an RBI triple in the first inning.
By Rich Bevensee
While winter was turning into spring, to say Joe Porcelli was concerned about the state of his softball club would be an understatement.
The Empire State Huskies 12U team underperformed through its first two tournaments of the season – one in Florida in February and the next in North Carolina in March – and he wasn’t sure when the switch would be flipped to ON.
“We didn’t play well at all, but those teams in the south, they’re on the field all the time playing and we’re not playing at all, just practicing a lot of swings in the little dome we have,” Porcelli said. “You go out on the field and it’s a whole different atmosphere. They just didn’t get it yet.”
But maybe those tournaments served as a valuable lesson. Last week the Huskies played up in a 14U tournament in Chester, N.Y. – and won the title.
The Huskies, based in Westchester County, N.Y., rolled into Diamond Nation in Flemington on Saturday anxious to see if that tournament title could be parlayed into more success within their own age division, and the answer was a resounding yes.
Mckenna Osgood and Madison Miller combined on a four-hitter, Lila Conrad went 3-for-3 with an inside-the-park home run, and the Huskies blew past the Connecticut Lightning 10s, 12-2, in five innings in pool play at the Jennie Finch Spring Invitational.
Finch, the nation’s most famous softball player, was on ‘The Nation’s’ campus Saturday to meet players and to offer encouragement and advice. Finch was a college All-America selection and a two-time U.S. Olympian and now resides in Louisiana. She makes three visits annually to the complex.
The Huskies finished the day 3-0 and as the top seed in the 12U White Division after beating Pennsylvania Chaos 2K10, 5-1, and Rip City USA, 7-0. They were set to face the No. 16 or 17 seed in a playoff opener on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
The Lightning were unable to secure a victory in three tries on Saturday, falling to the Huskies, Rip City USA (10-2) and Pennsylvania Chaos 2K10 (10-1). The Lightning will complete pool play against New Jersey Pride 12U Phil on Sunday at 8 a.m.
Osgood pitched three innings and allowed two runs on three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts, and she exited with a 7-2 lead. Miller pitched two shutout innings and allowed two hits and a walk with one strikeout.
Osgood, who missed the two trips south due to a knee injury, said she was apprehensive about run support until the 14U tournament last week when her teammates turned up the offensive firepower.
“When I first came back I was nervous but then they started getting hits and I was ready to go,” Osgood said. “We have great players and when they hit it gets me excited to pitch.”
The Huskies sprinted to a 7-0 lead through the top half of the third before the Lightning got on the board.
In the first inning, Avianna Hul smacked an RBI triple. In the second, Conrad smoked a liner into center field for a two-run inside-the-park home run before Peyton Burton’s RBI triple made it 3-0. Her bloop single bounded over the center fielder’s head.
In the third inning Conrad picked up another RBI with a single to center, Francesca Napolitano had an RBI groundout, and Burton slapped a run-scoring single to left for a 7-0 lead.
Conrad, who admitted she struggled with the bat during the Huskies’ championship effort last weekend, chalked up her second inside the park homer and her third homer overall this season. She had another base hit in the Huskies’ four-run fifth inning.
“I really wanted to improve from last week, so I had more of a positive attitude and I stayed focused,” Conrad said. “We have great hitters on our team and when we’re all hitting, we’re all up, we’re all in the game. Sometimes some of us struggle but we pick each other up.”
The Lightning broke through in the bottom of the third when leadoff hitter Ella Rembish lashed a two-run single to left.
The Huskies quickly responded in the fourth when Ellie Firsenbaum cracked a hard grounder through the middle and the ball skipped to the wall for an RBI triple.
The Huskies put the game out of reach with four runs in the fifth. Burton drove in a run on a groundout, Osgood cranked a two-run triple and Alanah King added an RBI groundout.
Erica Hudson and Brynn Marino led the Lightning offense with two singles each.