R.I.Thunder Gold’s Frankie Arnold is safe at home, scoring on a wild pitch against Fury Fastpitch.
By Sean Reilly
The Fury Fastpitch ‘10 softball team traveled nearly four hours from its upstate New York base to compete this weekend at the 12U Jennie Finch Spring Invitational at Diamond Nation.
The Fury, a team comprised of 11 year olds playing up a level, came to Flemington wanting to win, but more importantly, hoping to collectively improve as a group of young players facing high-quality opposition.
They accomplished both of those goals in a 4-2 victory over the Rhode Island Thunder Gold 12U in the middle of its three games on the opening day of the tournament.
The Fury wound up 1-0-2 on the day, having tied the East Coast Panthers (1-1-1), 3-3, earlier in the morning and the NJ Pride 12U (0-2-1), 5-5, in the afternoon.
“We’re an 11U team playing 12U, and we’re battling and growing together,” said Fury coach John Mahon. “We drove three hours and 45 minutes to get our reps in, and we certainly did today,”
Lilah LaBarron, who played shortstop in the opener, was the winning pitcher for the Fury. She pitched all five innings, and showed poise in calmly working out of trouble in several innings. Only one batted ball hit by the Thunder reached the outfield.
“Lilah’s an up-and-comer, look out for her,” Mahon said. “She’s tough when she’s on, and she was today. She got out of a tough jam there in the first, battled back and our defense held up and we produced a run on a dropped third strike. That’s the little stuff you’ve got to do to win tight games against a really good team.”
The Fury opened a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. LaBarron had an RBI fielder’s choice and the other run crossed on an error.
In an unusual bottom of the first, the Fury recorded all three outs on tag plays on the bases – two at home and the other at third base.
The Thunder’s Frankie Arnold led off the inning with a single to right field – the lone Thunder ball to go past the infield. She went on to score on a wild pitch. The next two batters would walk, but they’d also be tagged out at the plate on flips from catcher Paige Ells to a covering LaBarron. The third out came when a runner attempting to advance to third following an error was tagged out by third baseman Aubrey Griffith.
The Fury’s Ells, who finished 2-for-3 from the leadoff spot, had an RBI single with one out in third for a 3-1 lead. Rosie Wheeler started the Fury’s fourth inning with a single and scored on a two-out wild pitch to extend the lead to three runs.
The Thunder staged a rally with two out in the fourth. Addison Poole was hit by a pitch, Gabby Fontaine walked and Caroline Nelson had an RBI single. A wild pitch moved both into scoring position, but LaBarron showed poise by striking out the next batter to end the inning.
“I’m proud of myself,” LaBarron said. “I haven’t thrown a change-up for a strike in forever, and that kind of got me out of a lot of situations today. It was my fastball and my change-up.”
“She got stronger as it went, and the team had her back,” Mahon said. “She got herself in jams, but she got herself out of jams. It was a nice learning experience.”
The unbeaten day earned the Fury the 17th seed in Sunday’s 32-team single-elimination phase. They’ll open against 16th-seed Hericanes 12U.
The Thunder Gold went 2-1 on the day, opening with a 12-0 win over NJ Pride 12U and closing with a 5-3 triumph over the East Coast Panthers. They are seeded ninth, and will play No. 24 Staten Island Wolfpack in their first elimination game.