Righthander Sydney Andrews of the Lehigh Valley Patriot Flames stared down a bases-loaded, one out jam in the top of the sixth inning to secure a 1-0 victory over Pocono Pride Black last night at Diamond Nation.
Andrews went the distance in a tidy three-hit shutout, striking out 10 and walking three to nail down the 18U Finch’s Aces Invitational championship. Mackenzie Laub was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for her big weekend at the plate and her outstanding defense in the outfield.
It was an outstanding weekend at ‘The Nation’ in which the great Jennie Finch steered a clinic on Friday night and spent much of Saturday coaching and interacting with the 75 teams of young athletes playing in her tournament.
Andrews was dominant into the fifth inning of the final, having permitted just one base runner via a two-out double in the second inning by Pocono Pride first baseman Becca Taney. But Andrews’ command wavered for the first time when she issued back-to-back walks to Taney and Breanna Goldspiel in the fifth.
Andrews, however, struck out the next two batters to preserve the shutout and send the Patriot Flames into the bottom half of the fifth still clinging to a 1-0 lead.
“I was throwing a fastball, changeup, riser, drop curveball and screwball,” said Andrews. “I think I threw about 20 risers.” She also used the changeup well to keep the Pride batters off balance.
Meanwhile Pocono Pride’s Lilah Gothy was terrific as well, scattering six hits and holding the Patriot Flames to a single run while striking out two and walkin none. That Lehigh Valley run was delivered on a single to center field by Katie Gontkosky with two outs in the second. Gothy mowed down the Patriot Flames 1-2-3 in the fifth to send her teammates into their last at bat with a chance.
The top of the sixth started with the time limit almost expended, so the Pride knew the time to strike was upon them. Andrews struck out the leadoff batter but Paige Hromin singled to right to give the Pride its second hit of the game. Gothy then reached on an infield error and cleanup hitter Janine Crawford singled to right field. Right fielder Mackenzie Laub fired home so quickly and accurately they had Hromin in a rundown. But Hromin got back to third safely and the Pride had the bases loaded and just one out.
Andrews got the second out on a strike-three changeup and that brought the imposing Taney to the plate. Taney had doubled in the second and drew a walk in the fifth, so Andrews knew it wouldn’t take much for her opponent to bust the game open. She would have to be careful.
When Taney worked the count to 3-0, the Pride was one ball away from tying the game. But Andrews got the count back to 3-2 and took a chance with a pitch that had served her well all game.
“I went with my riser,” said Andrews about a pitch that finishes out of the strike zone. “It was a risk. I was concerned because she’s a really good hitter. I was going to throw it as hard as I could and I knew she was going to swing as hard as she could.”
Andrews’ riser did its job, rising up a bit too far for Taney to get on top of, but high enough to appear appealing. Taney swung mightily but threw it for strike three and the championship for Lehigh Valley. The very last encounter of the game typified these two dead even combatants.
“It was the best vs. the best,” said Patriots Flames coach Joe Gmitter. “They were tough on us. They made all the plays and didn’t allow us to take extra bases.”
Both teams played well defensively, making all the routine plays and some very tough ones, to boot. Laub made a nice running catch toward the line on a shot by Averi Dockery for the second out of the third inning. And Lehigh Valley shortstop Morgan Benner made a nice backhand snare of a liner by Gothy in the fourth.
The Pride was even more impressive in the field given Lehigh Valley’s ability to put the ball in play. Second baseman Kalli Bunnell got the first two outs of the game on a hot grounder by Benner and a liner in the hole by Angela Fisher. Bunnell dove flat out to catch Fisher’s shot. Pride left fielder Breanna Goldspiel made a diving catch charging in on a sinking liner by Lehigh Valley’s Emma Bond for the second out of the fifth.
The Patriot Flames rallied for their only run with two outs and no one aboard in the second. Laub hit a shot over Goldspiel’s head in left for a double. Gontkosky followed with her RBI single to center. Nicole Yellen then singled through the middle and Salma Lampack-Heverly singled to center, too, to load the base. Both times center fielder Frankee DeLeo charged in and fired the ball to the middle of the diamond to keep the runners from advancing more than one base. That proved huge when Gothy got Bond to line out to third baseman Alivia Klipp to end the threat.
That stellar Pride defense allowed Gothy to settle in and she would allow just two hits the rest of the way.
The Patriot Flames made the lone error in the extremely well-played contest and that one miscue was debatable.
“I guess the old adage applies,” said Gmitter. “Defense wins championships. Games like this are the best games.”
18U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational recaps
Lady Dukes 10U defeated Central Jersey Lightning, 14-2, in the 18U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational championship game. Kourtney Murphy of Lady Dukes was named the 10U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Lady Dukes 10U (6-0) outscored their opponents 55-15. Central Jersey Lightning (5-1) held a 77-22 runs advantage on its opponents.
LADY DUKES 12U
Lady Dukes 12U defeated Empire State Huskies, 9-1, in the 12U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational championship game. Lady Dukes 12U (7-0) outscored their opponents 64-8. Empire State Huskies (5-2) held a 52-26 runs advantage on their opponents.
VIRGINIA STARS (COLANGELO)
Virginia Stars (Colangelo) defeated NJ Pride 14U (Keith), 3-2, in the 14U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational championship game. Chloe King of Virginia Stars was named the 14U t tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Virginia Stars (7-0) outscored their opponents 38-5. NJ Pride 14U (5-2) held a 42-22 runs advantage on its opponents.
ELECTRIC CITY BOMBERS
Electric City Bombers defeated Impact Panthers Black, 2-1, in the 16U Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational championship game. Adrianna Laraway of Electric City was named the 16U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Electric City Bombers (5-1) outscored their opponents 41-19. Impact Panthers Black (4-1-1) held a 30-15 runs advantage on their opponents.