Two heavyweights on the Premier Girls Fastpitch circuit put their tournament lives on the line on Thursday morning.
An elimination game between the Firecrackers Brashear and the Corona Angels Slye deserved nothing less than a great finish.
Dramatic and heartbreaking all at the same time, the Firecrackers saw their season come to a close with a 3-2 international tiebreaker loss in the 16-and-under Premier loser’s bracket of the PGF Nationals at Fountain Valley Sports Park.
Under the international tiebreaker format, each team gets a runner at second base to begin an inning offensively. The rule gets implemented once the game goes to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth inning, Bobbi Pratt laid down a bunt to advance the Firecrackers’ runner to third. Madelyn McNally and Carli Kloss, the first two hitters in the Firecrackers’ batting order, grounded out to the right side of the infield, failing to push the run across.
The Firecrackers intentionally walked Rylie West to put a force play in effect at third to begin the bottom of the eighth. The Angels opted to sacrifice anyways, and Kalena Burns executed the bunt.
Camyl Armendariz ended the game with a sacrifice-fly to deep center field.
For the Firecrackers, the loss stung, especially because the Angels had not been forced to put the ball in play for either of their runs in regulation. Wild pitches allowed a runner to score from third base in the third and sixth innings.
“I felt like we were the team in control,” Firecrackers coach Sean Brashear said. “We hit the ball a little bit harder during the innings, but at the same time, how you scratch across a run, there’s no style points.
“They were able to get their runs with some walks and some wild pitches, which is unfortunate on our part.”
Angels starter Angelina Devoe, a southpaw from Wilmington Banning High, proved dominant. She allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits over eight innings. The Boise State commit induced 21 ground-ball outs.
“In games like this, it’s just my job to try to keep my team in the game,” Devoe said. “I’m just making my pitches really work and giving my teammates the ability to make plays.”
After West doubled and scored in the sixth to give the Angels a 2-1 lead, the Firecrackers were down to their final three outs in the tournament. They nearly came back all the way to take the lead.
Laylo Melendez drove a solo home run to center field to tie the score.
With two outs in the inning, Bailey Wallace beat out an infield single, and Megan Ryono reached on an error.
Marina High’s Shayla Thomas came up with runners on the corners. She hit the ball well, but she lined out to left.
“Laylo came through [in the] clutch with that home run to tie it,” Brashear said. “Honestly, in Shayla’s at-bat with the runners on the corners, not many teams play Shayla Thomas at 150 feet.
“When she hit the ball, I thought it was going to be a line-drive base hit. Sure enough, the left fielder was playing right there, so I guess give them credit for that kind of positioning. It was obviously a little disappointing.”
Off the bat, Thomas, a Cal State Northridge commit, also thought she had given her team the lead.
“I was like, ‘Heck yeah. We just scored,’” Thomas said. “At the same time, when she caught it, I was like, ‘Yeah, that really sucks.’”
Kelly Ryono, who played first base for Huntington Beach High in the spring, found herself in right field for the Firecrackers. She caught four flyouts, and she nearly threw out a runner at first base.
“[Karsen Ochs is] awesome,” Ryono said of the Firecrackers’ pitcher. “When I’m in right field, I’m always expecting it because no one can catch up to how hard she throws. It’s amazing.”
Ochs, who is from Georgia, threw 7 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits in the loss. She walked four and struck out six.