Scoring opportunities can come at a premium against quality pitching.
The Lakewood Firecrackers Hagberg found out exactly what that is like on Wednesday.
Logan Hulon struck out six in a two-hit shutout, and the Firecrackers dropped their third-round game to the Texas Bombers Jones 6-0 in the 16-and-under Premier draw of the Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals at Fountain Valley Sports Park.
The Firecrackers got hits from Haley Hoskin, a rising sophomore at Ocean View High, and Skyler Stethman in the second inning, but Hulon worked out of the jam. From there, only one ball made it out of the infield against the University of Houston commit.
“I think our girls are not used to seeing the velocity that we see when we come to PGF,” Firecrackers coach Donnie Hagberg said. “Our pitching, from what I’ve seen here in Southern California, the kids that have that velocity go directly to 18s.
“They don’t pitch 16U, so we face 59-62 mph kids all year long, and then when we get to PGF, we get kids throwing 63-65, and our kids aren’t used to that velocity.”
Hulon thwarted the Firecrackers’ threat, and the Bombers broke the scoreless tie in the top of the third inning. Madison Blount, an East Carolina-committed catcher, doubled with two outs to make it 2-0.
The two-out woes did not end for the Firecrackers. In the fourth inning, starting pitcher Jasmine Castaneda issued consecutive bases-loaded walks to Aaliyah Ortiz and Blount to end her outing.
Amanda Hernandez came on in relief, and Bombers shortstop Marianna Torres greeted her with a two-run single to right field.
Hagberg said that a close game was broken open because his pitchers were not given the outside corner against right-handed batters.
“The catcher’s not moving her glove, and you don’t get those calls, you turn a 2-0 game into a 5-0 game with one swing of the bat because you don’t get a call,” Hagberg said. “We get that call, we’re out of the inning, and it’s 2-0.”
Hoskin had a single and a walk while batting cleanup for the Firecrackers. She played first base, a move that Hagberg made in anticipation of where she might play in college.
“She’s one of the more calm hitters at the plate that I’ve coached in a lot of years,” Hagberg said. “Obviously, her just being a freshman going into her sophomore year, I look forward to her growth next year as a hitter.
“Big and strong kid. She made a position change this year. She has always played middle infield. That’s not where she is going to play at the next level.”
Marina players Emily Rush and Paige Shafer are also on the Firecrackers. Rush played third base on Wednesday, but Hagberg said he plans to have the Vikings’ ace pitch when the Firecrackers begin their run through the loser’s bracket with a game against Sacramento’s Lady Magic at 8 a.m. on Thursday.
The Firecrackers must win nine elimination games in two days to reach the 16U Premier final, something that teams know is possible after the O.C. Batbusters Stith won 10 straight elimination games to make it to the 18U Premier championship game last week after dropping their opener.
“I think it does [give us belief],” Hoskin said of knowing about the Batbusters’ success in the loser’s bracket. “It gives us some confidence knowing that other people have done it, and we are a good group of girls.”
Shafer, a center fielder batting leadoff for the Firecrackers, saw an interesting shift played against her defensively. Three infielders were placed on the left side of second base against the left-handed-hitting Shafer, and the right fielder was practically playing in straightaway center field.