Jenna Bloom and Jayden McKeague have been a softball battery since their early days in travel ball in the 12-and-under age group.
They separated only for a moment before reuniting at Edison High.
Bloom, a rising senior who is committed to Arkansas, has emerged as one of the area’s best in the pitching circle.
Like many of the top pitching and catching duos, Bloom and McKeague are often together, forging a relationship that goes beyond the softball diamond.
Graduation, however, threatened to break up this long-lasting connection, as McKeague played out her senior year and will head to Iowa State in the fall.
After the high school season, McKeague joined Bloom’s club team, the 18-and-under Explosion roster coached by Bret Denio. Bloom and McKeague have one more run together.
Bloom started on Tuesday morning, but she was outdueled by Ashley Rogers as the Explosion fell 5-1 to the Tennessee Fury in the second round of the Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals 18U Premier bracket at Huntington Beach Sports Complex.
Rogers, a Tennessee commit, allowed one run on six hits while striking out 12 for the Fury.
A tight strike zone greeted the starting pitchers, both of whom issued two walks in the first inning.
“There was a really tight zone, from my perspective,” Bloom said. “I was pitching pretty low today, and I need to make some adjustments tomorrow and come back stronger.
“I think Jayden did a really good job today of framing, as much as she could.”
Bloom threw 3 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and walking four. She limited the damage against her to two runs (one earned), striking out five and stranding six runners.
“[The umpire] started expanding his zone when [Bloom] left,” McKeague said. “I think that kind of worked against Jenna. I think Jenna did a really good job, knowing herself, not doing exactly what she wanted, but she was still getting in there and fighting for what she wanted.”
The Fury broke the game open with three runs in the top of the sixth. Explosion third baseman Jazmyn Rollin initially saved a run with a diving stop on Haley Smith’s bases-loaded groundout.
A seeing-eye single by Aubrey Reed eluded the Explosion’s right-side infielders with two outs, however, extending the Fury’s lead to 5-0.
Rollin brought excitement to the game, playing a high-risk, high-reward brand of softball. She got the uniform dirty with diving grabs in the field, and she also stole a pair of bases. The Missouri commit went three for three at the plate, accounting for half of the Explosion’s hits.
“[Rogers] threw hard with a lot of movement,” Rollin said. “Going into the box, I knew to just focus on one pitch, and when she gives it to you, make her pay for it.
“When she gave me the pitch that I wanted, I hit it square. Instead of guessing and chasing a pitch, I waited for her to come to me. I also moved my feet because she was throwing a little harder until I got adjusted to her speed.”
Another player who knew what she was trying to execute at the plate was Edison rising senior Serena Starks. The Explosion right fielder went two for four, wearing out the left side of the field. She also scored her team’s lone run.
The Princeton-committed outfielder also made a diving catch to rob Shyanne Sheffield of a hit.
“At first, I thought it was bobbling, but then I flipped my glove around, and I caught it again,” Starks said.“I caught it two times.”
The Explosion will try to battle back through the loser’s bracket, needing to win four games on Wednesday to advance to the next day. The first game will be at 8 a.m. against the Salinas Storm on Field No. 7.
On Monday, the Explosion opened the tournament with a 5-4 win in eight innings over the SoCal Athletics Richardson. They surrendered four runs in the top half of the inning, but a three-run walk-off home run by McKenzie “Tank” Barbara capped the comeback.
“I think the one word was ‘unreal,’ ” McKeague said of Barbara’s heroics. “We were all hoping that it happened, and the fact that it actually did, it was like one of those fairy tale things. Right time, right place, right person.”