Kiwanis walks off with minor softball title

GLENDALE — Natalie Bitetti had a sixth inning to remember.

The Crescenta Valley Kiwanis pitcher put her stamp on a thrilling, well-played tilt with Crescenta Valley Aristo in the District 16 minor softball Tournament of Champions title game Saturday at Scholl Canyon.

PHOTOS: Aristo vs. Kiwanis girls' softball

Bitetti struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning to keep the Kiwanis deficit at one run. Then in the bottom of the frame, she stepped up to the plate with two runners on and capitalized with a walk-off double to right center to give Kiwanis the 14-13 victory and the championship trophy.

“She’s been our leader,” Kiwanis Coach Mark Bitetti said. “She always wants the ball in a pressure situation.”

Natalie Bitetti’s counterpart, Katie Ward, pitched all six innings for Aristo and struck out 13 batters.

Offense prevailed for both teams, however, in the see-saw game that had five lead changes. The onslaught included three home runs— two from Aristo’s Alyssa Nelson.

Highlighted by Natalie Bitetti’s game-winning hit and Kaitlyn Austin’s two-run home run, Kiwanis would strike last, scoring four unanswered runs over the final two innings to clinch the victory.

“You’ve got the two best teams,” Aristo Coach Brett Ramaker said. “We won the league, so this was sort of an added bonus for us. One versus two, both teams played outstanding.”

Ramaker’s squad used four stolen bases in the first inning to take an early 1-0 lead.

Kiwanis answered with four in their half of the frame. Natalie Bitetti, who went three for three on the day, singled home Karlie Vinceri to tie the score at 1. Ward endured three errors from her defense in the inning.

Aristo regained the lead in the third on a double off the bat of Kaitlyn Dunford, scoring Emily Ruano and Katie Rose Clem.

Nelson’s two-run home run in the fourth extended the Aristo lead to 8-5.

Kiwanis capitalized on five walks and a two-run single from Alex Schwalbach to score five in the fourth and take a 10-9 lead. Schwalbach was on second base with Natalie Bitetti on third when the five-run rule was called.

Nelson wouldn’t allow Kiwanis to enjoy the lead for very long, as her second home run — a three run shot — gave Aristo a 13-10 advantage. Aristo wouldn’t score again—one of two half innings in the game with no runs scored.

“It was a back and forth struggle,” Mark Bitetti said. “They had a big inning, we had a big inning. We just had the last one.

“Hats off to Aristo, they had a great year. Katie Ward pitched a great game.”

Nelson was one of our four players in the game with at least two hits. Natalie Bitetti, Schwalbach, and Dunford being the other three.

Because Natalie Bitetti pitched six innings in the team’s 14-8 win over Foothill-Original Tommy’s on Wednesday, Mark Bitetti could only use her for three innings on Saturday. She pitched the first two, was relieved by Vinceri and came back in the sixth, where she showed her versatility and helped give Kiwanis the championship.

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