by Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. — Staying optimistic about your chances in competition is the smart and logical way to maintain your edge, even if it almost makes you look crazy to be a believer.
The 16u AZ Hotshots-Captain squad stood just two outs from defeat Friday during Power Pool action against 16u Aces Ashley/Creamer, with the Hotshots hanging around the margins all game without much to show for the effort. But two doubles, an error and a wild pitch turned the moment upside down in the bottom of the sixth, and the Hotshots escaped with a 3-2 victory to advance in Bracket A action.
Aubrey Chavez doubled with one out, and pinch-hitter Alexi Diaz fought off the stress of an 0-2 count to double as well to make it 2-1 for the Aces. With Olivia Lostorto batting, an error allowed Diaz to score, with Lostorto advancing all the way to third.
And one wild pitch later, the Hotshots had their comeback in the books.
“That’s the key, playing to the very last out and the very last pitch. They have to know they still have a chance, and they knew they had the talent and the opportunity to win,” said Hotshots head coach Steve Captain. “They strung it together, and they put pressure on the other team at the end of the game, which led to mistakes.”
Outside of the shocking rally, the game was dominated by Aces pitcher Kylie Chung, who finished with 10 strikeouts and ended four innings with whiffs by Hotshot batters. That kept the Aces out of trouble, and Chung also provided a long solo home run in the fourth inning, pairing it with a run that came across on a balk to give the Aces that 2-0 lead.
In the sixth, Diaz came up and got into an immediate 0-2 hole. But rather than take a tentative swing, she punched a double to left-center to get the Hotshots on the scoreboard.
“Coach told me to be up on the plate to take away the outside. I watched two on the outside, knowing I shouldn’t have, but Coach said don’t leave anything on the table, so I just swung,” Diaz said. “We had a pretty good lead in our first game today and ended up getting tied and needing a tiebreaker. We didn’t lose our spirits then, and we didn’t do it this game, either.”
“We had figured early on that (Chung) was living on the outside, and the strike zone was outside, so we had to make the adjustment. We told all the batters to get up on the chalk,” Captain said. “When I made the substitution and (Diaz) came up, she let two go by, and I told her that shouldn’t have been a surprise. I was proud of her; she took it opposite field, and that made the difference.”
The rally gave the win to Hotshots starter Angelica Tello, who pitched very well — three hits allowed, three walks, and ringing up six of the first seven outs on harmless balls to third base.
“I shook off that first game; I knew my team wanted this one, and I had to give it my all,” Tello said. “It felt pretty good, knowing my team had my back and was able to score the runs we needed.”
Chavez had two hits and a walk for the Hotshots, and Taylor Meyers also doubled.