By Savvy Rafkin
NORTHGLENN, Colo. – With hundreds of teams flooding into Colorado to participate in the Triple Crown 4th of July event, attention can be hard to come by.
Especially with new competition from national competitors, every team is forced to adjust their strategy to capitalize on their strengths and hide their weaknesses. The 16U Nevada Hotshots Gooch 24/25 found themselves on the losing end of their first game, suffering an 8-3 defeat against the Texas Hooks Elite.
Refusing to be discouraged by an unideal first game and only having under 30 minutes to recuperate, the Hotshots suited up for their second bout against the Finesse West Riemersma at the Northwest Open Space complex Wednesday afternoon.
After the first inning, the Hotshots had only tallied one run. Holding their opponent scoreless at the bottom of the first, it was back to the offensive side, where the lineup went to work and added another four runs to their lead in the top of the second.
With things looking positive and continuing to keep their opponent off the scorecard, the Hotshots sealed their fate after breaking into an unstoppable rally to drive in 12 runs in the third inning and happily walked away with a 21-7 victory.
Every player crossed the plate at least once, though several made it a routine. Catcher Brooke Baxter shined offensively, hitting a single in the first inning, a home run in the second inning, followed by a walk in the third.
“It makes me feel good that I’m performing for my team, and we did well as a team,” she said. “It makes me feel good that my hard work is paying off. I thought (my homerun) was a double, but I was glad it wasn’t.”
Joining her in success was teammate, Layni Noonkester, who hit a grand slam in the third inning and third baseman, Mckenna Timmons, who was only a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
But adding a tally to the win column was not what mattered to Hotshots head coach Joe Gooch. In fact, it was simply a bonus. Leading up to this tournament, Gooch had assigned his players the task of reaching out to college coaches, hoping at least a few would find themselves in the stands.
To his pleasure, he spent a majority of the game chatting with coaches his players invited to the game.
“My girls are doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “Last time we were out here, we only saw one coach. The coaches here happened because they are doing all the right stuff. It’s good to see them. Last year when we were here, we went into championship Sunday and only saw a few as we got later in.”
With smiles on their faces and a fresh win in their pocket, coach and players alike are hopeful for what the rest of the tournament has to offer.
The tournament veterans will play their final two pool play games on Thursday with their eyes on the prize and the confidence to take the tournament title.
“I expect to win,” Timmons said. “Get as far as we can, get to championship Sunday, and catch a dub.”