By Adam Dunivan
WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- Caleigh Robinson may have been the one to ultimately deliver the biggest hit for the 18U Illusions Gold Villegas in Friday's thrilling 8-7 victory over the Rocky MTN Thunder Grammerstorf, but she wasn't about to take any of the credit for the 18U Colorado Sparkler Mt. Elbert A Bracket win, which puts the team up against the NJ Heist Elite on Saturday.
"It was just a team effort," Robinson said. "Yeah, I got the game-winning runs but it took guys in front of me to get on and do their jobs so I had to do mine. And the pitching stepped up in the end to finish it off."
Indeed it was a team win to the end, with both highlight-reel moments (here's looking at you, Maddie Boldt) and some head-scratching mistakes that kept the Colorado-based Thunder in the game and allowed them to tie things at 6-6 after six innings. Illusions Gold Villegas led the game 6-2 at one point.
Robinson was clutch in the seventh inning, hitting a two-run double to make it 8-6 just when it appeared the Thunder were going to get out of a big jam. Then in the bottom of the seventh, after an efficient six frames from starting pitcher Taryn Westbrook, 2020 Lauren Herrneckar came in and shut the door, though an error did lead to a Thunder run to provide the final margin.
It was tense, but then again at this stage of the tournament, everyone is out to win at all costs.
"It was crazy, for sure," Robinson said. "Maddie (Boldt) carried us. Our pitcher (Westbrook) ... if a pitcher is stressing then they're not going to be their best ... but she is always calm and collected."
Boldt hit two home runs, one reaching the backyard of a house well beyond the left field wall at the Tepper #2 field and the other which would have rivaled any Major Leaguer's exit velocity on its way out.
However, those blasts may not have been Boldt's top highlights. Having had the bat taken out of her hand by intentional walk the rest of the afternoon, Boldt made up for it in centerfield. In the bottom of the fifth she cut off a run at home plate with a tremendous throw from near the 200-foot fence -- it landed in the catcher's glove on the fly and certainly stirred up the Illusions supporting group.
The Thunder, winners of four of their six games so far, chipped away by scoring in five of seven innings. Trailing 6-5 in the sixth and with time expired, 2020 Erin Keen came up with a tying base knock to set up a nerve-wracking conclusion.
Illusions Gold Villegas (Austin, Texas) improved to 5-0-1 for the tournament, as earlier on Friday it blanked Advanced Fastpitch Academy (Overland Park, Kans.) by a 9-0 count.