Defense wasn’t missed on 12u American Pastime Velasquez.
Actually, for a majority of contest between Pastime and the Mizuno Storm Friday evening, defense was the name of the game for the two Triple Crown Sparkler Junior challengers. It wasn’t until Pastime broke the game wide open in the final two innings to claim victory, 9-1.
“We’re a little beat up right now,” said head coach Ruben Velasquez. “We’ve been able to wear people down right about that fifth or sixth inning, and that’s when we’ve been able to take advantage.”
It seemed like neither team was going to blink in the early going. In fact, through the first two and one half innings, both teams didn’t surrender a hit. Keely Townsend was the first to break into the hit column with a lead-off single, but even then, the Storm were able to get out of the inning unscathed.
Starting pitcher Paige Cowley kept up her end of the bargain. Through the first four innings, Cowley allowed just one hit and gave up only two free passes.
“Paige is hot right now,” said Velasquez. “She’s just been down right incredible to start this tournament. We try to rest her when we can, but her performances have been absolutely stellar.”
Cowley’s only blemish came in the fifth inning when the Storm tallied its only extra base hit on the evening. Faced with her first bout of adversity, Cowley responded with three strikeouts to end the inning and keep the game at arms length.
“My fastball was really working for me out there,” said Cowley. “When I could get ahead in counts, I was able to change up my speeds and was able to keep them guessing.”
Down a run and with Cowley spinning it in the circle, American Pastime wasted no time to respond. A lead-off walk turned into the first run for the home side, tying the game at one.
An inning later, three consecutive base hits from Payton Angelini, Lauryn Ureno and Carly Ruiz plated two more runs and all of the sudden Pastime had a 3-1 advantage with just two innings to play.
“We have been preaching all year about what it would take to win a tournament like this,” said Velasquez. “It’s a testament to these girls in staying focused. They’re prepared to win.”
In the top half of the sixth inning, Cowley seemed unflappable. Two straight strikeouts, followed by her own putout ended the frame before the blink of an eye. On the evening, Cowley finished with eight strikeouts, four of them looking.
As the sun crept behind the Rocky Mountains to the west, the shadows engulfed the field, allowing the Pastime offense a better crack at Mizuno’s pitching in the sixth inning.
What started with a lead-off hit from Adriana Velasquez, turned in to an avalanche of runs for American Pastime. The Storm could only notch two outs before Pastime collected six hits, a sacrifice fly from Emily Capobianco, two walks and six total runs to force the run-rule, 9-1.
“I think a win like this really shows that we can win any type of ballgame,” said Cowley. “If we’re down, tied or even ahead, I think this team has total confidence in ourselves to go out there and get the job done.”
For Cowley, the direct granddaughter of American Pastime’s founding member, her performance in the Sparkler Juniors is a little sweeter than most.
“To play in the same tournaments that my all of my family members have is truly an honor,” said Cowley.”I know for us to play for championships is what my grandfather had in mind.”
Cowley and American Pastime will continue its road to the championship as they continue in the Sparkler Junior 12u Bracket. Pastime’s next challenger will be the Texas Bombers Saturday at 2 p.m.