A pitchers duel turned into a small-ball clinic put on by the Arizona Hotshots.
With a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh inning, the Hotshots utilized crafty base running and hitting to cap off a 7-2 win over the Wheatland Spikes in the Colorado Fireworks 16U Supplemental Pool.
“You know we were asleep at the wheel I think the first couple of innings there,” Brian Georges, Arizona Hotshots head coach said on his team’s offensive performance. “We had to play a lot of small-ball just to get our girls woken up and energized.”
The small-ball mindset was picked up after the fourth inning, where the Hotshots found themselves with the bases loaded and no outs. Nicole Shano had a clear path to home plate but elected not to slide and was beat out by a throw from left field. The Hotshots did manage to plate one run in the inning to tie the game, 2-2.
In the circle for the Hotshots was right-handed Bailey Tanner, who replaced starter McKenna Leamon after she left with a hip injury through two innings. Tanner was dominant from the circle, throwing five innings while allowing one run and no walks.
“That’s Bailey, Bailey’s awesome,” Georges said. “McKenna came out with a hip issue, we wanted to keep McKenna in the game, but her hip was really bothering her. Bailey is our number one, a clear number one for us. The girl just hits every spot that you need her to hit and she just dominated the strike zone.”
Tanner was able to work through the lineup with few hiccups, despite differences in finding the strike zone.
“I saw early on that the umpire’s strike zone was a little bit small, and he wasn’t calling low,” Tanner said. “So I avoided that as much as I could, but I didn’t change anything for the umpire’s strike zone. I kept throwing the low ones, but when I got into certain counts I just wouldn’t resort to those, which I usually would.”
From the offensive side, the Hotshots had to respond to seeing five called strike threes, something their coach would have preferred to avoid.
“The zone was a tough one to navigate,” Georges said. “But still, I really felt like our girls should have had a better understanding of what the zone was and shouldn’t have been taking as many strikes as they did.”
After hitting a home run in the first inning, Sydny Taylor gave the Hotshots the lead for good in the fifth inning with a RBI single that bounced over the Spike’s second baseman and into right field. Taylor finished the game 3-4 with two RBI.
“I saw it all in slow motion and then it was right down the middle,” Taylor said of her home run ball. “As soon as I hit it I didn’t even feel it.”
The Hotshots had no problems getting on base, as they had 18 hits in the game, but struggled to bring them home leaving 10 runners on base. The seventh inning saw Georges use a different strategy to try to plate the runs.
Both Ariana Pena and Kathleen Georges came in to pinch run in the seventh for Brooke Piazza and Nicole Shano, respectively. The two speedsters stole their way to third and second base and on consecutive infield ground balls beat the throw home to break the game open in the final frame.
The offense took a while to get going for the Hotshots, but Tanner kept the Spikes off the board and the offense adjusted enough to pull out a 7-2 win. Coach Georges felt the team may have gotten lucky to pull the game out, and expects better play moving forward.
“We were fortunate to come out with a win in this game,” Georges said. “We didn’t play our best ball at all.”