by Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. — One tip regarding the Arizona Storm-Captain 16u squad — keep an eye on the top of the batting order.
The first three batters in the lineup for the Storm for Tuesday’s 16u Power Pool game at Aurora Sports Park dominated early, going 7-for-7 and scoring six runs to build a lead against the Alabama Thunderbolts-Sherman. Those runs held up after a Bolts rally, with the Storm heading to the hotel with a 7-5 victory.
Storm starting pitcher Kaitlyn Tso threw three innings and then came back in the sixth for the final two outs after the Bolts had scored three runs in the frame.
That bit of drama may have been rooted in the Storm’s hope to get some the reserves into the action, but either way, the roster will always have a fighting chance with Faith Kroening (triple, three runs), Raegan Holtorf (three hits, two runs, two RBI) and Makenzi Padilla (three hits, a home run, four RBI) setting the table.
“We came into this game really prepared for the competition we were going to face. We were able to get going and score some runs,” Padilla said. “I think we are ready for this.”
“I know they can hit, and when they do their job I do mine in the circle. I just stayed calm (in the sixth inning); whenever the coach needs me I’ll go backing and do my thing,” Tso said. “We have players who can hit, a good pitching staff, great catchers, and the defense is amazing, too.”
Padilla hit a three-run homer to dead centerfield in the first inning; Bolts pitcher Ryley Harrison seemed determined to right the ship, striking out three in a row to end the frame and then homering herself in the bottom of the first to make it 3-2.
In the second, Holtorf fought through a long at-bat that easily hit double figures in pitches to nail a run-scoring single, and Padilla drove her home with a single as well, making it 5-2.
“Having Faith hit above me kind of helps, she’s an awesome leadoff, and we like to jump on certain pitches early in the cont,” Holtorf said. “That helps us a lot; we see each other’s at-bats and can work off each other. It got little shaky at the end, but Kaitlyn can go in there and just punch pitches right in the zone. We were able to get out of it.”
Two more runs for the Storm made it 7-2 after four; the Bolts made it interesting by taking advantage of a walk, passed ball wild pitch and an error — a double from Emily Chandler made it 7-5. Tso closed the door with an infield grounder and a foul-out near third base.
“I think you’re always hoping your team will get better and better, and I would hate to put any limits on them or begin to imagine they’ve maxed out,” said coach Steve Captain. “We’ll continue to push them; be better every game and take no one for granted, because every team here is solid.”