Belief never wavers for VA Unity Johnson-Ross as rally leads to 16u Power Pool title at Colorado 4th of July
By Kyle Koso
AURORA, Colo. – What jumped out about the celebration was just how un-celebratory the moment felt.
In the 16u Power Pool title game Sunday at the Colorado 4th of July event, Esther White launched a home run for the Virginia Unity Johnson/Ross squad to start the second inning. Teammates gathered at home plate to welcome her; she got a few pats on the helmet and almost silently the Unity returned to the dugout, now trailing 4-2 against the Oklahoma Athletics Madden-Clemmer at the Aurora Sports Park.
There was no pranking or disrespect implied – ultimately, the Unity simply knew their work was just beginning. That dedication to righting the ship and fulfilling their potential shined brightly in the end as the Unity (Rockvale, TN) claimed a 15-6 victory to earn one of the most prized championships at Triple Crown’s signature fastpitch tournament.
“After Essie hit the home run, I think we were, ‘OK this is how we thought this would go.’ We certainly didn’t think four runs would win the game, and you saw we put up 15,” said Unity coach Tommy Bain. “We were able to get right back in the game.”
Frankie Vrazel singled and scored in the first for Unity, and the Athletics came flying out of the gate as the first four batters reached and scored in the bottom of the frame. The key hit came from Hannah Wells, who sat back on a changeup and muscled a single to right that drove in two runs.
The Unity made a pitching change and called up the right reliever in Jayden Heavener, who is committed to play college softball at LSU and allowed just one hit over three innings, calming the waters until the team could mount the comeback. Heavener herself hit a two-run homer in the third as the Unity plated six runs and asserted control of the contest.
“Mentally, I just stay calm. I know I have a good defense and our hitters are well able to get runners in,” said Heavener, who struck out five batters. “As a group, we used (falling behind) as motivation. We knew we’d come back, we just wanted to do that earlier in the game and not wait until the seventh game where it was a close game. I’m very excited – I haven’t hit a lot this season, but I’m glad we could do this here.”
Ramsey Walker (Arkansas) hit two home runs for Unity; she and White (Georgia) each had three RBI, with White wrapping up the scoring with a triple in the fifth. Destiny Harris (LSU) drove in two runs and Vrazel (Texas A&M) had an outstanding day from the leadoff spot with four hits, three stolen bases and three runs scored.
“I was waiting for a pitch that I could drive and hit hard, not go after her pitch but wait for mine,” Walker said. “We trust each other; we pass the bat and started doing what we know how to do. It was a battle, the whole pitching staff backed each other up, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
”The first at-bat of the game, I like to not get ahead of myself. Even if I take a strike first pitch, I know I have the whole at-bat to work,” Vrazel said. “I hunt for strikes after that, and the first one I see I try to do my job with that. I knew there was a whole game left after we fell behind; we’ve been behind before, and we always come through.”
The Athletics (Bethany, OK) showed one last push in the fifth with solo home runs from Karsen Griggs (Kansas) and Libby Jaques; reliever Morgen Talley wrapped up a bases-loaded jam by getting the final two outs on a liner to shortstop and fly to center.
“We knew all the pitchers were fresh; we’ve got a deep team with 15 kids and we carry four very good pitchers,” Bain added. “No one had been overworked – we felt we’d come in today with the deepest staff, and I think we showed that.”
In the 16u Supplemental Power Pool title game, Tennessee Mojo 2025-Gregory (Portland, TN) topped Preps Academy National-Lopez (Fair Oaks, CA) by a score of 14-1.