Pool play has been a sturdy test for the 14u California Breeze – Fernald. Slipping by Lady Lightning Gold, 8-7, and toppling Texas Bombers Futures, 6-5, has the Breeze eying the top power pool bracket with one more game to go.
“We play this high-level, competitive schedule all Summer,” said head coach Ryan Fernald. “It’s what we want. The response to adversity today was really impressive.
When we jump out on teams, it’s easy to build confidence but to come from behind like we did takes a lot of character.”
The Bombers struck first in the opening frame, capitalizing on a lead-off walk and an error to score the game’s first run. California countered in the second with an RBI single from Jazlyn Fines.
With the game knotted at one, the momentum shifted back to Texas in the third inning. Kaylee Blackledge and Kaelyn Zusi each tallied RBI and all of the sudden the Bombers had two-run lead, 5-3.
Despite Brielle Wright keeping California within arm’s reach in the circle, the Breeze failed to muster any run support as the game drifted into the fifth inning.
“We knew we had the ability to come back at any moment,” explained Makayla Newsom. “We just needed that one person to make a big play and do their job.”
Mia Santos got the ball rolling with a lead-off single. Newsom, merely trying to bunt Santos over, took advantage of a duo of Bomber errors and scampered all the way around the base pads, tying the game at three.
Tying the game wasn’t good enough for Fernald’s crew, though. Behind Newsom’s inside-the-park home run, Robyn Balmediano and D’Auna Johnson each collected doubles while Layla Towner notched a triple and scurried home on a wild pitch. In total, the Breeze scored five runs, taking control of the contest, 6-3.
“I think the momentum was swinging back to us in a big way in the middle of that inning,” said Johnson. “I had been struggling up to that point. I just knew I had to stay within myself and keep the big inning going for my team.”
“I challenged them right before that inning,” Fernald said. “I asked them if they were ready to play ball yet. All of them said yes and they came out firing in that inning.”
California’s work wasn’t quite complete just yet. Even though time expired in the top of the sixth inning, the Breeze still needed to secure the final three outs.
Texas battle back for two more runs, crawling within one, 6-5. With a runner on and nobody out, Fernald turned to Malaya Johnson.
“I talk about these situations with her all the time,” said Fernald. “She’s a big-time pitcher and she always seems to elevate her game in these big-time moments against teams that could change the game with one swing of the bat.”
If Johnson had any nerves, no one in the stands could tell. The right-hander mowed down the Bombers in 1-2-3 fashion, completing the 6-5 victory.
The Breeze will face the Ohana Tigers Wednesday morning in its final pool play matchup. A win would secure a place in the top power pool bracket and keep hope alive of playing in Thursday’s championship contest at the Aurora Sports Park and broadcasted on FloSoftball.
“We just have to come out tomorrow focused and ready to play,” said Newsom. “It starts with warmups and taking every moment seriously. If we can be ready to go early, I have a good feeling about this team.”