by Kyle Koso
NORTHGLENN, Colo. — Nickname nominations for Makayla Mendoza are now closed, with “Cemetery” and “Six Feet Under” leading the balloting.
Because when you hit the ball to Mendoza, that’s where at-bats go to die.
The shortstop for the Firecrackers CTX-DeMascio 16u team dominated defensively on Saturday in the 16u Sparkler Mount Elbert division, reeling in nine putouts as the Firecrackers (Georgetown, TX) got past the Lady Kingers, 7-1, at Rotary Park to advance into Sunday’s championship bracket. They’ll start up at noon Sunday at the Carroll Butts field complex in the hunt for the title.
Mendoza also reached base twice on the steamy afternoon, scoring a run in the five-run fifth inning where the Firecrackers took full command. Her work with the glove included stabbing a hard grounder in the top of the fifth, nabbing a line drive in the sixth and ending that frame on another grounder and yet another accurate throw to first base.
Hard-throwing starter Dorothy Ziebell took advantage of her defense’s skill set by allowing just four hits, striking out four and walking one.
“It’s definitely a good feeling, when your team needs you and you can provide all the skills your team needs,” said Mendoza, who was even a bit agitated at a bad-hop single over her head in the fifth that no one could have solved. “Get the outs when you can, get out of the inning and go back to score some runs. When the other team had the bases loaded (in the sixth), there was a lot of pressure, and you just want to get the last out, get out of the inning.”
The Lady Kingers (Oregon City, OR) took a 1-0 lead with a solo home run from Karah Miller in the second inning, but the Firecrackers countered in the third as Bella Loredo Awmiller laid down an instructional-video-perfect bunt to bring in Abby DeMascio. In the fourth, Ziebell worked her way through a long at-bat to punch a fly ball into left, and on the sacrifice fly the lead run by Kamryn Kothmann came home.
Ziebell added an RBI in the fifth and said she was very glad to provide those offensive moments since her defense had been playing with such quality. DeMascio made an amazing diving catch in right field as well in the sixth.
In the circle, Ziebell pitched with a purpose and didn’t mess around much out of the strike zone.
“I try to never fear the batter. If they can hit it, great, but I try to put it in there. They may miss, and they don’t always hit it hard,” she said. “I try to attack, with a mindset that I’m better, I have the spin and the speed, and I’m going to do great.
“That was a stressful at-bat (on the sac fly), I fouled a lot of pitches off. I thought I could see it pretty well, and I was pumped up to hit it and get the run to score. It was so exciting to see the defense make those amazing plays; I was so happy for them and it really gets my heart racing.”
Olivia Villanueva had two RBI for the Firecrackers.
“We talk about mindset with the team, making sure that they pick the pitch they want to attack and they make good decisions at the plate,” said Firecrackers coach Chad DeMascio. “We have drills that work on that, and we do it at game speed so they are cool, calm and collected and can execute. It’s not about any one individual, but it is about what we do in practice.
“We reinforce the foundation, the basics of softball. The first hour of practice is nothing but basics, every practice. Sometimes it gets little boring for them, but it comes out when it’s time.”