By Michael Roley
LOVELAND, Colo – It had been two weeks since Jaylee Ojo had pitched extensively in a game.
The right-handed pitcher for the PS33 Academy team out of Sacramento, California injured her wrist two weeks ago at a tournament in Portland. One might think that after time off like that there could be some rust to kick off in getting acclimated to pitching again.
Well, that wasn’t a factor at all for Ojo in PS33 Academy’s (14U) 3-0 win over USA Athletics Sanchez-2022 on Thursday. Ojo, who head coach Wes Archie said was the ace of PS33’s pitchers, was incredibly sharp. She tossed a seven-inning complete game shutout while allowing only a few hits and striking out six. USA Athletics barely threatened with runners in scoring position, and when they did, Ojo worked out of those situations with poise.
“This is her first time pitching in two weeks so for her to come out and throw the way she did, I think they got a few hits off of her, but she dominated and shut them out,” Archie said. “She did a fantastic job.”
PS33 Academy gave Ojo an early 2-0 lead in their half of the first and that proved to be all she needed. Ojo, who did appear for an inning in an earlier game but made her first start in two weeks, had her entire repertoire of pitches working. She said she throws a fastball, drop ball, rise ball, and changeup. All four pitches were working on Thursday and keeping hitters guessing.
Proof of this came after the game when Archie said Ojo’s drop was “dominant” and helping set up her other pitchers. Catcher Reina Zermeno added that the rise was also very effective in getting batters out, especially once they had two strikes. Ojo found a rhythm early and was able to deliver several wicked pitches with late movement.
Ojo credited the defense behind her for such a dominant outing. Perhaps this was most evident when a USA Athletics player popped a ball up in front of the plate. Zermeno sprung from her catching stance to make a diving catch and then fired to first to complete the double play.
“I knew I had a good defense behind me and I knew that no matter what, my teammates would back me up,” Ojo said. “I wasn’t nervous or anything.”
Each team has their own version of how they call pitches. Typically, the coach calls them from the dugout and the catcher relays the signs out to the pitcher. This is predominantly what PS33 does a lot of the time. However, what makes them unique is that Archie isn’t hesitant to allow his catcher to call them either when needed.
“I trust my catchers to go ahead and call pitches as well,” he said.
And that trust is something Zermeno certainly embraces.
“It’s really nice that he knows I can call the game and he trusts me,” Zermeno said. “I like calling it, especially because I can really see where the batter is and what they’re doing.”
Zermeno also blasted an important two-out home run that extended PS33’s lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth and helped provide more cushion to the lead.
Throughout the tournament, PS33 Academy had been putting up eye-opening numbers on the scoreboard. Coming into the matchup with USA Athletics, they had outscored their opponents in three previous games by a combined score of 48-3. In two of those games, they scored at least 15 runs, including a 23-run outburst.
This game proved to be a more competitive contest, with both teams going in unbeaten in Pool V play of the 14U open in the Sparkler. It was important in establishing seeding for bracket play beginning tomorrow. But combine that with a Fourth of July day, and it was a welcomed challenge for PS33.
“It was exciting because we were going head-to-head being some of the best teams in our pool,” Zermeno said. “It was really cool to see us come out and fight, not afraid and knowing what we had to do.”
PS33 will begin bracket play Friday at 9:45 a.m. against NorCal Firecrackers EP at Barnes Complex in Loveland.