By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – When trouble is brewing on the softball field, sometimes the only solution is to dive into the problem.
It’s an approach that certainly worked for Tara Vandewater, catcher for the Israel White team that was looking for its first win at Triple Crown’s International Challenge on Saturday at the Christopher Fields complex. After having a pitch tick off her mitt and bounce away in the first inning, Vandewater sprung to collect the ball and then flung herself back at home plate, just in time to tag out a Team Italy baserunner steaming in from third base.
The key out showed the passion Israel White was bringing to the moment, and the squad followed through with a solid 9-1 victory over Italy that was called via run rule after five innings. Vandewater also singled in the game’s first run in the bottom of the first, and singled and scored in the fifth.
“It went off my glove; I’d say it was an error on me. I knew I had to be better back there and do the most I could in that moment,” she said. “I watched a lot of the (Women’s College) World Series and everyone was in love with (James Madison pitcher) Odicci Alexander … I wanted to take bits and pieces of the energy of the World Series and be that spark plug. (When hitting) I’m trying to see pitches early, see it well, swing it hard.”
One interesting thing about the Israel White roster is the geographic range. Vandewater is from Nebraska; there are other players from Seattle to Alabama, from New Jersey to southern California.
“It’s great; the staff of Israel softball as well as the older kids have really taken advantage of the moment, (inspired) by our religion and ethnicity to bring us together and be proud of what we stand for.”
“All these girls are gamers, and they’ve come together so quickly. The first time we met each other was last Tuesday,” said head coach Mike Gross. “They have a passion for the sport and the name on their shirt. So engaged and so involved with each other.”
Israel White scored four runs in the second inning, with a two-run single from Sophia Sklar keying the frame. Italy got on the board in the fourth after Hannah Aguilar doubled and came home on a double steal, but Israel White countered in the fifth with extra-base hits from Scarlett Shanedling and Cara Levy. The game ended on an RBI single from Aly Gross.
In the circle, Ella Yerkes pitched all five innings for the winning side. She was touched for three hits in the fourth inning but came out in the fifth and retired Italy 1-2-3.
“In those (important) moments I’m just focused on hitting my spots, staying in the pitch and not thinking about other things,” Yerkes said. “It’s just me and my catcher, throwing strikes.
“This has been really cool. Everyone has been super awesome; we’ve clicked fast, and it’s been a great experience meeting new people.”
“I had a pitcher warming up just in case, but Ella got us ground balls and strikeouts, huge ones, when we really needed it,” coach Gross said. “She was painting corners, and the umpire was calling it … when she found that slot, she was excellent. I just met her Tuesday, so I’m not exactly sure what she throws, but she was dynamite today.”
Aguilar had two doubles for Italy, and Carmella Muccilli had two singles.