By Adam Dunivan
WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- After a quietly efficient day with the bats on Tuesday, the 18U Elite 1 Prospects Silva/Gaeta (Southern California) seemed to be in seek-and-destroy mode at Wednesday's 18U Triple Crown Sparkler play at the Tepper ballfields in Westminster.
As a result, it's been a picture-perfect 4-0 start for the team in just its third year of existence at this level of play.
Wednesday's back-to-back efforts for E1 included 11-6 and 9-1 victories, the 20 combined runs smashing their Tuesday output of seven total runs. And at the heart of Wednesday's heavy-hitting display was Keilei Garcia, one of the team's 'Day 1' members alongside Carlie Williams and Ulani Jonston.
"The team was hitting and we were backing each other up on the field, and really this whole tournament's just going good for us so far," said Garcia, who produced two home runs on the day and drove in four runs in their second game, a victory over Advanced Fastpitch Academy (Overland Park, Kans.).
For Garcia, the feeling of getting two tighterwins and Tuesday helped the calming process of being involved in one of their biggest tournaments of the year. This was, after all, the first time the squad had traveled out of California for tournament action this spring/summer.
The 2019 third baseman, who will attend and play for Division II Angelo State (Texas) this fall, doesn't have the pressure of playing good to attract recruiters, but she knows her play engages the team's effort to draw those colleges to their field for others to be seen. After E1 dispatched of AFA Wednesday, one of the team's coaches brought out a stack of business cards from college coaches to make a poignant statement about why they traveled.
"It's eye-opening, really," Garcia said. "For E1, starting as a little organization and going to this, we're making a name out there and coaches are cancelling other plans to come out and see our girls. It's just really good."
Wednesday's game against AFA was not pristine, but close. Garcia opened the scoring with a two-run home run to dead center in the bottom of the second, and then in the bottom of the fourth found a hole past second base for a two-run single to make it 4-0. In the fifth, E1 scratched up a five-spot with key hits coming from 2020 Celeste Paniagua and Jonston, and heads-up baserunning from a new addition to the team, 2020 Korinne Gutierrez.
This came immediately after Advanced Fastpitch Academy's best early scoring opportunity. In the top of the fifth, 2022 Libby Hawks narrowly missed a three-run home run with a foul ball to left field, and a throw out of a potential base-stealer ended the threat.
E1 pitching did just enough to curtail a couple of late innings with baserunners on for AFA (2-2), who managed to push across its lone run of the game in the sixth inning.
Of their 4-0 start, head coach Frank Silva of E1 said that this is one of the best starts his club has gotten off to at the Sparkler. The tournament continues Friday, but the organization was going to gather all its teams together for a Wednesday workout before going off and having some fun, just to keep the competitive edge.
"We have three girls that came here originally, and they were all big-time players that could have gone to any organization and played," Silva said of the three pillars Garcia, Williams and Jonston. "But they've given us the opportunity to help us become what we've become and help us where we're going.
"In this tournament, it's the best start so far. We've gotten into Saturday and come up short in some tough games. This group here, they've always been fighters."