By Kyle Koso
Dynamite starting pitcher, lockdown closer … Carley Brown stalks excellence in the circle for the 18u Firecrackers Brashear squad.
She performed at the height of her abilities Sunday in the Fireworks Power Poll bracket for the Triple Crown 4th of July tournament, sealing the title with 3 2/3 innings of stellar relief as the Firecrackers held off the TC Stars Gold, 8-2, at the Aurora Sports Park. Brown also closed out the team’s win Wednesday in the ESPN3 TV Power Pool game, closed Sunday’s opener against the Louisville Lady Sluggers, and started Sunday’s semifinal effort, which became an 11-2 win over Athletics-Mercado/Smith.
The normally potent Brashears offense had been muzzled by the Stars for several innings, so the verdict was still up for grabs when Brown came in. She gave up a single right away but didn’t hesitate to dig in, eventually allowing just one more hit in her appearance.
“She didn’t really hit it that hard, and I knew I had hit my spot. I got an unlucky break there, but knew I could get the next girls out,” said Brown, who is headed to BYU to play collegiately. “My offense came through, and I knew I could give up a hit or have a baserunner without it being a tie game or anything. We talked about winning this a lot, how to carry ourselves and how to embrace the moment and how to take care of business here.”
That offense burst came after the Stars had build a small lead on solo home runs from Arianna Cordova (Otero JC) and Elicia Espinosa. The Firecrackers put a runner on with one out on an error in the fifth inning; with two outs, Jacey Bourgeois (Long Beach State) drilled a two-run single to push her team up 4-2, and Alyssa Graham (San Jose State) knocked in two more with a single to provide breathing room.
The Firecrackers had let a few opportunities slip away earlier, on a line-drive double play in the first inning and a baserunning hiccup in the fourth. Confident from the start, the team figured it had the talent base to break through eventually.
“As a team, we always have trust in each other and never really fear the chance. Every time at the plate is a new opportunity, and we just pushed ourselves to do what we know we can do,” Bourgeois said. “I hadn’t been feeling good all day, but I knew this was the last game of the tournament, and I was pushing with everything I had left for all my teammates.
“Carley has been throwing amazing this whole week; she did her job and had her teammates backing her up.”
Head coach Sean Brashear reminded his team that winning this event was an important step to fulfilling their ultimate ambitions, and that’s to have a season none of them will ever forget.
“We felt confident we could score; we’ve done it all week, but (the Stars) were doing a good job of keeping us off-balance,” Brashear said. “We had some good at-bats, and they were holding their ground. This is a hard lineup to get out three times through the order, so I was hoping they wouldn’t get too frustrated and be sure to have a good approach and center some balls, hit them hard, put pressure on the defense.
“Carley was big for us; this week, the way it played out, Carley was the girl. I have to give her a lot of props, because she owned the moment.”
For the Stars, this edition of the Fireworks event marked the deepest run ever by a Colorado team. They came back from a 7-0 deficit in the semifinals against Aces Express Gold McCorkle, riding two grand slams to an 11-7 victory.