By Kyle Koso
AURORA – Some nickel-and-dime moments allowed the 16u Firecrackers Brashear/Smith team to get an early foothold Tuesday in power pool action at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
And when the big hits came, the squad cashed it in with win No. 2 on the day.
Home runs by Abby Newcombe and Andrea Gonzalez provided the cushion against the Illinois Thunderbolts at Horseshow Park, backing up a stellar effort from starting pitcher Bridget Nemeth in a 5-0 victory. Helping pave the way to a spot in the upper half of Bracket H for Friday’s next games was the sight of the Firecrackers scoring two runs on nothing but walks and wild pitches – runs you can score just by putting on a uniform and having shoes.
But those early runs certainly eased the mind of Nemeth, who scattered seven hits over seven innings, striking out eight with no walks.
“It’s good to score early; we’ve got some fast kids who run the bases well, and it was awesome to see them get on and score,” said Firecrackers coach Mike Smith. “We had been talking to Abby about trying to hit the ball hard up the middle; she tends to pull everything. I was hoping for a hard ground ball up the middle; she went left-center but got a hold of it. In this game, it’s all about making adjustments.
“She’s a strong kid, and that gave us the cushion, to where in the last couple innings we didn’t have to worry about checking runners, just get outs and play defense.”
Newcombe wasn’t thrilled with her at-bats in the team’s first game Tuesday, but her stroke was just right on the home run, which came with two outs in the bottom of the fourth.
“Last game I didn’t hit too good, so this game I really wanted to step in there with a lot of confidence. I was super aggressive,” said Newcombe, who said the team’s spirits needed some lifting after a rough time last weekend in a different event. “It helps us with our confidence to win both games today. It feels great to be back.”
Nemeth allowed baserunners in every inning, but she had the ability to truly dial in when a scoring threat emerged. She kept the Thunderbolts’ offense in check, with only one out being recorded from the outfield, and that came on a runner being thrown out at third after trying to extend a double.
“When runners are in scoring position, I just try really hard to focus. You don’t want them to get on base, but once they are there, you try to keep them from scoring,” she said. “And really, all I try to do is get ground balls; you don’t need strikeouts, and I know my defense behind me can make the plays.
“It was nice to get some runs early, made it a lot easier to pitch, and I’m thankful my teammates came through there in the first inning. And, those home runs were awesome.”
Nemeth, a six-footer, also made five plays on grounders back to the circle, fielding her position extremely well. It was the kind of all-around performance that her coach was glad to witness.
“Bridget was in control the whole game. She was able to throw the offspeed pitch to keep them off-balance,” Smith said. “She got a lot of strikeouts on that. For her, it’s about hitting her spots and replicating pitches, and she was really on today.”
For the Thunderbolts, Anna McClimon had three hits, including a double to lead off the seventh inning. Kamya Brown had a hit and two stolen bases.