by Alissa Noe
BRIGHTON, Colo. — There’s just something about the air in Colorado.
On Wednesday afternoon at the Brighton Sports Complex, the Georgia Impact and Northwest Bullets, located in Portland and Washington, proved just why as the Impact soared to a 10-4 victory highlighted by four home runs.
The aptly-named 18U Fireworks Power Pool matchup between the Impact and Bullets provided no shortage of firepower, as each team swung for the fences and conquered them.
“I think we've had a home run in each game,” Impact coach Dylan Casstevens said. “We know how it is up here in Colorado. Balls fly. But the thing is, we stay hard through everything, especially with our approaches. Early in counts, we're looking for one thing and one thing only, until they give us something else to chase after.”
Nobody could touch the numbers that Georgia’s Kelley Feigen threw down, or — more accurately — put up in the air. In her three at-bats, Feigen secured not one, but two home runs, including a grand slam, to drive six runs across home plate.
The Impact started and ended the contest firing on all cylinders. Feigen began her day with a two-run moon shot over the left field wall in the bottom of the first inning. Not to be outdone, Carli Pearson repeated the feat in the very next at-bat with a solo bomb to center field.
“It was my first grand slam ever,” Feigen said. “I've been playing for nine years and never hit one. Just having my team back me up — we all had so much energy in the dugout, which I think helped everybody. In the beginning of the game, I hit one, then one of my best friends Carli hit one back-to-back. I think it just got the energy up and just kept it going.
“I think the thin air did definitely help. I think I hit three today in total. I like Colorado so far.”
That put the Bullets in a 3-0 hole from the very beginning, but they didn’t let that deter them. Slowly, but surely, they chipped away at that lead until it ceased to exist.
In the top of the second, Northwest's Kiley Campos put her team on the board with aggressive base running that set her up perfectly for the passed ball that sent her flying toward home. The Impact ended the frame shortly thereafter, and couldn’t improve upon their now 3-1 lead before the end of the second.
They reserved that extra cushion for the bottom of the third, when Pearson added to her stat sheet with a sac fly to center field to bring Raeleigh Hocker home. They didn’t stay comfortable for long.
Northwest's Kamdyn Hagerty led off the top of the fourth with a home run of her own, in a move that began to turn the tides in her team's favor. Her teammates didn't waste the opportunity.
The next two batters put themselves into a position to score thanks to a base hit followed by a double, which set Lauryn Krick and Alexis Mulligan up perfectly. Both sent runs home, one at a time, to tie the contest up at 4-4.
The Impact didn’t quite like that.
With the hour, 45-minute time limit quickly creeping up on them, Georgia pulled out its shovels. Every base hit, every walk that the Impact secured to start out the bottom of the fourth dug a deeper and deeper hole for the Bullets to try to escape.
They hit paydirt first with an RBI base hit from Jocelyn O'Keeffe, then added to the scoreboard with a walk that sent a runner home. Feigen then capped off her banner day with a grand slam over the left field wall, the ball mercifully landing just short of the foul line.
Now, the Impact will advance to the supplemental pool with a 3-1 tournament record, where they’ll be facing bigger and better teams under the watchful eyes of more college scouts.
“It's really about making adjustments,” Casstevens said. “It's something we haven't done. We didn't do it last game, but we made the adjustments going forward, and were able to see balls out of the hand instead of reading it off the eyes. Hitting is contagious and anything in the dugout you can get going, especially with talking and cheering on your team helps.”