WESTMINSTER – For a team that just met less than 48 hours ago, Great Britain is starting to find its rhythm in the 2021 International Challenge.
Despite dropping its first contest of the tournament, Great Britain has rebounded with two victories over the Middle East, 7-5, and rallied past the Dominican Republic, 7-6, in walk-off fashion.
“We just met two days ago,” said head coach Tohn Hughes. “We’re out here now playing for each other and playing for our country. It’s a big deal for everyone and it’s brought everyone together.”
Great Britain’s Saturday didn’t begin with the most positive of starts. The Dominican Republic, eyeing its first win of the tournament, exploded for three runs in both the first and third innings. Both Graciela Dominguez and Laila Aponte laced home runs, giving the Dominican’s the early advantage.
Hughes' girls weren’t going to go away quietly, though. Morgan Salmon replied to the Dominican Republic’s home run bonanza with a two-run shot of her own in the first frame to get Great Britain on the board.
Trailing 6-2 entering the fourth inning, Hughes turned to keys over to pitcher Bailey Gertsch. Gertsch who was coming off a stellar performance against the Middle East, picked up right where she left off.
In four innings of work, the Dominican Republic only mustered two hits while Gertsch mowed down the rest.
“My best pitch is my changeup,” explained Gertsch. “I love throwing those because everyone expects it to be right down the middle and at the last moment, it just drops and leaves everybody chasing.”
With Gertsch reasserting Great Britain’s reign in the pitching circle, Hughes' offense went to work at the dish.
Two runs in the fourth and another RBI from Salmon brought the Brits all the way back within one, 6-5, with just the seventh inning to play.
With the top of the order due up, Hughes knew exactly what needed to be done.
Carys Lynch led the frame off with a single, leaving no choice for Salmon but to lay down a sacrifice bunt. The defensive pressure proved too much for the Dominican’s as an error left runners on the corners with no one out.
In stepped Imogen Gie.
“I heard my dad out of the corner of my ear,” said Gie. “Get [the bunt] down on the ground and move the runners over!.”
But the fake bunt and steal worked out a bit better than Gie had scripted. The chaos Great Britain created allowed Lynch to reach home safely and also planted Salmon on second.
All of the sudden, Gie’s at-bat turned into a clear-cut walk-off opportunity. One that she knew she wouldn’t waste.
“In my first two at-bats, I had flown out to the right-fielder,” Gie said. “I was late on the ball twice and knew I had to be on top of it this time. I saw my cookie pitched, wanted to jump on it and get the win for my team.”
Gie’s double to the gap in right-center gave plenty of time for Salmon to cross home and solidify Great Britain’s win, 7-6.
“This was a total team win,” said Hughes. “We’re a big team and I was able to use every single player today. As a coach, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
While Great Britain’s International Challenge may have started a bit rocky and understandably so, Hughes and company seem to have found a groove, a purpose and a common goal to fight for this weekend.
“I’ve never been able to experience anything like this before,” Gertsch said. “It’s so much fun!”
“It’s truly an honor,” added Gie. “It’s different when you have a flag across your chest and it’s exciting to be out here.”