When you suffer an enormous loss, sports becomes a place you can lose yourself, at least for a little while.
Playing all week in the shadow on the untimely death of a former player, the Birmingham Thunderbolts scored in five of their six innings Thursday in the Fireworks 16u TV Power Poll game and eased past Firecrackers-Brashear for a 12-4 run-rule victory at the Aurora Sports Park. Shelby Lowe (an Auburn commit) threw a complete game and allowed five hits in six innings of work.
On Tuesday, 18-year-old Alex Wilcox, who played for the Thunderbolts and just finished her freshman year at Mississippi State, died after fighting ovarian cancer for more than two years. The 16u roster was short two pieces as sister Kassidy Wilcox (a South Alabama commit) and head coach Keith Dorsett were back home for the funeral; the post-game celebration had its share of smiles, but it was clear that Alex Wilcox’s legacy took center stage.
“This is about the Wilcox family and the Bolts organization. What a great group of kids, been together eight years or more and know how to be true sisters,” said Bolts assistant coach James Webster. “The team fought tonight and never quit, just like Alex did. A lot of that fight lives in these girls, and they simply weren’t going to quit. Coach Dorsett got them prepared to play in this tournament and has been there for them for so many years.”
In terms of Thursday’s game, the Bolts had to shake off an early miscue, when two fielders ran into each other and allowed a fly ball to drop. Laylo Melendez (Utah) of the Firecrackers drilled a two-run homer, and the Bolts were down heading into the bottom of the first.
Three hits, a walk and an error put two runs up for the Bolts; they pulled ahead 3-2 in the third after a triple by Alicyn Grete (Army) and a single from TJ Webster, and then scored seven runs combined in the fourth and fifth innings.
Lowe might have been bothered by that first-inning glitch, but any discomfort was temporary.
“I just took a deep breath there in the first and thought about restarting. I didn’t want to let it affect me,” Lowe said. “We come back and score those two runs, and I knew after that we’d hit the ball the whole game. I felt like I did a pretty good job, got more pop flys and ground balls, and balls where people behind me could make plays.”
Webster was the definition of the hard-to-contain leadoff hitter, scoring four runs and notching three hits and a walk. She scored the clinching run of the night on a single from Caroline Hudson (Liberty).
“Honestly, I just look at the defense and read them, then try to put the ball in play the best I can do,” she said. “Bunting is my main priority; (swinging away) is when I’m low in the count and can’t bunt. It helps me move runners around, and if you have speed, you might as well use it.”
Melendez drove in three runs for the Firecrackers; Kelly Ryono (Illinois) tripled and scored in the fourth, and Bailey Wallace (Cal State Fullerton) singled and scored in the fifth on a hit from Megan Ryono (Columbia).