By Courtney Oakes
AURORA - When it comes to offense in softball, it’s always better to get some later than never.
That was certainly the case for the Arizona Hotshots-Captain team Tuesday afternoon at the Aurora Sports Park in 16U Power Pool play at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Facing a 1-0 deficit that seemed to get bigger as the innings went along and with very little to show for their first five trips to the plate, the Hotshots struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth — capped by a three-run home run by Sara Van Wickler — and a short time later had a 5-2 victory over the EC Bullets Wiggins to finish off a 2-0 day.
“I’m proud of the way that we finished, it kind of made up for the drought we had there at the beginning,” Hotshots coach Steven Captain said. “I’m just glad they stayed patient. They are tough and they know we had plenty of time, so they stayed patient and took advantage of it.”
A drought definitely described the offense for the first five innings, as the Hotshots — a team based out of the Phoenix area — struggled to get things going after scoring seven times in an earlier 7-0 win over Impact Gold Jazz. Captain’s team had just two hits in the first five innings against Bullets starter Kenleigh Spence and only got one runner to second base against the right-hander in that span.
Spence, who retired the first eight hitters of the game, was cruising along when she gave herself the lead with a solo home run to center field in the top of the fifth inning, but things changed in the sixth, which opened with Captain sending up Madison Muehling as a pinch hitter.
Meuhling made the move pay off when she dropped a triple into the corner in right field, which was followed by a walk. Tayler McCombs lifted a fly ball to left field that wasn’t deep enough to score the run, but Meuhling made it home to tie the score when a chopper from Jordan McMahon (who had one of the two hits in the first five innings) to second base was too hard to handle.
Adriana Coira’s RBI single gave the Hotshots their first lead, and Van Wickler followed with a three-run blast on the first pitch that landed over the center field fence and launched a massive mob at home plate.
“I’m not really a home run hitter, so when stuff like that happens every once in a while, when you get the bat on the ball perfectly, it’s just the best feeling,” Van Wickler said.
“I went 0-for-2 in my first two at-bats and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I think I was thinking too much. This time, as soon as I came up to the plate, I saw that one pitch that I liked. I didn’t even think it was a home run, I was just hoping for an RBI.”
With the lead secured, the Hotshots needed only three more outs to seal the victory, and Natalie Rodriguez got them. The submarining right-hander allowed a run on back-to-back hits — with Elyse Kresho driving in the run for the Bullets with a double — but got a strikeout and pop up to first base to end the game.
Rodriguez allowed two runs in three innings of relief that followed a strong start from lefty Joslyn Sagote, who pitched four scoreless innings with six strikeouts. Hotshots pitchers allowed a combined two runs over two games on the day.
“I’d say we hit our potential really well and we know that we are a good defensive team,” Sagote said. “I’m going to give my all every time on the mound and do everything I can for the team.”
Captain said his organization missed participating in the tournament last season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is thrilled to be back, especially given how well it has played in the opening two games.
“The pitching has been spectacular and the defense has been spectacular for us so far,” Captain said. “We are happy to be here, and we want to keep competing and see what happens.”