By Courtney Oakes
Aurora, Colo. - The Lady Magic Munoz 18U team doesn’t take losing kindly and just may not do it again.
So far in a nearly week-long run of play in Colorado, the Elk Grove, California-based squad has only tasted defeat one time, but its no doubt been a spark.
Coach Ernie Munoz’s team has scored 16 runs or more in three of the four games since that loss, including a 17-2 shortened victory over Warrior Academy Saturday at Aurora Sports Park in which it pounded out 13 hits and batted around twice in just three at-bats. Center fielder Dakota Kennedy had a grand slam and seven RBI on the day as the Magic continued an offensive onslaught in the 18U Power Pool of the Colorado 4th of July tournament that brought it to the cusp of qualifying for the final day.
“I think that loss definitely kickstarted something for us for sure,” Munoz said of the defeat to the Lady Dukes out of North Carolina on Wednesday in a television game. “We’ve been on fire since yesterday,” he added. “I can’t say what our best hitting display is, but we tend to come to Colorado and have fun with the long ball here.”
The Magic — which had put up 16 runs against Firecrackers Breasher, 18 against EPIC National Smith and 11 against Utah FC Korth since their loss — had fun with the long ball during a third inning that saw 14 hitters come to the plate and every single player in the lineup score a run.
Oregon State signee Shaylen McDowell opened the inning with a solo home run and Kennedy followed walks to Grace Matej (Utah State) and Tayler Biehl (Arizona) and a single by Mickey Winchell (Notre Dame) with a bomb over the fence in center field. The University of Arizona signee — one of three straight left-handed hitters at the top of the Lady Magic order — jumped on the next pitch after she took a close one with two strikes that was called a ball.
“That’s only the second grand slam I’ve ever hit,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been trying to think about making the most of the pitches I have and I did on that one.”
Kennedy — who said the loss “woke us up a bit” — also knocked in a pair of runs during a six-run first inning that put the Lady Magic out in front from the get-go.
Biehl and Winchell both reached and stole bases and Kennedy promptly doubled them both in for a 2-0 lead less than 10 pitches into the game and prompted a pitching change by Warrior Academy.
Tiana Bell (California) hit a solo home run and Matej had a bases-loaded base hit that brought in three runs as highlights of the opening inning.
Winchell finished the day 3-for-3 and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, while Kennedy, Reina Zermeno (San Jose State) and Lauren Asia (San Diego) had two hits apiece and McDowell had a pair of RBI as the Lady Magic offense hit on all cylinders.
“It’s just a great offensive team overall,” Munoz said. “It’s definitely one of the more well-rounded teams we’ve had over the years. They are disciplined at the plate and we are doing it at different levels. We have the slappers with the speed, we have kids that come through in good situations and then the big boppers that come up and do what they do.”
Elaborated Kennedy: “I think that’s one of the things that separates us. We have power, but we also have some slappers and we can get bunts down, so I really think that is what makes us a threat to other teams. There’s also really good energy in the dugout. The last few tournaments we were working on our mechanics and this tournament, everyone has put it together.”
Staked with a big lead right away, starting pitcher Raimy Gambsy (Rutgers) pitched two innings and Malaya Johnson (Santa Barbara) closed it out with one.
Warrior Academy came into the game with some momentum after a slow start, as it posted a pair of victories Friday after it lost its first four contests.
Both of its runs came in the second inning when Ella Murchison (Stanford), Lauryn Horita (Tufts) and Adyson Kim (Univ. of Redlands) had consecutive hits to open the inning, with Kim’s driving in a run. Horita later came home after Kim broke for second base and was tagged out in a rundown. Hailey Weddington (San Francisco State) and Peyton Schemmer (Syracuse) had base hits as well for Warrior Academy.
The Lady Magic hope to keep their hot streak going in the single-elimination portion of the tournament and take it to Sunday afternoon’s championship.
“We’re ready to go,” Kennedy said. “I hope we face them (the Lady Dukes) again, I think it will be a lot better of a game. …We’re trying to outdo what we did last year here. We got fifth, so we’re trying to get higher.”