Miami Express 18U rallies from eight-run deficit to defeat NW Nitro Mace in 18 Sparkler Open pool play
By Adam Dunivan
DENVER - Judging by game scores from Tuesday alone, it was obvious both the Miami Express 18U and NW Nitro Fastpitch-Mace squads brought their heavy lumber to the Colorado 4th of July Sparkler Open tournament.
In the first three innings of their winner’s bracket matchup Wednesday at Waddell Park, there would be no slowing down. NW Nitro jumped out to an 8-0 lead after just one and a half innings, but Miami Express rallied to bat around in the bottom of the second and again in the bottom of the third, eventually leading to a 14-11 slugfest victory that put them at 3-1 overall this week.
NW Nitro tried to rally from a 12-8 deficit, too, but a legitimate inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the fifth for the Express’ Heather Arnett stole back any momentum Nitro had gained after cutting the score to 13-11.
“(The rally was great. We all just started with base hits and hard hits even in the infield and we just never gave up,” Arnett said. “I was a little worried at first, but I just knew if we started hitting, that we could do it. We’re a great hitting team and we can score runs when we need to.”
Both teams had scored 20-plus runs during Tuesday’s action, and while both squads had competitive wins to start Wednesday’s action, it was Nitro who surged to a big lead. Haylee Johnston hit a three-run homer in the first as part of a five-run inning, and the Oregon-based team scratched for three runs in the top of the second.
But Express was just getting started. Doubles from Alisen Pierson and Kete Ediger were the big hits of the bottom half of the second -- Ediger’s gap ball drove in two -- but Arnett also drove home a run in the frame and the team executed on the base paths to forge a six-run output.
The six-run third was even more impressive in that it all came with two outs. Izabella Zeller hit a two-run double, the next three batters reached base, and Ediger came through with another two-run double.
“Whenever I went to bat in those situations, I just told myself, you need to get a base hit, and that’s just what I tried to do, “Ediger said. ““I just think it shows we’re a great team and we compete no matter what.”
A home run from Nitro’s Abigail Carsley in the top of the fourth made it 12-9, but Zeller got that run back for her team by driving home Pierson on a sacrifice fly. After Nitro plated two runs in the fifth, Arnett hit a ball to the fence and flew around the bases, her pop-up slide at home met with a raucous cheer from her teammates.
“I was thinking (home run) … like, ‘I’m not stopping,’” Arnett said.
Zeller’s relief pitching was instrumental, but so too were a couple of stellar defensive plays from Braxton Stainbrook at third base. Stainbrook also reached base three times with two hits and a walk.