By Michael Roley
The Firecrackers-DFW Rosales 18U team was in their element in more way than one Thursday afternoon.
As 100-degree temperatures beat down on players, coaches, umpires, and fans at Carroll Butts Park in Westminster, the team from the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas was not bothered much by the conditions. In fact, the Texans are accustomed to that type of heat in their home state plus some humidity.
And then on the field, they were more than in their element at the plate as the Firecrackers slapped the ball all over the diamond and found numerous ways to get on base in a 12-6 win over USSSA Pride Elite 18A- Lucero in Box Bracket K play.
“The heat is the same but its dry here versus its really humid down in Texas,” coach Tony Rosales said. “We have a couple girls from Oklahoma so it is similar. It’ll get over 100 out there.”
The Firecrackers kicked things off in the top of the first by showing tremendous patience at the plate. After two quick outs, the first two batters drew walks and then Payton Compton was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Katie Baeumler then drew the Firecrackers’ third walk of the inning to bring home their first run.
Like most ballplayers, Baeumler, who also hit her first career home run with a solo shot in the fourth, she wants to hit. But she also recognizes when patience is required.
“It’s hard for me personally to stay back and get a walk because I want to hit so bad,” Baeumler said. “But they (pointing at teammates) are pretty patient.”
“Since I’m lead-off I usually just wait a couple pitches, see what she does and get her groove in then I usually just go with the flow,” Tristyn Hamilton said on her approach at the plate.
Following the walk spree, Serenity Hill hit a two-run single to give the Firecrackers a 3-0 lead.
However, the Pride responded in the bottom half of the first with three runs of their own on four base hits to knot the game at three after one inning.
But the Firecrackers were right back at it in the second with two more runs of their own. Kenzie Chambers started the inning with a single and a stolen base before coming around to score the Firecrackers’ fourth run. Ashlyn Lerma also hit a bunt single in the inning.
The Firecrackers’ speed put pressure on the Pride all game, recording multiple infield hits and stealing several bases. As it turns out, the smallest of details are what makes for success on the base paths.
“When I get on base and I look to steal, I always watch the catcher’s arm and if they’re coming up slow or if the pitcher isn’t looking at me I can pick her off going to second” Hamilton said. “Or if the catcher is lobbing it back, just little things like that.”
Taking advantage of situations like that and being able to swipe an extra base when the opportunity presents itself is a big part of the Firecrackers’ strategy, Rosales said.
“If there’s a chance when somebody is asleep, not paying attention they’ll take that extra base,” he said. “We have three or four players that are really fast and that’s a big part of our game. It’s probably 50 percent of our game just trying to use our speed as much as we can.”
It wasn’t just speed and patience that aided the Firecrackers’ offense Thursday. Hamilton blasted a two-run home run the third inning to extend the Firecrackers lead to 8-3 before Baeumler hit her first career home run in the fourth. And after the game, she was able to track down the ball from the umpire to take home as a keepsake.
The Firecrackers added on another run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. The Pride threatened in the fourth with the score 9-5 and runners on second and third with just one out. But the Firecrackers were able to avert any extensive damage with a strikeout and a pop-out to second.