By Michael Roley
FORT COLLINS, COLO -- Momentum is hugely important in any sport.
Basketball coaches sometimes call timeouts with the sole purpose of slowing the momentum of the other team.
And fastpitch softball is no exception to that.
“Momentum is huge in our sport,” said Allie Kelly of the Missouri Bombers 14U- Huelsing team.
It was the Bombers squad who found that critical early momentum and never relinquished it while on their way to a convincing 11-4 win over the Arizona Hotshots-McCombs in the early games of the Junior Sparkler tournament on Tuesday.
The team, whose players hail predominantly from the St. Louis area, spotted the Hotshots a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
But after that, the offense kicked in, the momentum train got rolling, and the Bombers didn’t look back. The team from Missouri received hits from nine different players throughout the five-inning contest and used a seven-run first inning to assert themselves.
Kelly drove in the Bombers’ first run of the game on an RBI double to the left. Trista Grobe ripped a single to put the Bombers ahead 2-1 and then the hit parade was on. Elly Eckrich hit a two-run double to center and by the time the inning was up the Bombers were ahead 7-1 and the top two hitters in the order, Natalee Moore and Madison Uptegrove, had registered two at-bats in the inning as the Bombers batted around.
“That’s really major in any game,” Grobe said. “Because it gets you rolling, gets you pumped up, and just gets the energy on your side versus theirs.”
After the explosive first inning, the Hotshots didn’t roll over, though. The team from Arizona fought back with two runs of their own in the second to cut the score to 7-3. But, Kelly regained the momentum for the Bombers with a lead-off solo home run in the third. Eckrich drove in another run on a sharp single to center and the lead was back to six.
The Bombers went scoreless in the third inning but scored two more in the fourth to put the game effectively out of reach. Eckrich drove in another one to bring her RBI total to four on the afternoon. The Bombers showed their ability to play small ball with multiple runners reaching on well-placed bunts and an aggressive approach on the bases during that inning and throughout the game.
Whether it was a home run, hard hit balls into the gap, or a bunt down the third base line, the Bombers’ offensive versatility proved to be a strength.
“We like to think of ourselves as a little scrappy,” Grobe said. “Somebody will hit a home run, then the next one will bunt. Then we get base hits, grounders, whatever we can get to get on base.”
“It’s nice to have a lot of tools for sure,” Kelly added.
Kelly and Kora King pitched five combined innings and despite some sporadic traffic, they were able to prevent the Hotshots from any sort of big inning that would tilt the momentum away from them.
The win put the Bombers at 2-0 on the day. They beat Illusions Gold 05 - Trojan in a close 5-4 game earlier in the morning.
“It’s been good,” Grobe said of their first few days in Colorado. “The first two games as a W feels pretty good.”