by Kyle Koso
Especially in high-level, professional fastpitch, catchers are valued for their ability to provide a calming influence and bring order when there's tension.
That's why Amanda Chidester was particularly chapped at her throwing error in the top of the first inning of Tuesday's matchup in Erie between her Nationals squad and the Scrap Yard Dawgs, part of the bonus programming for Triple Crown's Colorado 4th of July event.
Her errant toss to second base in hopes of picking off a baserunner became the starting gun to a unhappy track meet for the Nationals, as one run came across and another runner advanced to third base. When it was all done, the Dawgs had plated four runs.
But Chidester found swift redemption, smoking a three-run homer over the left field fence in the bottom of the inning, and the Nationals found their footing to eventually claim a 10-8 victory. Monica Abbott, one of the most celebrated Olympic and professional pitchers you can find, threw five innings of scoreless relief for the Nationals, striking out nine batters.
"I was thinking about throwing to third, then I saw her off second ... that moment when you second-guess yourself. That kills me as a player every time," said Chidester, who starred at Michigan. "It got away from me, and in this kind of competition, you can't have those moments. You have to be on top of it, and that should have been two runs, not four.
"That was in the back of my mind, but I do know one of my strengths is my hitting. I wanted to go up there and have a good at-bat; then every came from the top of the lineup getting on, and I was trying to keep it going."
The Nationals ended up scoring seven runs in the first inning, batting around and having the bases loaded before Dawgs reliever Morgan Foley secured the last out. Scrap Yard countered with four more runs in the top of the second, with home runs from Nerissa Myers and Brittany Cervantes the biggest blows.
Needing to come back again, the Nationals pulled ahead 9-8 in the bottom of the third thanks to a sacrifice fly from Valerie Arioto and a single from Taylor Edwards. Kelsey Stewart brought in a nice insurance run in the fifth with her double that plated Haylie McCleney.
Abbott's relief appearance came after a tough outing the previous time the teams squared off, where the Dawgs bats had unusual success. But she was a sopping wet blanket on dreams of a rally Tuesday, running into some friction only in the fourth when Myers and Kayla Winkfield were on first and second with one out.
A quick popout to second and a strikeout ended the debate.
"You want to come in hot. We talk about being up and down in the bullpen, and you want to come in when you're up," Abbott said. "My team needed me, and I got ready as soon as we could. It's such a battle playing this team, and there are no secrets because everyone knows everything (as these teams barnstorm around the country this summer)."
"You may fight hard and come up short, or you may fight and win, but you just can't lose that fight, no matter what. Amanda had a tough play, where the timing was off, but she came back. That shows her maturity as an athlete, to come back and finish the inning, and then come up big mentally and get the outcome of the big home run."
"For her to come back and shut them down like she did, that was awesome. She made adjustments, and it picked up the pace of the game," Chidester said. "Morgan Foley pitched great, too -- sometimes other pitchers get overlooked. That backdoor curve was looking really good."
The teams will face off again Wednesday night at the Christopher Complex, part of the Westminster Festival Night for the week-long Triple Crown fastpitch event.