By Michael Roley
A team firing on all cylinders in all aspects of the game is going to be difficult to beat.
Case in point: The New Jersey Heist 18U elite team in an 11-1 win in five innings over A Cut Above-Munoz Thursday morning at Carroll Butts Park in Westminster in Box Bracket P play of the 18 open division.
The Heist (Bloomfield, New Jersey) did a little of everything at the plate, earning several walks to crowd the bases and take an early lead before the bats came alive in the fourth and fifth innings. Starting pitcher Lexi Corio tossed five innings of one-run ball while allowing just one hit and walking two. Behind her, the Heist’s defense was solid, as well.
“Our kids took command of the game at the plate,” head coach Jack Casimiro said. “We hit the ball well. We played solid defense throughout and I think that’s what made the difference for us today. I thought it was an all-around good game for us.”
A Cut Above (West Covina, California) held the Heist scoreless through the first two innings. But a second time through the batting order proved huge. The elite squad from New Jersey felt more comfortable at the plate and knew what to expect.
“I think we had more confidence (the second time through),” third baseman Shana Donnelly said. “I think we just came together towards the end and picked up the energy.”
And a likely source of that energy? The Heist’s first game of the day.
The Heist came away with a 13-9 win over American Freedom Express 18U in a game that featured some wild scoring swings. In that matchup, the Heist stormed out to a six-run lead in the first inning and then lead by as much as 9-1 before the Freedom Express team rallied all the way back to tie it at nine before the Heist scored the final four runs to secure the win.
“I think that just helped us play better.” Corio said of the earlier game.
The memory of that game didn’t fade away quickly. And not just because the Heist played their two games on Thursday back-to-back. A similar scenario unfolded in the second game.
The Heist took a 3-0 lead after three consecutive walks loaded the bases in the third inning. They played a little bit of small ball to push across those three runs, including an RBI ground-out and an RBI single from Corio before scoring the final run from third when the opposing catcher threw down to second to catch Corio stealing. They did, but not before Aryana Galioto scored on a timing play.
After A Cut Above scored their lone run in the third, the Heist scored four more in the fourth to make the score 7-1. This time, the lead would not be relinquished.
“We kept going, we kept hitting,” Corio said. “We weren’t going to say ‘Oh let’s give them a break.’ We just kept hitting and kept playing the way we know.”
Donnelly delivered an RBI single in the fifth and then Mariah Villanueva ripped a run-scoring double. Naya Olacio hit an RBI triple to make the score 10-1. Then, Olivia Mudrick came through with the Heist’s fourth straight hit, a RBI single to right field to put the 10-run rule into play.
The Heist scored runs in a multitude of ways. They walked to get on base, took advantage of several errors, advanced runners when needed, and delivered timely hits with runners in scoring position. It felt as if the only thing missing was a home run. The versatility offensively is certainly an asset that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I think we’re really good at that,” Mudrick said. “We have a lot of players who can bunt and a lot of players who can hit line drives and balls to the fence. We have a variety of people who do different things and I think today it all just fell together. Everyone know what their job was and that was to get on base and everyone did their job.”
The Heist picked up two wins Thursday in two rather different ways. They commanded a game throughout for one win and then battled through adversity to win a tight game in the other. But there was factor that remained constant.
“We didn’t give up,” Donnelly said. “We never gave up this whole day. We just kept fighting and there was no doubt in my mind we were going to win.”