By Adam Dunivan
COMMERCE CITY -- As the Colorado temperatures reached triple digits on Thursday afternoon, it was hard to blame the Oregon Titans Demarini 18 Gold fastpitch team to have a little bit of a lull in their production.
However, thanks to some steady pitching and a small but never-too-late burst of bat work, the Titans secured the top seed out of the Colorado Fireworks BB Supplemental Box Bracket with a 5-1 win over the previously undefeated Absolute Blast 18G-Dailey.
Zoe Munn's walk-off, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning of the Titans' opening bracket game against the New Jersey Pride Gold carried a spark of energy into their winner's game, and Hannah McNerney's two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning against the Absolute Blast helped create a more comfortable cushion and an eventual win.
"At the start of this game we had a lot of energy and we were able to score two right out of the box, but we kind of lost our energy in the middle innings and rested on our laurels a bit," said head coach Ryan Munn, whose team only had five hits but received clutch pitching from McNerney and Taylor Redman. "We picked it back up at the end, and Hannah's home run gave us some needed security. Hopefully we can do better things tomorrow."
The bracket winner's game was a regional battle, as Absolute Blast calls Seattle, Washington, its home base. For a long time in the game, it was also very much a pitcher's duel between Redman and Blast pitcher Kate Houghton.
The Titans scored two runs in the first inning using productive outs to get runs home, and Houghton worked around baserunners in the third and fourth innings before Zoe Munn smacked a double to lead off the sixth. McNerney's home run followed an RBI base hit from Sasha Tanoue-Kekona, who had two of her team's hits.
Redman found a groove in the third and fourth innings, striking out four of the final six batters she faced in what eventually would be her win in the circle.
"Hannah did amazing and just came through in the clutch, honestly," said Tanoue-Kekona, who will be going to Corban University this fall. "She did what she does best. Taylor also did amazing today.
"We finally united as one team today, not playing as individuals. I'm glad we're moving on together."
Coach Munn was thrilled about his pitcher's efforts, and that included Kamryn Coleman's work in the tight 5-4 win over the Pride.
"We're missing one of our pitchers this week, but the three pitchers we have all did their job today and held both the other teams at bay," Munn said. "They just did a good job mixing it up and keeping them off balance."