Knowing that speed is one of the roster’s strengths, the 18u Firecrackers-Rico softball team is almost crazily aggressive on the basepaths, and will sometimes run into outs trying so hard to advance.
Call it collateral damage that happens in pursuit of a larger cause.
Despite running (literally) into trouble a few times, the Firecrackers had the stronger offensive heartbeat Sunday during the Power Pool championship game, easing past Texas Glory-Shelton 4-0 at Aurora Sports Park. With sterling work from pitcher Brianna Jewett and airtight defense, the Firecrackers were able to survive an inconsistent start at Triple Crown’s Colorado Fireworks as well as some injuries.
Sunday, Jewett allowed just three hits; the Firecrackers took an early 1-0 lead on a home run from Julia Jimenez and scored again in the third. Two more runs came across in the fourth, one when Jimenez came so far off second base it compelled the Glory catcher to try for a pickoff, but no fielder was there to take the throw, and Jimenez came around to score.
“The dynamics of this team … we’re pretty speed-oriented. Our goal is to put the ball in play and put pressure on the other team,” said Firecrackers coach Tony Rico, whose team had runners thrown out in the first three innings. “You have to be patient when they are trying to make plays. So far it’s worked out in an up-and-down summer where we’re trying to get our defense untracked.”
“Up until Championship Day, we hadn’t been ahead in any games; we were chasing the score the entire week. But this day is a perfect example of things coming together, because I don’t think anybody would have bet on us giving up two runs in three games when we’re giving up two runs an inning.”
Jewett did walk two batters in the fifth inning but got out of a two-out threat with a flyout to left field. She struck out three batters, got eight groundball outs and a couple more on harmless pop flies – with the Glory winning three straight games in the bracket via shutout, Jewett needed to be sharp. Rico was quick to note his appreciation of coach Ron Weil, who called the pitches and was working in perfect sync with Jewett.
“As we got to the end of the tournament, I definitely had to step up and pitch a lot of games and throw a lot of innings, but everyone contributed,” said Jewett, a junior who has committed to attend Harvard. “A lot of the games we’d been coming back from behind, so it was great to get a lead and jump on them early. We say every pitch has a purpose, so you go in one inning at a time and finish out the game.”
Alyssa Pinto had two hits and an RBI for the Firecrackers, and Kaitlin Parsons bounced back from taking a pitch to the ribs to start the game and later singled and scored. Jimenez, a verbal commit to Michigan, added two hits as well.
“I had a 3-1 count, and I knew something was coming. I was waiting for a good pitch drive, and let loose on it,” Jimenez said about her home run to dead center, which didn’t seem to get more than 10 feet off the ground. “It felt good off the bat – wasn’t planning on it, but I wanted to hit it hard.
“We got it together and pushed through everything. There is pressure (on the Firecrackers), because all these girls have heart, and everyone competes for a spot. If you don’t compete at their level, you may not perform … you want to perform and make the team better.”
Taryn Antoine (LSU commit) had a double for the Glory; Mariah Nichols (Memphis commit) threw two scoreless innings in relief.