by Alissa Noe
THORNTON, Colo. — Kaitlyn Maston needed only one pitch to play hero for her Rock Gold Premier–De Leon/Manetta team at Riverwalk Ball Fields on Saturday.
After the Carolina Cardinals had tied up the game at 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning, Maston stepped up to the plate, hoping to put an end to their rally. On the first pitch off of Carolina’s Kaylie DeChiccchis, she sent the ball flying over the center field wall.
Her team stampeded out of the dugout to meet her at home plate.
“I knew as soon as she hit it, it was gone,” head coach Luis de Leon said.
The 4-3 victory not only secured a spot in Sunday’s single elimination tournament for Rock Gold, but it opened up the floodgates for a player that had been hitting a wall all week during the 16U Colorado 4th of July tournament’s Supplemental Power Pool. She finished the matchup with three RBI off of three hits, all while batting a perfect 1.000.
It didn’t hurt that her ace, Courtney Wahlbrink, kept her team steady from the circle with eight strikeouts and only three earned runs — two of which came in the top of the sixth. Rock Gold, on the other hand, only struck out four times.
“It felt really great. I've been struggling a little this tournament and it felt really good to figure it out this game,” Maston said. “I just haven't been really squaring balls up right. I just knew I had to get on base for them to score me in. I was just focusing on staying on top and hitting a line drive.”
The Cardinals managed to get on the board early, as Madisyn Weathers’ line drive to shallow center field allowed Emma Salzman to score in the top of the first inning. Despite striking first, they couldn’t match the heat Maston was bringing in the batter’s box.
Maston got the ball rolling for Rock Gold in the bottom of the second inning when her fly ball to shallow left field sent Ava Difato home, then repeated in the fourth frame the feat with a shot to center field to propel another to score.
An inning later, Heather Robertson snuck a run in on a perfectly-placed bunt. Rock Gold led 3-1 heading into the sixth inning, with the hour, 45-minute time limit fast approaching.
Carolina didn’t waste it.
Cate Raines singled on a fly ball to center field as Shayna Suttles logged the second run for the Cardinals, then they scored again two at-bats later on an error at shortstop. Wahlbrink stopped the bleeding shortly thereafter, leaving two runners stranded after Carolina forced the bottom of the sixth.
Maston ended the suspense quickly after that. Rock Gold will now move into the single elimination bracket on Sunday for the finale of the tournament with a 4-3 record.
“It's been real competitive,” De Leon said. “We're facing good competition. We haven't faced any easy teams or anything like that.”