By Michael Roley
WESTMINSTER, Colo – When all three phases of the game come together at once for a team, the result is something sweet.
The Rocky Mountain Thunder (McAllister) team can certainly relate to that after a 4-0 shutout win over the E1 Prospects Silva/Gaeta on Friday afternoon in Mount Elbert B bracket play at the 18U Sparkler. The Thunder were clicking in all phases of the game. They played solid defense, delivered several timely hits and received a lights-out pitching performance from starting pitcher Audrey Burt.
The Thunder scored all four of its runs in the third inning while stifling the E1 Prospects throughout. Burt tossed six scoreless innings in which she allowed just three hits and struck out seven. The primary threat the Prospects mounted was in the fifth inning when they reached via two hit by pitches. But the Thunder were able to escape by throwing out a runner at second on a ball hit to the shallow part of the outfield and then following the second hit batter, a 6-4-3 double play.
Burt said her best pitch is the rise ball and she threw it frequently and with plenty of success.
“I just felt like I was throwing really well and really hard,” Burt said. “So, that really helped and whenever they got a hit or something, my defense was there to help me out. There was a line drive to centerfield and I was like ‘Oh no’ but they caught it and I was like ‘Alright we’re good, let’s get the next one.”’
Offensively, the Thunder used a big third inning to take control of the game. Haley Hoy kicked off the inning with a lead-off double to left. Then, the next batter, Annika Sprague, worked the count to full and launched a home run to left-center to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead.
“With a 3-2 count, I’m always expecting a strike,” Sprague said. “Off the bat I knew I hit it out.”
Carly Kirk and Genevieve Bower also had RBI hits in that pivotal third inning that gave the Thunder their permanent 4-0 lead.
The Thunder are a local team based out of the Highlands Ranch area. Like many teams at this point in the summer, the Thunder have logged their share of travel miles. So far, they’ve already made stops in Florida, Las Vegas, Arizona, and Oregon. Next week, they’ll be in Park City, Utah.
But there is something unique about playing at home. And there are definitely a few perks.
“You get to sleep in your own bed,” Sprague joked.
Oh, and they’re acclimated to the altitude. Perhaps that’s played a role, if even a small one, in its record. The Thunder went undefeated in pool play and their only loss so far after their 12 p.m. game with the E1 Prospects is a one-run defeat to a program within their own organization.
“We always play in this tournament,” Burt said. “It’s also nice because we can breathe and are used to the altitude."
The Thunder have players from various classes. On the roster, they have three players listed as Class of 2020 players, rising seniors this school year. But then another six players are incoming juniors playing up in age. And three players are 2022 players that will be sophomores.
This challenge of playing against older players is one they’ve embraced.
“I love it because the lower competition isn’t always pushing us,” Sprague said, who is in the 2021 class. “But up here we’re definitely getting better.”