LOVELAND, Colo. – Although it was just their second games of the 2019 Sparkler Juniors tournament, both Salinas Storm 14U Plascencia (0-1-1) and Utah Fastpitch Club Korth (1-0-1) battled back and forth as if their tournament lives were on the line. After five lead changes and a combined ten hits for extra bases, the contest finished in an 8-8 draw after seven innings in the 14U Supplemental Power Pool bout at Barnes Sports Complex.
“From a pitching standpoint we need to know to keep the ball down in these situations”, said Salinas head coach George Plascencia of playing at Colorado’s altitude. “It does come into play but we know it goes both ways, and don’t use that as an excuse.”
Coming off a 12-3 opening morning loss in pool play, the Storm jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Marissa Martinez delivered a two-out RBI single in the first. Utah quickly answered in the bottom half of the inning when starting pitcher Kiaira Smith hit a lead-off solo shot to center to tie the game. Club Korth tacked on another run in the second inning after Kenna Cowley’s RBI single drove in Cassidy Hauptman making it 2-1.
Salinas wasted no time regaining the lead in the top of the third inning, highlighted by right fielder Iris Bejarano’s RBI double to right center followed by a clutch two-out RBI single off the bat of first baseman Shanelle Cavazos putting the Storm back on top 4-2. Yet again, Utah knotted things up at 4-4, taking advantage of a throwing error that scored two from catcher Arissa Ramos that went down the left field line in an attempt to catch a runner stealing third base.
It was then Utah’s turn to get crafty in the fourth, when Hauptman laid down a squeeze bunt to plate shortstop Julie Mayfield, who had tripled in her at-bat prior to regain the lead at 5-4. That would mark the end of the day for Salinas starter Celeste Meza, who went four innings allowing eight hits, and was replaced by Miki Hayashi.
The Utah lead did not last long, as the Storm responded with their largest output in an inning of four runs in the top of the fifth. It was again Cavazos’ two-out clutch hitting that put Salinas up 8-5 with a two-run frozen rope over the left field wall, capping off a 2-for-4 day at the plate with three RBIs.
“I have the same approach every at-bat and don’t like to change anything really; I just know that I got to do what is right for the team,” she said of her pivotal two-out hitting. “We still have some things to work on but we will come out stronger tomorrow.”
After chipping away at the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, Utah found themselves down to their final two outs in the seventh when a pair of errors at second base allowed the tying two runs to come across to even things up at 8-8 as the time limit of the game expired.
“We need to come in with the right mindset; I think when we come in with the right mindset, the mental game takes over the physical game,” said Plascencia. “We made a lot of errors today we don’t normally make but that comes back to our approach.”
Salinas Storm 14U Plascencia and Utah Fastpitch Club Korth will both look to wrap up pool play on Wednesday at Barnes Sports Complex.