Team Mexico, USA ride out momentum shifts in 9-9 tie at 16u International Challenge
by Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Walking away from a hard-fought contest with a tie may not have been the deepest desire for the 16u teams from Mexico and the USA on Friday, but the result did allow each squad to dream about better results to come.
The 9-9 score out of pool play at the International Challenge saw multiple comebacks and swerves of momentum, backed by the soundtrack of Team Mexico’s boisterous fan section that made Christopher Fields an exciting place to be for this special Triple Crown Fastpitch event in its second year.
In the final moments and with the time limit expired, Mexico reliever Taylor Mediano struck out the last two batters of the fourth inning to preserve the tie, with runners on second and third. Mexico tied the game in the top of the fourth on a two-out home run from Jillian Torres.
“I was just trying to hit my spots, maybe get some easy ground balls, just dome thing on the mound,” said Mediano, who plays for the Wildcats club program out of Orange County, Calif. “We did a great job coming back. This will keep us motived and make sure we press on.”
Team USA jumped ahead 4-0 in the first inning, with Hannah Cornetto (Atlanta Vipers) lashing a two-run homer; another highlight was a double steal that saw Katelyn Kilgore come home for a run. The hot start was very important for the USA, which had been stung by a 15-4 setback to the Philippines in the game before.
“I knew the strike zone was small, but I was looking for pitch to attack,” Cornetto said. “The pitcher looked like she was throwing low and outside in warmups, but I knew she’d have to come in eventually. It was a good game; every time they scored, we came back. And while the defense made some mistakes, we always kept at it and made someplace to help the pitchers.”
The scores sat at 5-1 after two innings, and that’s when Mexico made a serious move, bringing in six runs. Kayla Estrada (Firecrackers Medina/Schneider) had a two-run single in the mix, and Alexia Ramirez (Explosion Sanchez) added a run-scoring double before Team USA made a pitching change.
The Americans kept the faith and scored four runs in the bottom of the third to go ahead 9-7, with the key hit a two-run single from Maddie McSorley (BSC Bengals).
“Today is all about giving people opportunities, and the girls did a great job bouncing back from the first game,” said USA coach Liza Liddell. “Ultimately, we wanted to see who would fight and who has grit, and that’s we look forward to the most.”
In the fourth, Natalie Omahen (Firecrackers Travieso) got a critical two-out walk for Mexico, and then Torres knotted it up with a high drive to right-center field.
“This was great stuff from both teams, a back-and-forth game where both teams made some mistakes, but it was awesome to see both teams fight,” said Mexico coach Steve Montoya. “Both teams deserved to win that one.”
Friday’s opening round saw Polynesia, Philippines, Greece and Puerto Rico go 2-0 overall. Five more pool play games cap the Saturday schedule, with championship bracket action starting Sunday at 8 a.m.