By Michael Roley
ERIE, Colo – A few minutes before the start of the 14U Power Pool Championship game, a few players from the Texas Bombers Gold HTX-Burgess team were tossing a Frisbee around in foul territory by the dugout as they waited for the game to begin.
As it turns out, they do that regularly before games to help them relax.
Well, it may have done the trick as the Bombers won the title game over Orange County Batbusters-Flores by a score of 10-2 to capture the 14U Power Pool Championship of the Junior Sparkler tournament. For the week, the Bombers finished with an impressive record of 11-1.
“It’s really exciting to be in a tournament like this,” said Aiyana Coleman, who had three hits and three RBIs in the game.” It’s a national tournament and we were just really pumped and we were trying really hard to win this.”
The Bombers got off to an early lead, jumping out to a 6-1 lead after three innings and a 9-1 advantage in the sixth. From there, they didn’t look back as starting pitcher Marlen Sandoval kept the Batbusters offense from finding any groove.
Coleman drove in Katie Lott on a double for the Bombers’ first run in the opening frame. Then, in that pivotal third inning, Amiah Burgess started things off with a single. After getting moved over on a sacrifice bunt, Kayden Henry launched a two-run home run over the fence that broke a 1-1 tie and put the Bombers ahead for good.
“I just saw the opportunity to help my team out,” Henry said. “And I saw the pitch and I took it.”
Lott followed Henry’s dinger with a single and then Coleman ripped a double just inside the third base line. Victoria Valdez walked and suddenly, the bases were loaded. Klarissa Martinez and Seleste Compian hit back-to-back RBI singles and the Bombers were ahead 5-1. Shelby Frazier added an RBI groundout that rounded out the five-run inning.
Going in the Bombers knew that this game wasn’t going to be easy. The Batbusters were coming off an exciting one-run win in their semifinal matchup.
“We knew the championship wasn’t going to be handed to us and that we needed to work for that,” Coleman said.
The Bombers tacked on three more runs in the top of the sixth. Coleman hit her second double, this time with two runs scoring. Compian added an RBI single in that inning, as well. Emma Landauer substituted into the game and blasted a solo home run to centerfield to lead off the seventh and put the Bombers’ lead at 10-2.
Perhaps the Frisbee throws helped ease the players’ minds before the game. But more than that, their approach at the plate remained simple and they avoided trying to do too much.
“I feel like in that game we were more focused on just trying to get one run at a time than trying to hit it far,” Henry said.
And it also helps that once one batter or a handful of hitters got going at the plate, that spread to everyone else in the lineup. Eventually, the result became everybody in the batting order piecing together solid at-bats and hitting the ball hard.
“It’s very contagious,” Coleman said. “It’s like a disease almost.”
Sandoval pitched six innings and allowed just two runs on seven hits. Halie Pappion came on in relief and pitched a scoreless seventh while striking out two of the three batters she faced.
The Batbusters got on the board early in the first on an RBI single from catcher Oakley Bates. Bates also drove in the second run for the Batbusters on a sacrifice fly after they got traffic on the bases following a lead-off single from Presley Hosick and a bunt single from Ailana Agbayani.
To get to the championship game, the Bombers began the day with a 10-6 win over West Bay Warriors Gold in the quarterfinals and then won a tight 3-2 game over FC Brashear 2022 to reach the finals.
Going home with the championship is surely a good feeling. But doing so with a week’s worth of memories with your team just adds to it.
“I think mostly I’ll remember the beautiful skies and scenery and just having fun with my team,” Henry said.