Following a 13-0 defeat at the hands of the Indiana Magic, Vendetta AZ – Kunze needed a spark to regain confidence in the 14u Open Division of the 2018 Sparkler Juniors. An eight-run first inning was just what the doctor ordered as Vendetta cruised past Chandler Pride for its first victory of the tournament, 10-2.
“The difference in the second game was purely energy,” said head coach Wes Kunze. “The girls picked each other up and didn’t let one negative play effect the next. I think we got back to playing our brand of softball.”
After a quick top of the first inning from starting pitcher Autumn Kunze and the Vendetta defense, the offense looked eager to jump on the scoreboard after failing to tally a run in the opening game. A lead-off single from Trinity Moreno sparked an effort that would see eight runs cross the plate, giving the Arizona-based squad a commanding lead.
“I think we all wanted to deliver for one another in this game,” said Shawna Kim, who batted in two and came around to score in the opening frame. “I certainly wanted to give it my all and give my best effort for my teammates.”
Autumn Kunze returned to the circle now pitching with a sizeable lead. With a stellar defense behind her, Kunze’s confidence continued to grow and as the game wore on.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with these girls behind me,” said Kunze. “I had a couple of good pitches working for me today, and it helps to know that my defense will back me up when teams put balls in play.”
Kunze’s highlights weren’t limited to the circle on Tuesday afternoon. In the third frame, her walk drove the first of two RBI Kunze would collect. At the plate, the young right-hander finished 1-1 with two walks, two RBI and two runs scored.
“They were throwing a ton of strikes up there,” explained Kunze. “I told myself that if I made good swings, something good was going to happen.”
Defense ruled the third and fourth innings for both sides. In the fifth, however, the excitement kicked back into high gear. The Pride hit back with two runs of its own to cut the lead to five, 7-2.
When it came time for Vendetta to return to the plate in the bottom half of the frame, a focused and driven Vendetta team sealed the victory with three runs on three hits, with the game-clinching RBI arriving by way of a Lauren Webb triple.
“This was the first national tournament for most of these girls,” said coach Kunze. “I think we got some of those first-game jitters and nerves out of the way.
“This afternoon, the girls came back with a great effort. If we’re just as lively and energized going forward, I think we can play with any one of these teams.”
Vendetta rightly earns themselves a day off for a little rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. They’ll return to the diamond for two more pool play games on Thursday before bracket play in the 14u Open Division begins on Friday.
“This week will be about keeping up the energy, but especially the positive energy,” said Kim. “If we can do that, I think we’ll get out to a great start in games like we did this afternoon, and hopefully have some more success.”