Villarde provides scenic views for Japan with two long homers vs. South Korea at International Challenge
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Looking out from Field 4 at the Christopher Field Complex, you can get a great look at the Rocky Mountains, and California native Alyssa Villarde probably hopes to check them out someday.
A couple of her hits from Friday probably beat her to it.
Playing for Japan in the second annual International Challenge, Villarde hit two long, strong home runs to dead centerfield in the team’s 18u contest against South Korea, driving in five runs and priming Japan to claim a 9-4 victory to move to 2-0 on the day. Emma Murchison added a three-run blast in the fifth inning, a frame where Japan broke the game open with seven runs.
Villarde’s first home run came in the first inning and put Japan up 2-0; her fifth-inning shot pushed the team ahead 5-2 and gave the roster that welcomed bit of breathing room in a high-emotion contest, with Japan looking to get past last year’s 18u runner-up.
“I wouldn’t say I have a favorite with the home runs; the second one did help my team come back. They’ve been working so hard yesterday and today, and to help them out means a lot to me and makes me happy,” said Villarde, who also homered in Japan’s event opening 5-4 win over Italy earlier Friday. “The Italy game, it made us want to work harder, and it gave us some good motivation.
“This has been a great experience. Being able to meet other people from around the country has been awesome, and everybody’s been so nice, like family.”
After Japan jumped ahead, South Korea worked it back to 2-2 thanks to the bat of Jessica Phelps, who hit a long homer to left in the second inning and doubled in Giselle Lai in the fourth. Japan had a couple threats go by the boards, one on an inning-ending double play.
But that all changed in the fifth. Villarde hit her shot, and Murchison hit hers on the first pitch she saw after subbing into the batting order.
Japan got a nice boost from leadoff hitter Bella Foran (from the Birmingham Thunderbolts), who had two hits and a walk and scored twice.
“It’s definitely different going from travel ball to here and meeting new people; there’s a good bit of pressure in the leadoff spot, but I remind myself to stay calm and relaxed and do what I do,” Foran said. “Get on for my team, anyhow, just help the team.
“Being from Alabama, I don’t know a lot of these girls, but I know some of my teammates were saying we really need to win, and there was a good bit at stake. There were some good rivalries in (action).”
A cluster of hits, walks and errors allowed South Korea to plate two runs in the fifth, but reliever Jayden Nishi was solid in the sixth to secure the win.
“Alyssa is hot – she showed up in the moment and we talked about it, that she is such a smart batter,” said Japan head coach Shannon Mortimer. “She looks for her pitch and is comfortable not swinging the bat until she has to. It was nice to come back and get the win against them. What a great start – got the win against Italy, and in this game we got to play everyone on the roster who is healthy. It was truly a team win.”
Addison Pressley had three hits for Japan as well.