BOULDER — It was the end of a long, demanding weekend, and absolutely nothing appeared to be going the Batbusters’ way.
Not only had the California-based softball club fallen into an early hole in the championship game of the Boulder bracket at the annual Louisville Slugger Independence Day Tournament, but the Batbusters also squandered numerous scoring chances before falling on the wrong end of a controversial call that could have completely deflated the team’s spirit.
Yet the Batbusters refused to quit, and when they were down to their last strike, Brit Moeai decided to play the hero.
The UCLA-bound catcher smacked a dramatic two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning on Sunday, completing a late rally that gave the club the 18U championship with a 4-3 victory against the SoCal A’s. It was the club’s fourth championship at the annual affair at Stazio Fields, but its first since 2002.
“I think both teams were beat and we had some real bad at-bats,” Batbusters coach Gary Haning said. “Then we had some real good at-bats. I’m proud of our players because they played real hard. They continued to play hard after we got down.”
The Batbusters fell behind early as the A’s scored a lone run in each of the first three innings, a spurt highlighted by a monstrous solo home run from catcher Jess Plaza in the top of the second.
The Batbusters answered with a run in the bottom of the third on a solo home run from leadoff hitter Sierra Romero. Although another solo homer by Maddy Jelenicki brought the Batbusters within 3-2, their middle innings were mostly marked by missed opportunities. None were more discouraging than a reversed call in the bottom of the fifth.
Immediately after Jelenicki’s homer with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Katiyana Mauga hit a grounder to third and was ruled safe by the first base umpire when the throw appeared to pull the SoCal first baseman off the bag. However, the home plate umpire reversed the call. The decision was magnified when the next two Batbusters hitters connected for singles, denying the club the potential tying run.
“I was very happy that they did keep pushing, because the first couple innings, we weren’t,” Haning said. “As the game wore on, they began to turn it around.”
As Batbusters pitcher Taylor McQuillin settled in — she surrendered 10 hits, but only two over the final three innings — the club finally pieced together a rally in the bottom of the seventh. Consecutive singles by Jelenicki and Mauga set the table at the opening of the frame, but a fielder’s’ choice and a groundout brought Moeai to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third.
Moeai worked her at-bat to a full count before punching a single through the right side, scoring both runners and setting off a festive championship celebration in the middle of the diamond.
“I had struck out on a change-up before, and I just went up the next at-bat thinking I wanted to score the runners on base,” Moeai said. “I was waiting for that next change-up. We have fighters on our team, and I had no doubts that we could get it done by doing our best.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07
Batbusters-Haning 4, SoCal A’s 3
At Stazio Fields
SoCal A’s 111 000 0 — 3 10 3
Batbusters 001 010 2 — 4 10 0
W — McQuillin. L — Gourley.
SoCal A’s hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — D. Mercado 4-0-1-0, Vines 4-2-2-0, Geer 4-0-1-1, M. Mercado 4-0-2-1, Tautalafua 3-0-1-0, Sncar 3-0-0-0, Plaza 3-1-1-1, Koenig 2-0-0-0, Smithson 2-0-2-0. Totals 29-3-10-3. 2B — M. Mercado, Vines, Tautalafua. HR — Plaza (None on in 2nd). SB — Smithson.
Batbusters hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Romero 4-1-1-1, Campbell 3-0-1-0, Nichols 0-0-0-0, Jelenicki 4-2-3-1, Mauga 4-0-1-0, Spaulding 4-1-1-0, Swearingen 4-0-2-0, Moeai 3-0-1-2, Lopez 2-0-0-0, Young 1-0-0-0, Bennett 2-0-0-0. Totals 29-4-10-4. 2B — Swearingen. HR — Romero (None on in 5th). SB — Nichols.
SoCal A’s pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Schreyer 4.2-6-2-2-1-3; Gourley 2-4-2-2-0-1.
Batbusters pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — McQuillin 7-10-3-3-0-5.