by Kyle Koso
Reaching the end of Tuesday's play at the TC/USA Nationals with a 6-0 record overall is certainly fine with the 14u Glory Adkins-Locke (GA) squad.
But head coach Steve Locke is still grasping for answers on some important issues.
The Glory moved into the finals of their double-elim bracket Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over the Texas Sudden Impact 04, giving up the only two runs they've allowed from the start, but the sight of his roster coming up dry on two separate bases-loaded, no-out opportunities dimmed the sparkle of that unbeaten record.
Fortunately, the Glory played superior defense in spots and got solid pitching, with starter Chayse Eldridge going three innings and reliever Alyssa Bedenbaugh excelling in her four innings of work.
"It's very frustrating to see that they were loaded with my 3-4-5 hitters up, and they are all hitting .400 or more this week. Our pitching has been dominant," said Locke, whose team will face the East Cobb Bullets Biele/Heath on Wednesday in hopes of winning outright their spot to the single-elim final bracket. "The offense has struggled; we're facing great pitching, and we accept it ... those teams practice and are trying hard, too. But it's situational hitting ... I told them, just hit two pop flys and we have four more runs.
"You need to do the little things, because it's only going to get harder. I look like a coach who is 0-6, not 6-0, but I know what we need to do. We're good enough to overcome mistakes, and I expect our pitching will continue and we can make a run at this thing."
The Glory scored all five runs in the second inning, with doubles from Emma Davis and Meadow Villar doing damage. Villar drove in Nadia Barbary (a verbal commit to Mississippi State), and Eldridge singled in Villar; Avery Locke came home on a single from leadoff hitter Kailyn Jones. Davis doubled, and Anyce Harvey closed the burst by singling in Davis.
Davis and Jones each had three hits, with Davis loading the bases in the fourth on a perfectly executed bunt, one made tougher since she had fouled off a bunt attempt on an earlier pitch.
"It's difficult, especially after fouling the first ball off, because they know it's coming. You just work it to your advantage, and using the dirt as well," Davis said. "This game could have gone smoother, but we did work well in staying up and not getting down on ourselves. After this game, we are hoping for better results, but we are having a good tournament."
One of the other treats for the Glory was watching Bedenbaugh field her position in the pitching circle. She gloved everything that came her way and made a startling athletic play for the second out of the ninth inning, fielding a dribbler up the first base line and leap-tossing the ball to first in time to catch a very speedy runner.
She also was cool in the dugout, not getting agitated when the offense stumbled.
"I just keep cheering them on. I trust them, and I know they'll get hits, so I trust the defense behind me as well," she said. "We stayed positive; the coaches were frustrated, but we kept backing each other up. I play third base a lot, so after I throw the ball I just treat it like I'm playing third. Our pitchers are doing good, the defense is backing everything up, the hitting is getting us leads ... I think we can win this thing."
"She's the most athletic pitcher I've seen, and she's the most athletic third base I've ever seen," Locke added. "Her lower body is so strong and she's so fast ... she has a Division-I release, hard and accurate."
The Glory beat the EC Bullets Biele/Heath team on Monday, 1-0.