by Kyle Koso
You just can't keep down ... the noisiest dugout in town.
The PA Chaos 14u National team hopped and skipped to their make-or-break assignment Wednesday afternoon, taking on the Miami Stingrays Red with the winner advancing to the single-elim championship bracket at the TC/USA Nationals in Cumming, GA. Bellowing support every minute from the dugout, the Chaos jumped ahead early and run-ruled the Stingrays in five innings, 9-1, at Central Park, where they will face the Texas Bombers Gold on Thursday morning.
Making the moment even sweeter for the Chaos was the fact the Stingrays had topped them by a healthy 12-5 score Tuesday. But in the rematch, the Chaos were a force from the start in taking a 4-0 lead.
"I knew I was excited to get the chance to come back from that game yesterday; it wasn't exactly the greatest end, and I knew we could do a lot better," said Brooke Ashenfelter, who had two hits, a stolen base and two RBI. "To show them what our team is really like ... that was a good opportunity. With our pitching, that kind of fueled the (defense), and when we were all doing good, we brought it back to the dugout to hit, and it kept going from there."
The pitching excellence came from the hand of Kendall Brown, who allowed two hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The Stingrays put just three balls out of the infield.
"I try not to overthink it; I wanted to go out and just try my best," said Brown, who also had three hits and ended the game with a triple that scored Ava Cohen and Sarah Harvat. "Our defense was way better this game and made so many great plays, and the hitting was on. I always have to go up to the plate with an empty mind and just react to the ball, not overdo it."
The Chaos loaded the bases in the first inning and scored the game's first run on a well-done suicide squeeze bunt from Shannon Harvey. Three RBI singles followed, off the bats of Ashenfelter, Brianna Lawson and Katelyn Carrier.
In the second inning, Harvey's long sacrifice fly brought in Harvat, and Lawson scored on a wild pitch in the third. The fourth inning featured a run from Harvey on a double by Ashenfelter.
"You always want that second chance and to play better the next time. The girls were relaxed, comfortable and confident, and from the first swing of the bat they were extremely impressive," said Chaos head coach Greg Harvey. "Kendall has been very consistent and kept us in every game. She has a terrific change of speeds and an incredible changeup that keeps batters off balance.
"It came down to hitting and defense, and our energy. It was a long day, and the question was could we continue it into the last game. The girls did a great job."
The Stingrays scored in the fourth inning, with Kaitlyn Hernandez coming home on a single from Cristina Pena.