Red Heat rallies to win it all
Maddy Brubaker had only one game ball to her credit entering the High Sierra ASA minor softball championship game.
But as darkness descended on the Field of Dreams at South Tahoe High on Wednesday night, a giddy Brubaker clutched the yellow game ball given to her by manager Cheryl Vanos-Embry.
After all, the ball was in her hands most of the evening when it counted.
Brubaker delivered four scoreless innings and surrendered only two hits as the Red Heat rallied to defeat the Purple Fire 5-4 in seven innings.
“After I kept doing really bad I practiced until I got better and better,” Brubaker said.
The fourth-seeded Purple Fire nearly completed its Cinderella run through the postseason, but the Red Heat’s discipline at the plate during the final two innings paid off.
“This is the way you want it to end,” Vanos-Embry said.
The Red Heat avoided losing in the fifth inning, but the briskly played game was 4 minutes under the time limit, extending the game into the sixth. The Red Heat took full advantage of the opportunity while trailing 3-1.
“I told them to calm down, breathe and have fun,” Vanos-Embry said. “They feed off of my competitiveness, so I’ve got to breathe, too.”
With Purple Heat starting pitcher Cassidy Cichowicz mowing down batters like Roger Clemens the Red Heat’s chances looked bleak. But Alexa Poscic hit an infield single following a walk to Hanna Bratton to start a rally in the sixth.
After Cichowicz fanned the next two batters, the Red Heat dug in. Free passes to Andy Jo Embry, Bailey David and Melanie Grady sent home the Red Heat’s second and third runs.
Brubaker kept the momentum on the Red Heat’s side by retiring the Purple Heat 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Speedy Kailey Killeen triggered the Red Heat’s decisive rally in the seventh by stealing a pair of bases after being hit by a pitch. Rose Campion’s infield single scored Killeen and Campion advanced to second on an error. Emily Gardner’s base hit put the Red Heat ahead 5-3.
“I told the kids since the beginning to be aggressive and to be hitters and it’s coming back to ‘haunt’ me, because they swing,” Vanos-Embry said.
With the way Brubaker was pitching the two-run lead looked insurmountable. But the club in purple had some fire left in them. Cameryn Brock’s solid, one-out single to center scored Jessi Lucero, bringing the Purple to within a run. An error and passed ball moved Brock to third and Melissa Scarmello drew a two-out walk and advanced to second on a passed ball, setting the stage for a possible game-winning hit. But Brubaker bared down and recorded her 11th strikeout for the final out.
Cichowicz gave the Purple Fire an a quick start with a two-run triple in the first inning. Sara Lucero upped the Fire’s lead to 3-0 with a single that scored Mika Kitch.
Bailey David got the Heat on the board in the fourth. She singled, stole second and third bases and came home on a bases-loaded walk.
Cichowicz, who had never pitched more than two straight innings this season, struck out 15 before tiring in the seventh.
“I’m not disappointed because we got second and we beat the Blue Team,” said Cichowicz, whose team knocked out the top-seeded Blue Flames 14-13 on Monday night.
Cichowicz’s dad, Doug, was pleased with the progress his team made after a 2-9 start to their season.
“I’m just proud of the whole team,” the Purple Fire manager said. “A lot of these kids are beginners and they just improved dramatically from the beginning of the season until now.”
Fielding stars were Emily Rives and Alicia Avalos. Rives executed an unassisted double play with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, while Avalos snared a high popup in front of home plate with the bags full in the sixth.