By Jason Hanes
Championship softball games last for seven innings. As proved true today, the 21st out can be the toughest to get.
Down to its final out, Atlanta Vipers 16U Gold – Tamborra scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with the 16U Elite Championship at the Triple Crown Southeast Nationals, 7-6, over Georgia Impact Schroyer in the northern Atlanta suburbs.
The inning started with Thalia Martin stroking a single to right, but after a foul out and a pop out, things looked bleak for Vipers – Tamborra. With two strikes on Malayna Tamborra at the plate, Martin took off and stole second, moving to third on a throwing error. “I knew I had to get two bases,” Martin said. “I had to get as much as I could.”
Two pitches later, Tamborra swung and popped up a pitch that landed just behind the circle, over the Impact Schroyer pitcher’s head. A tough play for any of the middle infielders to make, Tamborra would reach first before the throw to tie the game, 6-6.
“Before the pitch, I was thinking that this is it. Just swing as hard as you can and put it all out there. After I hit it, I knew it wasn’t a very good hit, but I had to hustle it out.”
Savanna Bedell then stepped into the box and had a lengthy battle at the plate that eventually ended with a single back up the middle to move the winning run to second base. “I knew I couldn’t let my team down, so I had to do everything,” Bedell said. “I made sure I wasn’t missing the pitch and I did everything I could.”
With the championship on the line, Nia McKnight stepped up to the plate, quickly finding herself down two strikes. “I knew I had to calm myself down,” McKnight said. “I just thought about the rise ball and staying on top of that, and I did just that.”
McKnight would drive a pitch back into center field, plating pinch runner Karley Fuller from second to give her squad a 7-6 win in the 16U Elite Championship.
“We put it all out there,” Tamborra said. “It was the last straw and we took it.”
Things did not start well for Vipers – Tamborra. Playing in their third game of the day, Georgia Impact Schroyer didn’t show any early signs of fatigue as it scored four runs in the top of the first to grab the lead. Carrie Green singled to start the game, then stole second and made it all the way home on a throwing error to give her side the early edge. An RBI groundout by Eryn Lee and an RBI single by Grace Hixson added to the early tally.
“We knew what we did in the first inning was not Vipers softball,” said head coach Stacy Tamborra. “We knew we were too good to allow that to happen. So we knew we had to come back and fight for each other.”
Bella Faw’s RBI single in the bottom of the first made it 4-1, and Vipers – Tamborra would plate three more to tie the score in the third, two of which came on a double by Martin.
Georgia Impact Schroyer regained the lead on a two-run double by Celan Towers one inning later, but Vipers – Tamborra would make a pitching change to bring in Kyra Aycock. Aycock would allow just two hits the rest of the way, and Faw would come up with another RBI single in the fifth to set the stage for the late-inning dramatics.
“They’ve really had laser focus to stay after it,” Coach Tamborra said. “They’ve wanted to go play great softball, and for each other. We played some really really good teams in Colorado and they learned to fight for each other. I think this team is true family.”