Confidence beyond their years guides USA Explosion 16u to pool play victory at TC Ogden Fastpitch World Series
By Bob Judson
OGDEN, UT — At only 14 years of age, right-handed pitcher Gracie Longhurst was in uncharted territory, playing up a level while throwing for the USA Explosion (Idaho Falls, ID) softball team in the Triple Crown 16u Fastpitch World Series game at Miles Goodyear Park on Wednesday morning.
When the Nor Cal Hot Shots (Oakley, CA) put up three runs in the top of the first inning, things got even more uncomfortable for Longhurst and her teammates.
But the Idaho Falls squad lived up to its nickname, exploding for five runs in the home half of the first and eventually run-ruling the Hot Shots in five innings, 10-3, during the second round of pool play.
“Honestly, it felt really good to get back up on them,” Longhurst said after the early three-run hole.
Jade Perez had a key two-run double with one out in the first inning for the Hot Shots, then Longhurst escaped without further damage.
"I wasn’t really warm; kind of got warmed up a little bit. These are better teams. It’s hard to come up from 14u and face 16 players,” Longhurst said. “I was put up for nationals … just playing with my friends. I’ve known these girls for about four years now. They were already pretty good, winning some games and tournaments.”
After Longhurst got loose, she only allowed one hit over the final four innings (four in the first), and struck out six batters, including four of the last five.
“It depends on the game. Sometimes I’m a contact pitcher, sometimes I’m more strikeout type,” Longhurst said. “Kind of get my mental state right; release points, spins. Just settle in a little bit. Figure out where the batters can’t hit the ball and where they are going to swing at it.”
The Explosion supported Longhurst with 13 hits, six coming in the first inning, with Alli Sutherland leading off with an inside the park home run. Shortstop Jerzy Jarvis had three hits, scored a run and drove in one from the second spot in the lineup.
“Confidence. We can hit the ball. We saw the pitcher; we knew just wait on it. She was slower. Put runs on the board and get our runners in scoring position,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis was part of the rally in the first inning, and also when the Explosion tallied a run in the second and two in the third for an 8-3 lead.
“At second and third, we hit the ball, scoring the runners whether it’s a pop fly to the outfield, a tag up, or a hard ground ball. Work as a team,” Jarvis said. “Any way to get on to help the team and let them do their jobs. Start the rally. Let everyone help. The best thing to do is keep it on the ground or a line drive.”
With two more runs in the fourth, the Explosion mounted a 10-3 edge and needed to close out the Hot Shots in the fifth, which they did with a one-two-three inning. Longhurst finished the game via a flourish, striking out two of the three batters.
Reagan Young also had three hits for the Explosion, scoring a run and adding an RBI. Kenley Butler and Sav Johnson both had two hits and scored two runs each. Ava Petrino produced runs in two separate at bats, with a sacrifice fly and a double.
Delaney Zimmer had two hits and scored a run for the Hot Shots.