By Jason Hanes
Some teams don’t play well early in the morning, but Firecrackers Bowen isn’t one of those teams. The 16u squad handled the early wake-up call on the first day of the Triple Crown Southeast Nationals with aplomb, defeating Intensity National KOD/Bodell 4-0 in the opening game before turning around and topping Lady Blues Miller 10-2 in the second half of the Pool L doubleheader.
“We always have the eight o’clock game, so we’re used to it,” said head coach Jessica Bowen. “They always come out early in the morning ready to go. I challenge them with that. Usually it starts with hitting, and everything else follows.”
“I think we’re all just really proud and just really excited,” said catcher Breonn Newbille. “We all want to win, but we had a lot of fun the last two games.”
After a shutout based on pitching and defense in the opener, Firecrackers Bowen scored in every inning of the second game, plating six in the fourth to put the game out of reach. “What I was most impressed with my team was that they weren’t swinging at balls,” Bowen said, “but whenever the balls were pitched in there, we weren’t watching a lot of strikes.”
After manufacturing a pair of runs in the first to hold a 2-0 lead, Firecrackers Bowen would allow a run in the bottom of the inning to make it 2-1. A one-out single in the second made it 3-1, and then a two-out knock by Caitlyn Hall in the third would make it 4-1.
The fourth inning would see Firecrackers Bowen put the game out of reach with six big runs. The most exciting play came on what seemed to be a harmless pickoff move to first with the bases loaded. Instead, Ava Gurule sprinted home and beat the throw for a straight steal of home.
“Sixty feet is key,” Bowen said. “We work on taking extra bases in practice because an extra 60-feet can make the difference in a ball game.”
“Every tournament we play, we just try to get better with the things we’re struggling [with],” Newbille said. “The last few weekends, we’ve been focusing on trying to get our hitting up, and we have. We all had each other’s backs today. If one person messed up or if one person did good, we all helped each other and told each other we did good. We really fed off of each other hitting-wise.”
The wins allowed Firecrackers Bowen to win Pool L and move into the Elite Bracket at the Southeast Nationals. “I’m proud of them. I want to play the best competition we can because if we don’t play the best, that’s not good enough for me,” said Bowen. “I wanted them to be in that top bracket.”