By Jason Hanes
Alexis Camilleri’s two-out chopper inside the bag at third brought home the game-winning run in the Saturday Georgia rain as the Tampa Mustangs Seymour rallied to top Birmingham Thunderbolts 07, 5-4, to reach Sunday’s Championship Game of the 14U Elite Bracket at Southeast Nationals.
“It was a pitching battle for sure,” said Tampa Mustangs Seymour manager Jon Pierce. “You had two kids [in the circle]. You have to play fundamental defense and you have to hit the ball. It’s tough, and it’ll typically be a one or two-run game, but those are the things you’ve got to do to come out on top with a win.”
Down 4-3 entering the sixth and what would prove to be the final inning, Mustangs Seymour scratched together three singles to regain the lead. Ava Blakely started the inning with a single, then moved to second on Hailey Vassalotti’s sacrifice bunt. Karhys Pierce followed with a bouncer up the middle that went off the diving shortstop’s glove and trickled into center to bring in Blakely with the tying run. Pierce would steal second on strike three of the next at bat, setting the stage for Camilleri. She would send a bouncer down the line at third that stayed fair and went into left, bringing home Pierce with the go-ahead run as the rain poured down.
In the bottom of the inning, Presley Harrison would buckle down to get the final three outs of the contest as the rain reached its crescendo midway through the frame. After a pop out was caught, a deep drive to left by Kaileigh Byars was caught for the second out. Harrison’s third and final strikeout of the game would end it as the time limit expired to send Tampa Mustangs Seymour into the championship game.
“I definitely had to have a towel and a rosin bag,” Harrison said. “I just knew whatever I gave up, my defense had me. I felt good about myself and my team was really picking me up”
Tampa Mustangs Seymour would lead for most of the game, taking the lead in the second on Reese Green’s two-run single. In the fifth, Jaida Thomas connected for a solo homer to left to make it 3-0.
Birmingham Thunderbolts 07 rallied back with four runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. A double by Kaylee Goodpaster started the frame, and after a miscue in the field and a walk, the bases were loaded. As the rain came down, chaos erupted on the diamond and in the basepaths as two Thunderbolts would end up scoring with a second ball on the field to make it 4-2. After an out on a lengthy rundown that allowed the Thunderbolts to have runners on second and third with one out, a wide throw to the catcher on a ground ball allowed the tying run to score. Daigle Wilson’s ground ball to second would then bring in the go-ahead run to make it 4-3 for the Thunderbolts.
“That was a really good team,” Harrison said. “Their bats were doing really good. I couldn’t just throw it down the middle and get a strike every time.”
The win puts Tampa Mustangs Seymour in the championship game of the 14U Elite Bracket at 12 p.m. Sunday, whereas other teams will have to play at least one additional game to get to the finale. “It’s a little easier with our pitchers. It’s easier on the pitching side so we’ll be able to come in with two fresh pitchers,” said Pierce.
“I feel like we can do it,” Harrison said. “I think we’re going to be rested up and ready to go.”