The Lady Bulldogs made a habit out of playing in close games throughout pool play at the 2019 Valley Invite. After sidestepping the Oregon City Nightmare, 5-2, the Bulldogs tallied two consecutive 3-2 victories over the Washington Angels 16u – Benson and CC Krush Gold to earn top honors in Division I’s Pool K.
“We’re facing good pitchers,” said head coach Pat Pace. “Games should be close but we’re a team that usually scores a lot of runs. Overall, the girls did what they were supposed to do. To finish pool play 3-0 is a pretty good start to a tournament like this.”
CC Krush struck first blood with three quick hits to start the contest, scoring one run. Even with the fast start, six hitters would be the most starting pitcher Chloe Leverington would face.
“Once the Krush took the lead, I tried to just let my defense work behind me,” said Leverington. “I knew they would have my back in the field and at the plate if I just let them do their jobs.”
For four innings, Leverington and the Bulldog defense began to buckle down. Only once did a runner reach scoring position in the fourth frame before a lineout to second base and a groundout to shortstop erased the threat.
“My fastball was working really well,” Leverington explained. “I think I was able to beat most of their batters with my speed, wearing them down and making them foul off a lot of pitches.”
The young righthander’s only mistake came in the top of the sixth inning, surrendering a lead-off home run, handing CC Krush a 2-0 advantage.
Despite the deficit and a short timeframe to make it up, the Lady Bulldogs never felt desperate.
“Our intensity never dropped,” said Kaitlyn Granstrom. “We’re always better the second time through the lineup. We kept making adjustments and I think we started to figure some things out.”
Slowly but surely, the Lady Bulldogs began to apply the pressure on CC Krush, putting runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings before breaking the drought in the sixth with Lindsay Pace's RBI single.
“We got a couple of hits late and forced their starting pitcher to come back into the game,” said coach Pace. “I think that was key for the girls to see that pitcher again and have some success.”
What started with a double from Brittany Patrick, turned into a sixth inning offensive explosion for the Bulldogs. Behind Pace’s effort, Kali Rambo notched an RBI double to tie the game at two, giving Granstrom a chance to walk it off with the time limit already exceeded.
“I knew I just had to put it in play,” said Granstrom. “The only hit I had was when I laid down a bunt but I knew that any contact would probably score a run.”
While not technically a hit, Granstrom’s fielder’s choice scored Matti Ekerson, vaulting the Lady Bulldogs to first place in Pool K with another 3-2 victory.
“This win says a lot,” coach Pace explained. “It’s expected that we’re not going to give up in any situation but that was a great win. I think it was a confidence booster for tomorrow and hopefully, the rest of the season that no matter the situation we know we can come back.”
The Lady Bulldogs will enjoy a bit of rest before bracket play begins on Saturday morning. With three hard-fought victories behind them, confidence will not be lacking for the Washington natives.
“We all just want to win,” said Leverington. “For us, it’s just about making it to the next game however we can make that happen.”