PELL CITY — On a scorching Saturday at Pell City Sports Complex, the collective unit of area softball play ers, the 18 and under Velocity team, played in a National Softball Association (NSA)-sanctioned tournament with seven other teams. With players from Fayetteville, Childersburg, Sylacauga, Wadley and Randolph County, the Velocity won its first game and had a tie in the second game.
In the first game against the Cobras, the Velocity used a strong first inning at the plate to carry them to a 3-1 victory. Valerie Watkins hit a single past third base and into left field. Hailey Haynes hammered a ball toward third base. The third baseman knocked the ball down but was unable to make a play, resulting in an infield single. Marisa Ward hit a ground ball to the shortstop, but Ward beat the throw to first base. Harley Cook hit a single through the gap between shortstop and third base, which brought in a second run.
In the bottom of the second, the Cobras trimmed the lead to 2-1.
The Velocity gained an insurance run in the top of the third. Watkins hit a ball that sailed over the left fielder’s head, resulting in a triple.
“I try to just hit the first pitch every time,” Watkins said. “It’s usually straight down the middle, so I just try to hit that one.”
Haynes followed with an RBI single into right field to make it 3-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, Velocity pitcher Chelsea Mowery induced a groundout at first base that was well-played by Cassie Mulkey for the out. Mowery struck out the next batter before Laura Machen was brought on to record the final out. On a 1-2 count, Machen got the final Cobra batter to ground out to Haynes at third base.
Travel ball tournament games are deter mined based on time ranges and not set inning requirements.
In the second game against the Blackhawks, the Velocity again struck early. Kay Kay Owens led off with a bloop single to shallow right-center field. Watkins followed with a single through the gap between third base and shortstop. Haynes drew a walk to load the bases. Mowery hit a chopper toward third base and by the time the third base cleanly fielded the ball, she had no play. That gave the Velocity a 1-0 lead. Brooke Ogle hit a chopper past the top of the pitcher’s glove and into center field to bring in a second run.
Machen got the start in the second game. Mulkey made a fine stretch at first base to record the first out on a ground ball hit toward third base. With two runners on, Mulkey was unable to make a play on an infield pop fly. The team was still able to record an out on the play. Machen got the following batter to pop-up for the third out of the inning.
The Blackhawks inserted a relief pitcher in the second inning and the Velocity had mixed results hitting against her. Mowery slammed a pitch to deep center field for a triple in the top of the third with one out, but her teammates were unable to bring her home to score.
“That’s probably my first triple in a long time,” Mowery said. “I started off kind of rough earlier today with my hitting, so it was time for me to hit.”
Asked how she perfectly timed the pitch, she replied, “Being a pitcher, I know what to expect. Most pitchers try to get up in the count or they’ll see what they can make you swing at. I just kind of expected it to be down the middle based off what she threw batters ahead of me.”
Following a leadoff walk, the Blackhawks were able to put together enough hitting in the bottom of the third to tie the game, 2-2.
The Velocity had another chance to break the tie in the top of the fourth, but was unable to materialize any runs. Lindsey Siskey hit a sin gle into center field. Kayla Wilkerson had a sac bunt to advance Siskey into scoring position. Machen reached base on a fielding error by the first baseman. Siskey advanced to third base on a wild pitch during Machen’s at-bat. But the Blackhawks’ second baseman made a nice grab of a line drive hit by Owens for the third out.
Machen made quick work of the Blackhawks in the bottom of the fourth with three consecutive groundouts.
“If I pitch strikes, I’m doing my job and I trust the rest of my team to do theirs,” Machen said. “We have a good defense, so I feel con fident every time I step on the mound with Velocity.”
Mulkey again made an impressive stretch play at first base on one of the groundouts. The game was called at that point, a 2-2 tie.
“It’s so much fun,” Machen said when asked about the current travel ball season. “We’re really like family, so playing together is like playing with your family. You’re going to lift each other up and have a good time in games and between games. We just do what we do — play ball. We love to play ball. It’s a differ ent competition. When you have a good team together, it just makes it all that much better.”