Week 3 of the Athletes Unlimited softball season wrapped up on Monday and saw two very different games: first, the most lopsided game of the season and then an exciting one-run nail-biter.
Now comes the draft for Week 4 with Cat Osterman still firmly ahead in the overall points count.
Here are recaps of the games today written by Bruce Miles for Athletes Unlimited and photos courtesy of Jade Hewitt Media.
Game 17: Team Reed slugs its way to an 18-1 victory against Team Sanders
The first inning for Team Reed went like this Monday: Bunt … bunt … bunt … (get ready for it) … BANG!
Against Team Sanders starting pitcher Samantha Show, Haylie McCleney, Morgan Zerkle and team captain Janie Reed laid down bunt singles. Total distance: about 45 feet.
The bang came when the fourth batter of the inning, Hannah Flippen launched a grand slam over the center-field wall. Total distance: about 230 feet.
That wasn’t all. Before the inning was over, Team Reed totaled eight runs, thanks in part to a three-run homer by Amanda Sanchez and a solo homer by McCleney in her second at-bat of the inning.
That sent Team Reed on its way to an 18-1 victory in the afternoon portion of Monday’s doubleheader at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont. Team Reed became the second team in two days to put up an 8-spot in the first inning. Team Osterman did it Sunday, also against Team Sanders.
Team Reed finished Week 3 of Athletes Unlimited play with a record of 1-2. Team Sanders wound up 0-3.
The first-inning blitz right off the bat made all the difference Monday.
“Yeah, the plan was to put all our fast kids at the top and on base and put some pressure on the defense,” said Flippen, who gained a share of the overall lead in home runs with four. “I looked for a ball that I hit hard, and I’m happy that I put it over the fence. I’m pretty happy about that.”
Team Reed never let up. Tori Vidales singled and was forced at second base before Lilli Piper walked. That set the stage for Sanchez, who launched her first homer of the season. She added another three-run homer in the fifth for a six-RBI day.
“It was just awesome,” she said. “Our whole lineup is so talented 1-9, and to have that speed at the top of the lineup and then everyone just being able to factor into our win today was awesome thing to be a part of.”
For her efforts, Sanchez was named MVP 1 of the game, earning an additional 60 points to her 110 stat points and 120 team points. Flippen earned 40 MVP 2 points in addition to her 80 stat points for the game.
It was a redeeming victory on many fronts for Team Reed, which was victim to a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh Sunday by Team Piancastelli, which emerged with a stunning 8-7 victory.
The beneficiary of the offensive outburst was starting pitcher Danielle O’Toole, who gave up the game-winning home run to Caleigh Clifton on Sunday but only after an error to start caused all the runs to be unearned.
Seemingly unaffected, O’Toole went out Monday and pitched five innings, giving up four hits and only a first-inning run.
O’Toole was candid about the carryover effect from Sunday.
“It never left my mind,” she said. “It fueled my fire a little bit. I definitely think this week has been a little more eye-opening for me, but I had a great defense me that was talking to me the entire time, and that helped a lot this week. I did not forget about it (Sunday). It just helped me even more today.”
Asked how this week was “eye-opening,” O’Toole responded: “I worked through a lot of my stuff. I just looked completely different than I did last weekend, and I worked through a lot of my stuff. I honestly believe it’s the defense, and it’s Aubree Munro behind the plate – big factor.”
O’Toole was named MVP 3 of the game, getting 20 additional points in addition to her 50 stat points.
Speedster Zerkle had 60 stat points, with 30 coming on a triple and another 10 resulting from a stolen base.
Here are the Game 17 video highlights:
Game 18: SHELBY PENDLEY'S TWO-RUN SHOT LIFTS TEAM OSTERMAN PAST TEAM PIANCASTELLI
Monday nights are turning into appointment viewing for Athletes Unlimited.
For the second week in a row, pitching dominated the prime-time hours, delivering up another classic as captain Cat Osterman took on Haylie Wagner in a battle of left-handed aces.
It would be unfair to say that either pitcher blinked, but for the second straight Monday night, Osterman came away with a 2-1 victory as she again out-dueled Wagner and Team Piancastelli.
With Week 3 in the books, the captains are set for next weekend, based on total points earned. For the third straight week, Osterman (1,672 overall points) will own the first overall pick, followed by outfielder Janie Reed 1,170 points and a captain this past week), outfielder Victoria Hayward (1,160) and infielder Jessie Warren (1,140). Hayward and Warren both played for Osterman’s team in Week 3.
But Monday night was all about the pitching, as both starters went the distance. Osterman ran her record to 7-0 by tossing seven innings of three-hit ball. The only run she allowed was a leadoff homer to Sahvanna Jaquish in the top of the fourth inning.
Wagner (3-4) gave up four hits in six innings. She gave up a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to Shelby Pendley. Wagner opened the inning by hitting Warren with a pitch.
Nevertheless, the mutual respect between the two left-handed pitchers was apparent after the game.
“It hasn’t been a secret since even our (preseason) scrimmages that Haylie, when we go head to head, it’s a great matchup,” said Osterman, who walked none and struck out 11. “I think that as the season, so to speak, has gone on, she gets sharper and sharper. She starts to use that changeup, and it’s deadly. You just know it’s going to be a dogfight. We have to match each other pitch to pitch. You have to tip your hat. It sucks to lose those games but it’s also fun to be in a matchup of that kind with a pitcher of her caliber.”
Wagner echoed the sentiments when asked about Osterman.
“I have to second that,” she said. “When I go head to head, it’s always a competition. We’re both very competitive. I know when I go into this game, I have to be as close to perfect as possible, and I know she does, too. Mutual respect. She’s a great pitcher. We all know that. I enjoy being out there. I like competing against her.”
Speaking of competing against one another, Pendley’s home run came one at-bat after she was robbed on a diving catch in left field by her sister, Nicole.
So she made sure to hit the ball where neither her sister, nor anybody else, could get it as she took it over the center-field wall.
“I suppose so, yeah,” Shelby Pendley said. “I don’t want to hit it to any of those outfielders. They’re all so good.”
But if she’s going to be robbed by a player, it might as well be her sister.
“I just kind of rolled my eyes,” she said. “What better person to make that play than for my sister? It was pretty cool, making a diving catch and me hitting it at her. But it was a nice catch.”
Shelby Pendley was named the game’s MVP 1, and she picked up 60 points in addition to the 120 the team earned for winning the game and the innings. The home run was worth 40 Pendley points.
Wagner was MVP 2, and Osterman was voted MVP 3.
The draft for Week 4 takes place Tuesday at 6 ET (5 CT), and it’s quite possible Osterman will take catcher Gwen Svekis with the first overall pick considering how well the two have worked together. But with the way the hitters have been attacking the ball (except for the two Monday nights), look for starting pitching to go early, too.
“I’m going to go pay everybody not to take Haylie for two rounds so we can both have a little bit of rest,” Osterman joked. “I would like to get a second pitcher on staff who can throw some innings. But I’m going to see how it plays out. Obviously it’s different when position players are in the (drafting) seats next to me as opposed to pitchers, and even catchers. It will be a different look. I think the one thing that I keep telling people, ‘You can sacrifice. Go ahead and grab another pitcher first.’
“It’s not so much my connection with (Svekis), but it’s how she makes the other pitchers that I do end up drafting better. And she helps with the vibe and the culture of our team. So there’s just so much more than the fact that her and I play (well together). It’s just that she’s been able to help me in that role, too. We’ll see how it unfolds. I haven’t really thought about it yet.”
Here are the Game 18 video highlights: