Braves can’t avoid slide
Tonganoxie hits wall Saturday, displeased with fifth
Lawrence When play concluded this past weekend at the American Fastpitch Association "B" National Championship Tournament, the Tonganoxie Braves sat in a tie for fifth place.
Not bad, considering 29 teams from around the country visited Clinton Sports Complex in Lawrence. The Braves weren't content with their position, though. After all, in 2004 -- the last time the tournament was in Lawrence -- the Braves won the national title in the 14-and-under age bracket.
"It's horrible," second baseman Sami Rush said. "I'm feeling so bad. This is the worst."
After the first four days, it looked as though Tonganoxie had a realistic chance of winning the tournament. The Braves won their pool and the first two games of bracket play and took a 5-0 record into Saturday, the final day. The Braves were one of only four teams undefeated prior to Saturday.
The final day of the tournament brought trouble for Tonganoxie. The Braves' starting catcher, Melissa Pratt, exited the first game Saturday against Fort Scott after she turned on a pitch and accidentally made contact with the ball with her right pointer finger. She made so much contact the ball actually flew all the way back to Heather Davis, the opposing pitcher.
"You can't do anything about that, but the whole team was down after that," Rush said.
X-rays revealed the finger was not broken, but Pratt was forced to miss the remainder of the tournament. Tonganoxie lost, 3-0, against Fort Scott.
"That was huge because that girl's the general of the floor out there," Braves coach Craig Lohman said of Pratt. "Her whole finger was swollen -- black and blue. I thought it was broken."
Tonganoxie managed only one hit against Davis. She struck out 12 batters and didn't walk anyone.
"That game was all rise balls and we couldn't hit that," said Rush, who broke up Davis' no-hitter with a single. "The pitch looked like it was coming straight, but once you swung, it was over the bat. She had the best movement. Her pitches rose, curved and did whatever she wanted. She was the best pitcher we saw."
The Braves lost their ace pitcher, Amie Riddle, as well after the game because Riddle had to attend a dance camp for college.
It was a double-elimination tournament, so the Braves weren't out of it after their first loss. But suddenly, they didn't have their two most important players. In the Braves five victories, the opposition only scored two runs combined against the pitcher-catcher combination of Riddle and Pratt.
The power portion of Tonganoxie's lineup dissolved as well. In pool play, Pratt hit third and Riddle hit fourth.
In its second game Saturday, Tonganoxie was eliminated by the Kearney (Neb.) Flames, 2-0. The loss was particularly frustrating for the Braves because they defeated the Flames, 3-1, Thursday night.
The Braves didn't play poorly in the second game, but just couldn't produce offense. Tonganoxie left six runners on base, including Roni Grizzle, who led the bottom of the sixth inning with a double, then stole third. Tonganoxie couldn't bring her home, though.
"Like I said before, we're going home if we don't hit," Lohman said.
Amanda Albert filled in admirably for Riddle against the Flames. She pitched 5 2/3 innings, gave up six hits and two earned runs. She didn't walk a batter and struck out two.
"It was OK, but I wish I would have done better than I did," Albert said. "The reason I only gave up two runs is my defense was behind me to back me up."
The Dakota Fury defeated Fort Scott, 3-2, for the tournament championship. The Braves actually defeated the Fury, 2-0, Friday night.
Braves linescores and highlights:
Wednesday: Tonganoxie 2, Ottawa 0 (9 inn.)
Braves 000 000 002 -- 2 6 0
Ottawa 000 000 000 -- 0 3 0
Amie Riddle: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, BB, 14 K
Melissa Pratt: 1-2, single, RBI
Roni Grizzle: 2-2, 2 singles
Tonganoxie 2, NE Storm 0 (6 innings, 75-minute time limit)
NE Storm 000 000 -- 0 1 3
Braves 000 02x -- 2 0 1
Riddle: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Pratt: 0-2, sac fly, RBI
Lindsey Fatherley: 0-1, BB, SB
Amanda Darrow: 0-1, 2 BB
Thursday: Tonganoxie 3, Kearney (Neb.) Flames 1
Braves 110 000 1 -- 3 8 2
Flames 000 100 0 -- 1 4 0
Riddle: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
Pratt: 3-4, HR, single, double, RBI
Fatherley: 2-3, 2 singles
Friday: Tonganoxie 2, Dakota Fury 0
Fury 000 000 0 -- 0 3 0
Braves 000 002 x -- 2 5 0
Riddle: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K
Saturday: Fort Scott 3, Tonganoxie 0 (6 inn., 75-minute time limit)
Ft. Scott 120 000 -- 3 8 1
Braves 000 000 -- 0 1 3
Riddle: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Sami Rush: 1-2, single
Kearney (Neb.) Flames 2, Tonganoxie 0 (6 inn., 75-minute time limit)
Braves 000 000 -- 0 3 2
Flames 100 10x -- 2 6 0
Amanda Albert: 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K