Astros take home Nike RBI World Series softball title

August 14th, 2023

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The Houston Astros Nike Elite softball team is back on top.

Behind a dazzling outing from Isabella De Los Santos and timely hitting and baserunning for Jada Cooper, the Astros beat the D.C. Elite team 2-0 in the Nike RBI World Series championship game Saturday at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

With the win, Houston has won four of the last five RBI World Series. Houston had won three straight before losing in the championship game last season.

“They came in even more hungry than ever,“ Astros manager Megan Hays said. “They knew that this was our ultimate goal, and with that mind frame going. And the other girls who came on board were right with it [and] team players. Knew our goal along the way and everyone had a forward focus.”

The victory was especially sweet for De Los Santos, who was one of the players returning from last season.

“We were on a mission to prove the haters wrong,“ De Los Santos said. “We’re from Houston. Nobody wants us here. It’s Houston versus everyone.”

De Los Santos pitched a complete game, striking out eight batters. She stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third and sixth innings. A huge strikeout of Andaiye Smith in the sixth inning left the potential tying run on third base.

“I was just trying to hit my spots out there and keep the batters off-balance,“ De Los Santos said. “My changeup was really working today, and my curveball was moving. My screwball was getting inside on their hands, and they were just off-balance.”

For Hays, she believed there was no one better who could have been in the circle for Houston.

“Bella is the pitcher you want on the mound because of her composure,“ Hays said. “If you watch her the entire game, you never saw her break. You may have saw a smile here or there, but you never saw any defeat on her face, even when they got base hits. Bella’s curveball was definitely working, and her changeup was amazing today.”

Cooper was stellar at the plate and on the bases. She was 3-for-3 with two doubles and two stolen bases in the sixth inning. Cooper stole third base on the throw back to the pitcher and home on a dropped third strike to give Houston a 2-0 lead.

“She’s definitely been the heartbeat of our team,“ Hays said. “She is the person you want up to bat in those situations. She leads her district in high school in stolen bases. So her taking third was no surprise, and her taking home was not a surprise, either.”

Kristin White also dealt in the circle for D.C., pitching a complete game and allowing the two runs (one earned) while striking out 10 batters.

White was instrumental throughout the tournament as D.C. made its first appearance in the championship game in program history. The team will return most of its players next season.

“We’re proud of what these girls accomplished and what these girls are going to continue to build on,“ D.C. manager Harry Thomas Jr. said. “We’re building for our future. Almost all of this team will come back next year, so we’ve just got to build on that. ... We just didn’t execute in critical moments.”

Raven Jackson and Kennedy Godsey-Fisher were each 1-for-3 with a double for D.C. Jackson nearly gave her team the lead with two outs in the top of the third inning, but Houston center fielder Gabby Thomas-Brice made a snow cone catch near the fence to keep the game scoreless.

After neither team sustained any offense in the first three innings, Sara Paniagua reached base on an error to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning then a double from Cooper put runners on second and third with no outs. After Kurisma Garcia popped out to shortstop, Alyssa Arnell drove in the first run of the game with a base hit to right field. White escaped the jam without further damage after Arnell got called out for leaving early to steal second and striking out Penelope Saenz.

Godsey-Fisher hit a two-out double to left field in the sixth inning, then stole third base. She got stranded on De Los Santos’ strikeout of Smith.

D.C. had one last gasp in the top of the seventh inning after a two-out single from Bobbi Tate. Amaya Mullings represented the game-tying run but popped out on a bunt attempt to Cooper to end the game.