For the second consecutive year, the Reds Community Fund RBI softball program is being represented in the RBI World Series.
The 27th annual edition of the event kicked off over the weekend in Vero Beach, Fla., and Greater Cincinnati RBI headed into competition with some serious momentum.
On the back of their pitching, which has been the team’s strength all year, the ladies dominated the Central Region Championship in Indianapolis. Head coach Kavin Morgan and his squad went undefeated and did not surrender a single run in regional play. They have won 16 of their last 17 games.
“We are hitting our stride at the right time,” Morgan said. “There is very strong, quiet confidence with this group. The girls are extremely focused on the job to be done, given this is our second year in a row going to the World Series. Our team speed is greatly enhanced vs. last year and the amount of ground we cover in the outfield is top notch.”
During the Indy tournament, pitchers Bailey Garcia and Samantha Iannarino each threw a no-hitter, and Gracie Smith pitched two shutouts.
“During the game, I had no clue that I was even close to a no-hitter,” Garcia said. “Then at the end one of the coaches came up and was like, ‘Did you know you threw a no-hitter?’ and I didn’t know. I think it pumped up the rest of the pitchers. Sam threw a no-hitter, too. We had shutouts all weekend.
“I think the first game throwing a no-hitter really set the tone for that weekend, because we were able to build off that and we didn’t start in a slump. It was such a cool experience. I can’t remember throwing a no-hitter and being that excited about it.”
This year, Cincinnati RBI moved to a more competitive “super region,” making the demolition of their Indianapolis opponents that much more impressive. Many of the girls on the team got a taste of the World Series last year, but they fell short of their ultimate goal. This year, they are prepared to do everything in their power to get another shot at it.
“Last year was super sad, because we all wanted that championship game, we all wanted to get there,” Garcia said. “This year the returners we have are super determined to get to that championship game, and I think the younger people that we’ve brought in have seen how much we want to get there. So I think if we keep that same fire and momentum that we had while we were at that super region, just that same drive to get to that championship game, I think we can bring it back.”
Prior to departing for the Sunshine State, the team was recognized during an on-field ceremony before last Thursday’s Reds game against the Cubs. The ladies began their quest for the championship on Sunday, but they fell to Houston in their first game. Their second opponent of the day was supposed to be the Dominican Republic, but the game was postponed due to rain. Sunday’s weather sets up a busy Monday for the team with an early morning game against the Dominican, a late morning matchup with the L.A. Angels and the start of the double-elimination round later in the afternoon.
RBI, or Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, is the Major League Baseball youth initiative designed to provide young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball. The Reds Community Fund has been operating Greater Cincinnati RBI since 2007. The local program has flourished since the opening of the Reds Youth Academy, which provides year-round training opportunities for the nineteen RBI baseball and softball teams.