VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The Houston Astros RBI softball team used both forms of the home run in Thursday morning’s championship game.
“We’re all excited, and it was what we wanted. I think our players came into the tournament with the attitude that they knew they didn’t want to lose,” said Houston coach Megan Hays, whose club won all seven of its games and outscored the opposition by a 63-15 margin.
Houston had trailed 2-0 to Harrisburg, the team it had defeated 6-2 on Wednesday to earn a spot in the title game, but the game turned in a pivotal third inning after the Astros tied it at 2.
Harrisburg, designated the visiting team, loaded the bases with one out, but Houston pitcher Dani Moreno forced a fielder’s choice at home and then struck out Kayla Vonstein.
However, Moreno’s strikeout pitch eluded catcher Tijah Coleman, and pinch-runner Emma Keller dashed home before Coleman could get the ball at the back screen.
Vonstein, though, fell in the batter’s box on the swing, in pain after reinjuring a strained hamstring, and Coleman tossed the ball to first base for the force out.
Harrisburg coach Mike Stepp said his club missed a good opportunity in the inning.
“It was unfortunate what happened to Kayla at home plate. It’s an injury she’s been dealing with since high-school ball. It was a tough, tough thing for her. It was a moment that could’ve put pressure on the other team,” Stepp said.
Cummings then drilled the first pitch she saw from Harrisburg starter Courtney Coppersmith over the left-center-field fence for a 3-2 lead.
“[The homer] completely shifted our energy and the atmosphere. We were kind of down. That hit was crazy; I couldn’t believe it myself,” said Cummings, who finished 2-for-3.
Hays said Cummings’ homer set the tone, especially after she and the coaching staff had preached to simply win every inning.
“We had to go into each inning with the mindset that, no matter if they put up runs or not, we just needed to win the inning. And if you noticed, from that inning on, the girls took it as a challenge,” Hays said.
“The home run set a stronger momentum for us. It reminded our girls that we can hit and we can hit hard.”
Turiya Coleman did her part to make sure her club won the innings.
The athletic shortstop kept Harrisburg in check by firing home to get the fielder’s choice before Moreno fanned Vonstein, and she rapped a hard single past first base in the fourth inning that led to the game’s go-ahead run, which scored when the right fielder misplayed Coleman’s single.
To cap off her Most Valuable Player Award-winning performance, Coleman stepped up in the fifth with her team ahead 5-3 and lashed a drive to right. The vicious top-spin on the ball made it dip, and the ball skipped to the fence for a three-run inside-the-park homer.
“She saw the outfielders playing up on her, and she challenged herself to hit a gap,” Hays said. “It was a done deal [when it got to the fence].”
Coleman, who has committed to join the University of Oklahoma Sooners, said she was proud of her tournament and her teammates’ accomplishments.
“We have good coaches who had us keep our heads up and told us we could win the game. We had beaten them before and were undefeated, so we came back and won,” said Coleman, who was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
“But Tauryn’s homer changed the game for us.”
Up 5-3 after four innings, Moreno ended her start with a perfect fifth, and Yasmine Rivera retired six of the final seven batters to preserve the win.
Center fielder Trystan Salvador recorded a double, RBI and three of Harrisburg’s eight hits, all of which came in the first four innings.