Johnson City Press Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sports

Unbeaten Tennessee Mojo win 10U tournament

August 2nd, 2014 11:08 pm by Trey Williams

Unbeaten Tennessee Mojo win 10U tournament

Savannah Jones and Elana Escobar had their mojo working on the mound Saturday at Winged Deer Park.

Escobar pitched a one-hitter to lead the Tennessee Mojo to a 3-0 win against the OC BatBusters in the championship game of the ASA 10-U fastpitch softball national championship.

The Mojo, a Cookeville-based team with players from Indiana, Kentucky, Chattanooga and Clarksville, also defeated OC BatBusters (Murrieta, California) 1-0 in the winners’ bracket final thanks to a one-hitter from Jones.

The Mojo went 8-0 in the 44-team tournament, which included teams from 10 states. California, Texas and Georgia were well represented.

“I knew we had a good squad coming in, but there are a lot of good teams here and a Tennessee team had never finished above third,” Mojo manager Brooks Cherry said. “I knew we had the team if we could put it together. There were a couple of games where we didn’t play great defense and we didn’t hit great the last couple of days, but we just kept finding ways to win. All 12 girls stepped up and played a role. I’m proud of them.”

In the championship game Cayden Baker led off the Mojo’s two-run third with a triple to right field. The left-handed batter had slapped several outside pitches foul before getting an offspeed pitch she liked.

“That was the key at-bat, for sure,” OC BatBusters manager Chris Garcia said. 

Jordan Key, who had scored Baker for the winning run with a two-out single in the winners’ bracket final, followed Baker’s triple with a walk.

Starting pitcher Lacie Ham, a workhorse the whole tournament, was then relieved by Ashlyn Luketich. Shelby Radford greeted Luketich by scoring Baker with a bunt, and Aubrey Barnhart made the score 2-0 with a one-out line-drive single to left field.

“Cayden battled fouling some off,” Cherry said. “They’d been working us away, away all day and she was making good pitches, and Cayden ended up getting a changeup that she kind of hung in the middle of the plate. She got her hands through it and turned on it. And they had their defense shifted to throw it away. Cayden put a good swing on it, and she can run.”

Escobar concluded the scoring with a two-out line-drive single in the fifth that plated Barnhart, who’d walked and stole second.

“We felt comfortable with the way Elana was throwing the ball with our defense that if we could just get one or two runs, we felt like we could hold on,” Cherry said. “That third run was good insurance. … Aubrey got a good hit for us. They’d just brought that pitcher in. She left one up and Aubrey put a good swing on it.”

The Mojo made several difficult defensive plays look routine. Baker made a difficult play to her right at shortstop on Ham’s hard-hit ball, and Key dug out the hurried throw at first base to retire the side in the fourth.

“We did a good job all week of getting ahead of batters and staying ahead and letting our defense work with good counts,” Cherry said. “All three of our pitchers (including Ashby Murt) were outstanding.”

Radford was 1-for-2 with a double, a sacrifice, an RBI and reached on an error. Key walked twice, stole a base and scored.

Kalyn Hill had the lone hit for the BatBusters, a two-out single through the left side in the third. Emilie Lapena (walk in the second) was the only other baserunner for the BatBusters, who were pleased to finish ahead of two California teams that finished one-two in the state tournament – the state-champion Breeze (Sacramento) and Power Surge (San Diego).

“Absolutely, there’s bragging rights with that, for sure,” Garcia said. “We’re about even. We play each other every weekend. …

“We had high expectations and it’s been a great experience. To come here and finish second in the country is awesome. … They (Mojo) had great pitching. (Jones) looked a little bit slower, but had a great changeup and hit her spots well. This one (Esboar) just overpowered us with speed and hitting her spots.”

The BatBusters were playing their third game of the day. They beat Impact Gold (Deer Park, Texas) 6-1 in the losers’ bracket final.

Texas Impact Gold (Houston) finished fourth. The Birmingham Vipers and Power Surge (San Diego) tied for fifth.

“We knew there’d be great competition,” Cherry said. “To battle a program like the OC BatBusters – they are pretty much a feeder program for the University of Tennessee. … With an hour and 40 minute games, I thought we had a good chance. To beat us for an hour and 40 minutes is tough. It’s almost like playing two games in the regular season.”

Among the places the Mojo played tournaments this year were Panama, Florida, Bowling Green, Kentucky and Pigeon Forge.

“The Johnson City people welcomed us with such hospitality,” Cherry said. “The facilities were unbelievable. Rick Poole and his staff did a great job of running the tournament. The umpiring staff did great. It was a great experience for our girls and we can’t wait to come back.”

Mojo players include Jaycee Goodwin, Lauren Hosford, Lauren Hall, Presley Morris and Blake Cherry. Todd Radford, Wayne Key and Samantha Bates help coach.

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