All-American aces throw no-hitter
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The play seemed rather ordinary. But when Team Undeniable's Olivia Galati grounded out to Team Battle second baseman Kayla Braud for the final out of the Under Armour All-America Softball Game at the ESPN RISE Games presented by Target held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, it was anything but.
It meant the Team Battle pitching staff had collectively no-hit Team Undeniable -- no easy feat in a game with players of this caliber -- en route to a 2-0 victory Tuesday afternoon. Dallas Escobedo, Brittany O'Donnell (who was the winning pitcher), Rachele Fico and Jolene Henderson (who earned the save) combined for the no-no and struck out 13 of the 21 outs recorded.
"You've got the best pitchers in the country on one diamond," said Team Battle coach Melissa "Skeeter" Gentile. "The trick for us as coaches is they're all equally as good but to try to get them all in for one game. It definitely makes it more challenging for the hitters because you're constantly seeing a new pitcher come in. I think all the pitchers on both teams did an outstanding job today."
For Gentile's squad, it started off with St. Mary's (Phoenix) rising senior Escobedo, last year's MVP, who took the opening start despite spraining her ankle in practice Monday.
But if Escobedo was hurting, it didn't seem to show. She began the game by fanning Niles North (Skokie, Ill.) rising junior Brittany Sanchez and went on to fan four in two innings of work. Escobedo ran into a little trouble in the second when she walked the first two batters she faced. But she settled down to record three straight outs, including a punchout of Pacific (Mo.) rising junior Jessica Damico to end the inning.
"She buckled down," said Gentile. "I think that's what I like about Dallas. Dallas has a lot of fight. It's just kind of fitting that she was on Team Battle. She really battled out of that and came back and got us out of that tough inning."
O'Donnell, who graduated from Red Bank Catholic (N.J.) this year and will attend Notre Dame in the fall, ran into some trouble of her own when she took over for Escobedo in the third. She walked Sunrise Mountain (Peoria, Ariz.) Class of 2009 standout Brigette DelPonte to start the inning and two batters later DelPonte was on second with two outs after a grounder by Marlborough High's (Los Angeles) Alix Cook. O'Donnell, however, got out of the jam by striking out Vista Murrieta's (Calif.) Taylor Edwards to preserve the scoreless tie.
After O'Donnell retired the side in order in the top of the fourth, Team Battle decided to get all the zeroes off the scoreboard. With one out and nobody on, Eureka (Mo.) Class of 2009 first baseman and Alabama recruit Courtney Conley drove the first pitch she saw over the left-field fence for what proved to be the game-winning homer.
"I didn't think it was going out," said Conley, who was named MVP for Team Battle (DelPonte was MVP for Team Undeniable). "I felt like I hit it well, but I just tried to hustle it out. I didn't really know where it was going and I looked up and the umps were signaling home run, so I was excited."
The hit was one of four tallied by Team Battle. Class of 2009 catcher Meagan May of Klein Oak (Spring, Texas) followed Conley's homer with a double, while Naples (Fla.) rising senior second baseman/outfielder Ryan Iamurri delivered a single to right center in the first and Class of 2009 catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt of Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) capped the scoring with a solo shot to center in the bottom of the sixth.
Henderson, who graduated from Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) this year with Ziegenhirt and will attend Cal with her in the fall, closed out the game with two strikeouts and Galati's aforementioned grounder.
"It was really cool," says Henderson of being part of the no-hitter. "I had to bring it in."
Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.
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