By Connor Wiggins
After five innings of play in the 10:15 a.m. game between Fastball Elite out of Chicago, IL and AZ Venom Royal out of Glendale, AZ, it looked like there was no chance for Fastball Elite to come back from a 6-1 deficit.
That all changed in a hurry.
Fastball Elite found themselves in the hits column after the first inning of play, but two runners were left stranded after AZ Venom Royal starting pitcher Julian Chavez managed to get a fly out, strike out, and ground out to move to the bottom of the inning.
On the other hand, the AZ Venom Royal bats were scorching to begin the game. Christian Mogen led the team off with a solo home run, and Kevin Ramos hit a triple immediately after. Trevor Brock drove in Ramos with an RBI single from the 3-hole, but Fastball Elite starting pitcher recovered by getting a 5-4-3 double play from his defense and another ground out from his shortstop.
Julian Chavez wasn’t even close to done in the top of the second inning, as he saw only four batters come to the plate. Chavez struck out one more hitter in the inning.
“The change-up and fastball were working for me today,” Chavez said.
Fastball Elite were lucky to have only let one run come to the plate in the bottom of the second inning as things looked a little sloppy from their defense. There were two errors in the inning and the lone run from AZ Venom Royal scored as Fastball Elite starting pitcher J.P. Reiger’s pickoff attempt at second base went into center field.
The top of the third inning began with a beautiful play at third base from Connor Mayer on a ground ball. There was no shortage of great defense from AZ Venom Royal in this game.
“The defense was backing me up, so I had a lot to work with and I felt comfortable,” Julian Chavez said.
Fastball Elite got in the hitting column once more in the inning, but the runner was left stranded after the third strikeout of the day from Chavez.
The bottom of the third inning saw no runs come to the plate from AZ Venom Royal, even after a throwing error from Fastball Elite’s first baseman that advanced their only base runner of the inning to third.
Fastball Elite finally scored their first run of the game in the top of the fourth inning as Jordan Green hit a lead-off solo home run to cut the deficit to only two, but Julian Chavez recovered and retired the next three batters to move to the bottom of the inning.
J.P. Reiger’s day was over on the mound after pitching three innings. Lukas Brniak entered the game to pitch for Fastball Elite. Brniak walked Jake Sanko to begin his outing on the mound, but Sanko was thrown out trying to steal second base. Brniak struck out the next two batters he faced to end the inning.
Julian Chavez exited the game in the top of the fifth inning after giving up a single to Brandon Schultz and walking Jacob Janisko, but no damage was done in the inning after Alejandro Mogen came into pitch and got two outs with runners on the corners.
Lukas Brniak began the bottom of the fifth inning by walking Demarion Reeves, but there was no threat after Jacob Williams grounded into a 6-3 double play.
Still in the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs, Brniak found himself in trouble as he walked Andrew Balian and Christian Mogen reached second base on an error from the right fielder. Another run came to the plate on that play for AZ Venom Royal. Kevin Ramos drove in Mogen with an RBI single, and Trevor Brock drove in Ramos with an RBI single of his own. The inning ended after Ramos was caught in a rundown, but the damage was done and the deficit was now five runs for Fastball Elite.
Connor Mayer came into the game to pitch for AZ Venom Royal in the top of the sixth inning, and the time limit was close to being reached. Mayer struck out Brniak to begin his outing on the mound, but things got disastrous for Mayer from there.
The next six batters Mayer faced all reached base and the deficit was cut to just one run after a 3-run triple from Eloy Suarez.
“It felt pretty good,” Suarez said. “He was throwing first-pitch fastballs, so I figured I’d just jump on the first one.”
Mayer struck out the next batter in Brandon Schultz, but Christian Deshazer drove in a run with a single in the next at-bat.
With runners on the corners and still two outs, Fastball Elite was really threatening Mayer now. Deshazer was successful in a steal attempt of second base, and Jameson Martin headed home as AZ Fastball Elite’s catcher threw the ball to second base. Martin was thrown out at home plate thanks to quick reaction time from the second baseman.
Lukas Brniak ended the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth inning. The time limit was reached, so the game ended in a 6-6 tie.
“For our guys, it’s just about swinging at good pitches. When they swing at good pitches, we score runs,” Fastpitch Elite Head Coach Cory Deshazer said. This was the case for Fastpitch Elite in the sixth inning.
“I liked the fact that we battled,” AZ Venom Royal Head Coach Jon Williams said. “We haven’t played our best baseball, but yet we battled through both games.” He said.
The Omaha Slumpbuster will move from pool play to bracket play starting Friday.