The Phenix-Riling offense was comparable to the sporadic showers that passed through Lawrence during the 16-U American Fastpitch Assn. National "B" Tournament game against the Oklahoma City Invasions on Friday.
After a rain delay pushed the game, which was originally scheduled for 8 a.m., back to 5:30 p.m., the Phenix were fighting to stay alive in the losers' bracket. Fellow 16-U Phenix team, the Phenix-T's were victorious with a 5-4 win on the field immediately before Phenix-Riling took the field.
The team mixed stellar plays with errors on defense and multiple-run innings with stranded base runners on offense and came up short in a 6-5 loss to the Invasions.
In the first inning, the good Phenix karma was alive as the Phenix shut down the Invasions' bats and scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Sachi Sakumura's slap bunt for a single set the offense in motion. Kim Gilges hit a stand-up double to center which drove in Sakumura and Ciara Grame, who reached base with a walk for a two-run lead.
"Kim's hit was awesome, and it helped to score two runs," Phenix player Karen Spenze said.
After giving up a run to the Invasions, the Phenix had a quiet second inning.
Defensively, the Phenix struggled with the Invasions' hits to the outfield in the third inning. The Invasions' runners stretched singles into doubles as a result of misplayed balls and overthrows. Although the wet grass seemed to make balls hit to the outfield more difficult to handle, Phenix 16-U head coach Mike Riling didn't want to make the weather a scapegoat for the team's errors.
"I think the thing that had an effect was errors, that's what cost us the ball game," 16-U head coach Mike Riling. "I wish we could use (the weather) excuse but we made some errors we shouldn't have. Some of our errors were mental errors that didn't have much to do with the weather."
Sakumura ended the inning with a catch in left field.
Lauren Kelly hit a one-out single in the third inning and moved to second with a steal, but the Phenix were unable to manufacture a run, stranding Kelly. Looking to come back from a 4-2 deficit in the fourth, the Phenix failed to score, leaving Spenze at third and Mariah Riling at second base.
The Invasions moved further ahead with two more runs in the fifth. But a defensive play to end the inning fueled the Phenix's fire for a chance to rally. With bases loaded, Grame made a throw to catcher Hayley Brettenbach for an out at the plate to end the inning.
"(Ciara) used to not be able to do that throw, she used to overthrow it or throw it somewhere else, but she's gotten a lot better," Spenze said.
The inning-ending play helped the Phenix gain some momentum. Back-to-back singles by Sakumura and Grame started the team's threat to rally in the bottom of the last inning. Kelly hit Sakumura in to score, and Gilges loaded the bases for Brettenbach, who hit a sacrifice RBI that scored Grame. A bad throw allowed Spence to convert a single into an extra-base hit and allowed Kelly to score.
"I was on second saying, 'Oh God, please let us come back,'" Spenze said.
Spence stood at second as the go-ahead run with two outs, but the Phenix couldn't muster another hit, ending their rally.
Another 16-U Phenix team, Phenix-Fyler ended its tournament run in tandem with Phenix-Riling at the neighboring field with a 10-3 loss to No Fear, a team from Olathe. Two of the three 16-U Phenix teams losing on Friday put the possibility of an intra-Phenix match-up out of the question.