18-U Phenix head coach Eric Epperson said his team had experienced their fair share of lumps early in the season, but the lump the Dakota Wild dealt them -- an 11-1 loss July 19 at Clinton Lake Sports Complex -- was too much for the Phenix to handle while opening pool play at the American Fastpitch Assn. national "B" tournament.
"We made too many mistakes," Epperson said.
The Wild took advantage of the Phenix defense's errors and grabbed a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After playing small ball, moving runners over by bunting and stealing, the Wild scored three more runs in the bottom of the second inning.
In the third inning, Phenix batters made contact with Kayla White's pitches, but the Wild defense seemed to be magnetically attracted to whatever the Phenix players hit at them.
In the bottom of the third inning the Wild generated five more runs.
"After they score, we give up," said Phenix starting pitcher Kristal Holland, who pitched three innings before Laura Drivetta relieved her.
"I wasn't throwing too well. I needed to be taken out," Holland said.
The Wild's dominating offense didn't stop the Phenix-Epperson team from fighting to the end. The Phenix gained momentum in the late innings of the game, but it was too little too late. Despite being down 11-0 in the fourth inning, the Phenix evaded being run ruled with sharp defense. They shut down the Wild offense for the first time in the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The energy carried over to their next at bat. Holland hit an over-the-fence home run in the top of the fifth to put the Phenix on the board.
"I thought it was just going over the fielders head," Holland said. "I didn't think it was going to go over."
Her teammates wanted to see more of hits like that in the rest of the tournament.
"Hey, can you do that again tomorrow?" Drivetta asked Holland after the game.
Epperson said he was not surprised that Holland hit a home run because she had already hit one earlier in the season. Although the homer didn't help the Phenix overcome the 11-run deficit, Epperson said it boosted the team's morale for the second day of pool play July 20.
With two games the next day, Epperson said it was important that the team forget about their mistakes during the loss against the Wild.
"We need to play the way we are capable of playing, and play our style," Epperson said.
Epperson said his team has had some difficulty making the plays they need to because of player filling in position they were not accustomed too in order to compensate for players who couldn't be at the tournament.
Epperson said he was excited about the two players he picked up for the tournament that were not on his normal roster. Jacqueline Pyle from Eudora High School and Drivetta, who played for the Spring Hill Rage during league play, joined the Phenix for the national tournament.
He said he has seen his team rebound in the past and they have competed well this season placing in several "B" tournaments.
Playing in the heat in tournaments and the nationals being in Lawrence are two factors the Lawrence Phenix have going for them.
"We're used to the heat," Epperson said. "If anything we have an advantage over the teams from out of town like in Minnesota and South Dakota."
With a five-game guarantee, Epperson said the Phenix have plenty of time to recover.
"It's a long week of softball," Epperson said.
Holland said that as long as the team has a positive attitude, she expect them to play well.
"We just need to keep our heads up and play strong," Holland said.
Phenix was still alive in the losers bracket, but their run at nationals ended early because of rain on July 24. Tournament officials eliminated the losers bracket from the tournament in order to finish the games July 25.