While the stifling heat did its best to melt the Augusta Chill, the Phenix Rusk took full advantage Friday afternoon in tournament play at the American Fastpitch Assn. B National Tournament.
With both teams clawing to advance in the losers bracket of the tournament's largest division - 14-and-under - the Phenix benefited from a harder-than-normal playing surface and from only having to play one game Friday.
It turned out to be a 12-2 rout which kept the Lawrence squad on the field today.
It was the second game of the day for the Chill, who before the contest with the Phenix made several attempts to cool down with the little shade provided at the Youth Sports Inc. fields.
The Phenix were fresh and had been simmering after a heartbreaking loss Thursday night that left them without starting catcher Jourdan Sumonja, who suffered an injury in a collision at home.
"It's hard after a big loss like that, where you played your hearts out and then to sit and sulk on it all day long," coach Jay Rusk said.
Of course, it didn't hurt that the Phenix put up a 10-spot in the top of the first inning for an insurmountable lead that pretty much broke their opponents' spirits.
"Luckily the bats were hot early," Rusk said.
The first five Phenix batters reached base, and the two back-breakers came from Theresa Harper and Kalli McClure.
Harper, with the bases loaded and the score already 2-0, ripped a three-run double into right-center.
McClure's trip around the bases was more unorthodox.
After slapping a grounder to second that was bobbled, she reached safely via an overthrow. That throw went so far out from fair territory that she reached third, and when an attempt to cut her down at third was overthrown as well, McClure scampered home with a mile-wide grin.
The dry, rock-hard surface made fielding difficult for both teams, as the bounce of the ball was unusually difficult to read.
A sharp combined pitching performance from Callie Craig and Catherine Smith was a big help, however.
Even though the Phenix struggled with a few routine defensive plays, they did just what Rusk asked of them - survive.
But survival will be much tougher today, as it will take the team five victories to make it two straight years of a local team winning the 14-and-under division, following Tonganoxie's triumph in 2004.
"For us, it was a matter of survive and move on, and we did," Rusk said. "I think the tournament's going to be decided on who can withstand the heat."
Norte throws no-hitter; Phenix advance in 16-under
J-W Staff Reports The 16-U Lawrence Phenix softball team advanced to the winner's bracket semifinals of the AFA B National Fastpitch Tournament on Friday, beating the Kauai Kine, 8-7, and the Dakota Fury, 8-0, behind a five-inning no-hitter thrown by Kay Norte. Lawrence defeated the Harvard Sting on Thursday, 6-3. With the victories, the Phenix are in good shape, but now face a familiar foe - the Kansas City Impact, a team Lawrence has faced four times already this year, with a 2-2 mark. The rubber match between the teams starts at 4 p.m. today.