Hummers hit road bump in pool play, rebound when it counts

The Hummers had an easy route through pool play of the American Fastpitch Assn. National “B” Tournament, opening the tournament with a forfeit and a lopsided victory. But it was a different story in the Hummers’ third and final game in tourney pool play.

The team was shut out, 6-0, by the Sun Devils at Clinton Lake Sports Complex.

The inconsistency of the umpires’ calls got to many of the Hummers players and caused them to lose focus, coach Barry Sprow and Hummers starting pitcher Summer Mulford said.

Sprow said that getting his players, who play in the 18-U division, to brush off the bad calls was a challenge.

“It’s easier to tell younger kids to let the bad calls go,” Sprow said. “These girls are so focused on the game that they can usually turn their anger into something good and get stronger from it.”

Hummers pitcher Summer Mulford pitches during an American Fastpitch Assn. National B Tournament pool play game Wednesday at Youth Sports Inc.

The Hummers’ usually strong defense wavered at times when challenged by Sun Devils’ hits to the holes. The Sun Devils took advantage of deflected balls and sporadic overthrows to put together their six runs.

The mere three hits that the Hummers assembled was another part of the the team’s game that was out of character.

“We’re usually crazy people with our bats,” Mulford said.

The Hummers got off to a good start when Ashley Vice hit a single in the first inning. But the Hummers had to wait until the fifth inning to get another hit.

Brooke Abney made it to base with a walk in the third inning and threatened to score by making it to third. Abney was the only other player to get on base prior to the fifth inning.

Dacia Sprow ended the slump with a single in the fifth, but she didn’t stay on base for long. In the next at bat, Mulford hit a fly ball that was caught in right field and Sprow was tagged out before she could return to the bag. Chloe Hall had the Hummers’ third hit of the game, nailing a single to center field in the Hummers last at bat.

Uncharacteristic poor fielding, coupled with the limited offense provided by the Hummers bats for pitchers Mulford and Ashley Wagner, resulted in a loss to a beatable team.

“That team was absolutely beatable,” Mulford said. “We got upset and didn’t put our energy towards the game.”

Getting a loss in pool play served as a good learning experience for the Hummers before they began the double-elimination portion of the tournament.

“We learned that we shouldn’t let stuff get to us,” Mulford said.

“It’s better that it happened now rather than later,” Sprow said.

Mulford said that being a close-knit squad was what the Hummers depended on to keep each others’ spirits up during the rest of the tournament.

“We just need to keep our heads up and in the game and play our game,” Mulford said.

Sprow anticipated a strong rebound from his team.

“I’d hate to be the team that has to play us next,” Sprow said.

The Hummers ended up placing fifth in the tournament.

Sprow said having the tournament in town puts pressure on all of the Lawrence teams, including the Hummers.

“There’s not a team in Lawrence that wouldn’t want to win the tournament,” Sprow said.

Mulford agreed that having a crowd brings more responsibility, but she welcomes the support.

“It’s nice to have a home crowd, sometimes there’s just games you don’t want them to see,” she said.