This game provided plenty of evidence that fast pitch softball is growing in Malta – teams are improving and have players who are committed
Over the past month, the Ghajnsielem Redcoats, under the guidance of newly appointed Head Coach Tara Henry, worked very hard to improve individually and as a team. Coach Henry tried to cover all aspects of the game during the short period since taking over, and rather than focusing on a small group of players who can be considered as the core of the team, she tried to improve the level of the entire squad which is made up of some 20 young players, including four who have started to play softball only recently. This made her task even more challenging.
Going into Sunday’s game valid for the Fastpitch Softball National Championship against the Mellieha Curves, the Redcoats were confident that they would perform much better than their previous outing. Pitching and fielding did improve and so did the base running. What was surprising is that the Redcoats struggled at the plate. This can be a combination of many things and might not necessarily be a concern going forward. Coach Henry is trying to improve the mechanics of the hitters and this is expected to happen until they adjust. Credit should also be given to the opposing pitcher, Rena Vella, who had a good outing.
The game on Sunday was high level by local standards. It can easily be regarded as the best fastpitch softball game in Malta for a very long time with both teams performing really well. The 6-5 score line is an indication of the quality of the performance of the two teams. The game went seven innings and was completed in about two hours. Both pitchers completed the game and were effective throughout. The biggest difference between the two teams was the number of runners left on base. The Redcoats left the bases loaded on two occasions and over six innings left twelve runners on the bases. On the other hand, only six Curves reached base; two walks, two base hits, an error and one hit by pitch. Five of those six runners scored.
For the Redcoats there were many players who made a significant contribution towards the victory with their performance. Estelle Scicluna, the starting pitcher, went seven innings, throwing 106 pitches, 60% of which were for strikes. She struck out eight of the 27 hitters she faced, and walked just two. Although Estelle has been consistently good in her games this season, this was a more mature performance. She had three 3-up-3-down innings with the most significant being the final inning to secure the win. She managed to limit the Curves to ground balls or pop ups which the defence managed to handle.
Much improved was the performance of the fielders with Daphne Cassar impressing at 1st base registering 11 put-outs some of which were very acrobatic. This was by far the most put-outs during a game by any fastpitch player in the history of the Redcoats. Tahli Moore (SS), Corinne Grima (3rd), Estelle Scicluna (P), and Monique Camilleri (2nd) all made important defensive plays. The performance of catcher Joanne Mifsud behind the plate made a big difference in the outcome of the game as compared to the previous outing of the Redcoats. The experience of a player like Joanne helps the pitcher and inspires confidence in the entire team. She was superb in the final play to close the game when she made the perfect throw to first to get the runner out.
Offensively, the big hit was definitely that of Tahli Moore who hit the ball beyond the reach of the centre fielder for an inside the park home run. Joanne Mifsud had 2 base hits and drove in a run. She was robbed of another hit in the bottom of the fifth inning when, with the bases loaded and two outs, the 3rd base player of the Curves dove to her left to stop a ground ball from going into the outfield. That prevented the Redcoats from scoring two runs which would have been critical at that stage.
The clutch hits came in the decisive bottom of the 6th inning when the Redcoats were down 5-4 and staring defeat right in the face. Corinne Grima led off with an infield hit and stole 2nd base. Gianella Mallia moved her to 3rd base with a ground out. Then Marilise Vella connected for a solid base hit to left field, which she extended into a double with some smart base running, to drive in the tying run. Kimberley Scerri then came up with the all-important game winning hit to shallow right/centre field to score Marilise from 2nd base.
This game provided plenty of evidence that fast pitch softball is growing in Malta. It was a great advert for the game. The teams are improving and have players who are committed. Although the Redcoats were the better team on the day, the game could have gone either way.
Next up for the Ghajnsielem Redcoats are two games against the Luxol Mustangs with the first one at the Sannat Ground this coming Sunday followed by the final game of the season on May 6, in Marsa. The Redcoats are expected to continue to build on this positive performance to finish the season strongly.