The Ghajnsielem Redcoats defeated the Mellieha Curves 13-6 last Sunday in Mellieha to become Fastpitch National Champions for the fourth season in a row.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven Fastpitch National Championship Series started well for the Redcoats with Laragh Tabone picking up where she left off in Game 3. The lead-off batter made solid contact hitting a line-drive triple to the opposite field over the head of the Curves’ right fielder. Tabone was promptly driven in by Taylor Ann Edwards, the right-handed pitcher from Illinois, who was filling in as catcher on the day. Edwards scored following a base hit from Marilise Vella and an overthrow by the Curves. Then, the very promising Dosithee Attard grounded out to score Vella from 3rd base.
This gave the Redcoats, and starting pitcher Estelle Scicluna, a three-run lead to work with. During the first three innings Scicluna faced just eleven hitters striking out five and walking just two, keeping the Curves hitless. She received plenty of support from her infielders with Lara Buttigieg, playing at 2nd base, making a couple of outstanding defensive plays, Simona Refalo made an excellent throw from third to get the runner at 1st base, while Laragh Tabone at 1st base and Clarissa Camilleri at short stop both made important put-outs.
At the top of the 4th inning, the Redcoats, still leading 3-0, went out looking for some insurance runs. Clarissa Camilleri led off with a walk. She advanced to 2nd on a Lara Buttigieg ground out. The very talented Camilleri was then driven in with a base hit from another very talented young Redcoats player, Shaniya Spiteri. Base hits from Laragh Tabone and Estelle Scicluna were followed by a walk to Taylor Ann Edwards to load the bases up for clean-up hitter Marilise Vella. Vella, one of the strongest hitters on the team, did not disappoint. She connected for a base hit to drive in Tabone. Then up came Dosithee Attard again who hit another base hit that scored both Scicluna and Taylor to make the score 8-0 for the Redcoats.
In the bottom of the 4th inning, despite a double play initiated by an excellent Laragh Tabone catch and a heads-up play by Dosithee Attard to cover 1st base for her, the Curves managed to pull three runs back taking advantage of four walks and a couple of errors. Then in the bottom of the 5th the Curves put together another rally registering two hits which came in to score to cut the lead to 8-5. That put some pressure on the Redcoats going into the final inning of the game.
Leading off the 6th inning was Courtney Attard, the youngest player on the team. This was her 2nd at bat ever. She managed to gain a walk and give an opportunity to the top of the order of the Redcoats to add to their lead. Tabone hit into a fielder’s choice as Courtney Attard was thrown out at 2nd base on a ground ball. Scicluna connected for a base hit so that Edwards came to bat with two runners on. The University of Illinois graduate hit a fly ball all the way to the warning track at centre field that seemed destined to become the first out-of-the-park home run in the history of fastpitch softball on the island, but it somehow stayed in the park and Edwards helped herself for a 2-RBI triple to make the score 10-5. Vella and Dosithee Attard, who were both having a great game at the plate, delivered once again, each with a base hit. Simona Refalo followed with a ground-out to 3rd base that drove in another run to end the top of the 6th inning at 13-5 for the Redcoats. The Curves scored a solitary run in the bottom of the inning for a 13-6 final score.
This was an excellent all-round performance by the young Redcoats team. The outstanding defensive plays of Laragh Tabone, Lara Buttigieg, Dosithee Attard, Simona Refalo and Clarissa Camilleri complimented the excellent pitching of Estelle Scicluna who registered her best outing of the year. She struck out eleven hitters, a season high, with none of the six runs allowed being earned as they resulted from fielding errors. Offensively, the top five hitters were responsible for twelve of the thirteen hits registered by the Redcoats. Tabone, Scicluna, and Dosithee Attard had two hits each, while Edwards and Vella registered three hits each. Shaniya Spiteri had the other hit which came at a crucial stage of the game. One cannot overstate the importance of the contribution of Edwards to the team. She played catcher for the first time in her softball career to help out the team in the absence of Corinne Grima who is expected to return for the next game scheduled for this Sunday. Taylor instilled confidence in the young Redcoats players and helped her pitcher to be at her very best. Elizabeth Farrugia, Thea Sultana and Kirsty Grima also came into the game in the final innings to contribute as well to the fine victory of their team.
Securing the 4th Fastpitch National Championship in four years is a tremendous achievement for the Redcoats. Despite the young age of most of the players on the team, the Redcoats played at an elevated level during the four games of the Series, exhibiting great potential.
The objective of the Club remains to develop players to be able to compete internationally for Club and country. With the COVID 19 travel restrictions easing, the Redcoats are already evaluating options to compete abroad in international tournaments and to host foreign teams as well.
The Redcoats and Curves will play the remaining three games of the Series with the objective to give their players more games to gain experience. The next meeting is scheduled for this Sunday in Mellieha followed by a game in Ghajnsielem scheduled for Sunday, November 14.
Congratulations to the players and their coaches for this outstanding achievement and best of luck for the upcoming games.