Isabelle Rosado’s single to lead off the Firecracker Classic championship game seemed innocuous enough, but only moments later she had sped around the bases — twice.
The Chiefs Fastpitch White 18U softball team put up 10 runs in the first inning behind a smattering of singles, walks and a double to create distance between itself and the Long Island Hellcats in a double-elimination tournament. It won, 10-7, to take the title and close the tournament 3-1-2 at the Connetquot Youth Association complex in Ronkonkoma on Sunday.
“It was so important,” Taylor Bigliani said of the big inning. “It started driving us. If we didn’t have that inning and didn’t get all those runs, we might have been in trouble.”
The fast start gave the Chiefs, who are based at the Connetquot complex, a decisive advantage. If they won, they wouldn’t have to play a second game because they had played in the winner’s bracket. It afforded them a moment of relaxation.
“Laid back, of course,” Rosado, who had two hits and scored twice before being named tournament MVP, said of her mindset. “If it was 10-9 it would be a little bit of a problem. It depends on how the score is of course, if the score was a little bit tighter I’d be more fidgety.”
Nerves picked up later as the Hellcats added to their three-run first with a run in the third, another in the fourth and two in the seventh. But the Chiefs held on, helped by Miranda Seeley, who pitched each day of the four-day tournament.
“They were a good hitting team and we knew that from the start, so we knew we had to bring it defensively,” Seeley said.
The tournament is one stop in a club sports season that never really ends. After the high school season, players who participate on travel teams spend the summer in tournaments, showcases and clinics. After a short August break, they pick up again in the fall and even include some indoor tournaments during the winter, Connetquot Youth Association President Stephen Smith said.
For Rosado, who is 15 and close to starting the college recruitment process, her club team gives her exposure and experience before colleges start officially looking.
“I think travel ball is great if you really want to get somewhere and move onto bigger and better things,” Rosado said. “It’s great if you want to excel in this sport.”
Seeley, 15, said she’s also interested in playing in college and the competitive nature of the travel team helps motivate her to play well — even on days where she has to take the field three or four times.
That amount of work faded into the background on Sunday, as Seeley spoke with a medal hanging around her neck.
“We all love it,” she said. “Times like this you don’t regret coming out here.”