Winter Garden, FL – A 15-14 score normally reflects a football game with a two-point conversion, but the iCASE girls “Friday finale” against the Wagner’s Gold powerhouse resulted in the hosts edging the Canucks by one run in a pendulum-like game played at the Foundation Academy.
Following a scoreless first inning, iCASE opened the scoring in the top of second when Rylie Straus’s mammoth triple drove home Ella Busch and Maddie Hickingbottom, who had both singled. Blythe Hilpert smacked a hard grounder to short to score Straus.
But Wagner’s then turned on the offensive taps, pouring in four runs in the bottom half of the inning, three more in the third, and putting up a five-spot in the fourth.
iCASE chipped away with one in the third on Mia Valcke’s deep double plating Megan Jesse, and five more in the fifth to climb back into contention. Avery Hilpert led off with a ground ball single up the middle, with Valcke and Rachel Sothern following suit. Sydney Pendelton jumped all over a fastball like a monkey on an over-turned truck full of bananas, but ripped it right into the glove of the shortstop. Busch and Hickingbottom drew bases on balls to force home two runs, and then Straus cleared the bases with another rocket launch three-bagger to deep left.
Hickingbottom, who had come in to relieve starting pitcher Katie Oberle, and Busch kept Wagner’s at bay by allowing just one run over their final at bats. Hickingbottom, who had come in to relieve starting pitcher Katie Oberle, and Busch kept Wagner’s at bay by allowing just one run over their final at bats. Hickingbottom also made the defensive play of the night as she snared a fly ball in left field and threw a strike to the plate to nail the runner from third who had tagged up and attempted to score.
In the top of the sixth, an Avery Hilpert single, followed by a Sothern base on balls, a Pendelton single, and Busch being plunked resulted in two more runs for iCASE, narrowing the score to 15-11.
In the final inning, Hilpert, Valcke and Sothern reached and scored, but, with Pendelton and Busch on base, the side was retired, as the home crowd breathed a sigh of relief.
All told, Avery Hilpert and Sothern scored three runs apiece, and the two of them were joined by Valcke, Pendelton, Busch and Straus in the two-hit club.
“We are ecstatic with the way the girls played on the field, and the class and dignity they displayed off the field. I can assure the parents of every one of them that they should be very proud,” said head coach Don Oberle.
“Don, Trent (Hilpert), and Becky (Goudy) set the tone for the week by coaching an excellent pair of practices, and preparing the girls rather well. They were competitive in every one of their seven games, and we Canadians certainly opened up some eyes to some Floridians who thought we could only play hockey,” praised iCASE general manager Tom Valcke.
“This was an experiment that earned another shot next year, as the girls were perfectly-behaved and respectful of this opportunity. We were very proud to have them wear the iCASE uniform, and would happily bring every one of them back.
“I also wish to extend our sincere gratitude to Tonya Waters (USSSA), Barry Roberts (Diamond Girlz), Keith Lee (Hatter’s Gold), John Wagner (Brevard Aces), and Robeto Rodrigues (Wagner’s Gold), who were fundamental to the success of this adventure. They welcomed us with open arms, Canadian flags flying, gifts, beautiful facilities to play on, talented opposition that made us better, and an emissarial spirit of sportsmanship that Governor Rick Scott and President Trump would have been proud of.
“Lastly, I’d be remiss not to give a shout out to Mick Kozlowski and Scott Lennox, who made this happen with Great Canadian Holiday and Coaches, all of our drivers, especially Mike Reeves who was with us all week, and Tori Grimes and Dan Anderson at Cocoa Beach’s International Palms Hotel.”
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