By Kyle Koso
AURORA – When Imogen Gie launched a home run to left field during the International World Challenge game on Thursday, home plate turned into a dance floor as the rest of the World Team gathered to welcome her in celebration.
The joy and enthusiasm was no less a topic when Team USA’s play bumped the needle, including Mikey Dominguez’s home run that helped provide the offense needed at Aurora Sports Park for Team USA to escape with a 7-6 victory. Cowbells, drum, maracas and the sounds of national pride packed the stands for the contest, which was the final burst of energy of the International Challenge – a new tournament taking place just ahead of Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Thursday’s World Game featured multiple players from the medal-winning teams of the June 25-27 mini-tourney, along with at least one athlete from the other countries (19 in all).
Gie, a catcher, was also on the end of another exciting play, a perfectly executed throw from the outfield and relay to home, where she laid a firm tag on a Team USA runner for the final out of the third inning.
“No words in the world could describe this feeling. The energy on this team is insane; you would never believe we just met each other like an hour ago,” said Gie, who was born in England and has signed to play collegiately at the University of Maine. “Coming back to the dugout (after the homer) was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
“I saw a bunch of people had gotten first-pitch changeups, and I hit one of those earlier in the week for a home run. I said if I see it, I’m gonna jump on it. That was a super tough pitcher, and I needed to take advantage. The last play was great, what a catcher loves … I put a good smack on her, it was great.”
Team USA kept up the charge, however, grabbing an early lead and ultimately never giving it up.
“It’s an honor to be here. Both USA teams are bonding well together – they all give me courage, even though we met about a half hour ago,” said Dominguez, who is headed to Vernon College. “It’s especially nice in front of this big crowd to hit a bomb. First pitch was a ball in the dirt, a changeup, and second pitch was there, but I missed it.
“I saw that pitcher really well; the next one … I have a coach who tells me, the first two swings are for you, so go as hard as you can. And I took one more really hard swing.”
“Triple Crown loved this idea, was very accommodating, and they love this energy,” said Manny Travieso, who brought the concept of the event to Triple Crown and kept its blood flowing through the low moments of the pandemic. “This is a unique thing in softball, and they wanted to see it one more time.”