Puerto Rico 18u squad hustles on the learning curve, goes 1-1 on Day 1 of 2023 International Challenge
by Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — More than a dozen years ago Ana Roman had the sense she was just faster than most everyone in her orbit.
“I remember I used to race the boys in kindergarten and just always beat them,” said Roman, leadoff hitter and center fielder for the 18u Puerto Rico squad playing this weekend at the Triple Crown International Challenge. “I’ve worked very hard on my running the past couple years, focusing on my form, and I’ve just taken off lately.”
She made the Christopher Complex her own playground Friday, notching an inside-the-park home run in the third inning against South America to help push Puerto Rico to a 5-1 victory over South America. Macey Cintron (committed to play college softball at Duke) had three hits, including a home run in the fifth, as Puerto Rico bounced back from a Game 1 loss versus Italy.
South America didn’t get the throw from the outfield to the right spot on Roman’s hit, but it wouldn’t have mattered as she blitzed around the bases and scored with ease. Roman also singled and scored in the first inning, a big help as Puerto Rico tried to dial in for the games to come.
“The first game, it was us learning about each other. Once the second game started, we got into a groove and were comfortable with each other, which led to a good result,” Roman added. “It’s a mystery at the start, but a good one. I know the players on this team, what we are capable of, and it depends if we can all do it together. We clearly just did, so I think we can face the best teams and win.”
Starting pitcher Cici Ortiz worked out of some trouble in the second and truly showed her confidence in the circle after giving up a long home run to Audrey Gillespie (Fort Hayes State) to lead of the fourth. Ortiz posted a strikeout and two popouts, and her offense responded as Leilani Nieves hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame to make it 4-1.
“I knew I left that pitch over the plate, and there’s was nothing I could do about it then. She squared it up, that was a good hit,” Ortiz said. “We’re getting to know each other, and this second game we kind of glued it together. I made sure not to let the umpire get in my head, and just do what I normally do.”
Cintron came on in relief with one out in the top of the fifth, walking the first batter but then registering a popup and a fly ball to left field.
“We didn’t make the adjustments we needed at the very beginning, but that was just the first game. I guess that’s the beauty of this tournament, they are all just being thrown in together,” said Puerto Rico assistant coach Noraida Negron. “Some the girls know each other, but we have a lot of new girls and new coaches this time. The team wants to feel like they are being backed up by each other; they made the adjustments on the hitting, so moving forward I hope that we will be OK.”
Analise Griffiths had two hits for South America. Pool play continues Saturday, with a handful of bracket play games scheduled for 5:15 and 7:15 p.m., all at the Christopher Complex.