by Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — For their first time in the International Challenge, Team Central America relied on plan Saturday that has worked in softball for a long time.
Put a great pitcher out there, and let her go to work.
Kaitlyn Raines allowed three hits in five innings, escaping a tricky fourth inning, striking out seven batters and adding a two-run homer in the first inning as Central America claimed a 4-2 victory over Puerto Rico to advance to the quarterfinals of the 18u division. TCA will face the USA at noon at Christopher Fields, with the title game set for 4 p.m.
Raines (Alabama Firecrackers) dominated with her fastball, retiring Puerto Rico in order for three innings. In the fourth, a couple of walks and hits complicated things, but she ended up with three strikeouts in the frame, allowing TCA to protect its lead.
“Even though I was down there, I knew I had to hit my spots, because I was struggling bit there,” Raines said. “I knew I had my team behind me. When it’s going well, I feel like I can throw anything and put it anywhere I want to.
“The (home run), first strike I was like, ‘OK.’ The second pitch came inside and I took it … she did it again, and I jumped on it. I eellike we are good and ready to go.”
TCA added a big run on a solo homer from Kirsten Caravaca (Tampa Mustangs) in the third inning, an opposite-field drive to right that came with two outs.
“We’d gotten two quick outs there, so I wanted to slow down the game, and she started me inside,” Caravaca said. “So I figured she was going to go high and outside, and when the pitch came Just wanted to make contact. Here in Colorado the air is lighter — I swung at it, starting sprinting, and then thought, that was an insurance run we really needed.
“Opposite field is rare for me. And I was so impressed with Kaitlyn; they’ve got a lot of high-level players over there, and she was able to dominate.”
TCA added a run in the fourth; Yasmine Garcia’s fielder’s choice brought in Nadia Villalobos. The game ended with the time limit in the bottom of the fifth, as Central America had the bases loaded with two outs.
“Our pitcher was hitting her spots, left and right, up and down, it all started with her. I think the other team was bit flat-footed, guessing, but it’s a good team and no surprise they got some runs,” said TCA coach German Caravaca. “This is great for Team Central America; we are going to keep growing and will have a 16u next year, and I’m pleased about that.
“Kirsten has learned how to go opposite field; she’s become an all-around player. She picked that up on her own, and that’s why she’s going to play in college (at North Florida).”
Saadielys Maysonet (Ohio Outlaws) had a two-run single for Puerto Rico.