Shaw's four-hitter, series of big hits drives 18u Team Ireland to International Challenge quarterfinals
by Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Like most teams last the Triple Crown International Challenge, Ireland’s squad doesn’t have a ton of history together, as players often meet each other just before the start of game action.
There’s no better bond than delivering for each other as the stakes get higher.
Makenna Sturgis (Tampa Mustangs) hit a key two-out, three-run homer in the fourth inning to give Ireland a four-run lead over Team Israel, and starter Cassidy Shaw (Firecrackers Brashear/Hicks) pitched a four-hitter with six strikeouts over six innings as the Irish rang up a 12-1 victory at the Christopher Field Complex on Saturday. The win puts Ireland in the quarterfinals; it’ll take on Japan on Sunday, with the 18u title game set for 4 p.m.
Sydney Farmer (Firecrackers Brashear 16u) was also huge in the moment, with four hits (including a grand slam in the sixth inning) and six RBI. Hannah Allen (USA Athletics and a UC-San Diego commit) punched in a two-run single in the fifth.
The blowout win had plenty of early stressors for Ireland, with Shaw needing to solve multiple situations where Israel had runners in scoring position with fewer than two outs. She really never blinked, finding a way to notch a strikeout or infield play to wrap up an inning.
“I really trust my defense and my catcher behind me, and I’m a player that relies on the connection with my catcher … I’m loud on the field, and I trust what’s going on behind me so I’m fully out of my head and we are playing as a team,” Shaw said. “It’s a huge honor being here and representing Team Ireland; I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this, have fun, which is what the game is all about. It’s so cool, a huge honor, and I’m grateful.
“It’s amazing being able to rely on the bats carrying you through the game. You can fully breathe, and you have the room to do your thing.”
Sturgis, who scored three times from the leadoff spot and added a run-scoring single in the sixth, is more noted for her harrowing speed with five stolen bases in the tourney so far. But it was the long ball that set things right for Ireland.
“I got two strikes on me so it was a little bit nerve-wracking, but she gave me an inside pitch and I just drove it,” Sturgis said. “(Shaw) had a good amount of strikeouts, and we always have her back on defense. People are confident and know their abilities, and no one got down themselves or the team. We are all feeling hyped — this is my first time here, I like the energy here and everyone’s really nice.”
“She’s been a presence in the dugout the whole time, come out of her shell. I saw that a couple games ago; she’s hitting for us, and her speed is undeniable,” said Team Ireland coach David Gaffney. “For Cassidy, I had her on the roster last year, and I saw a lot … this year there’s a tenacity I’ve not seen before. Every out, it was like she needed it and had to get it. Perfect job.”
Skylar Stroh (All-American Sports Academy) added three hits and three runs for Ireland. For Israel, Jacqueline Berkowitz (AZ Storm) doubled in Isabel Cohen (Intensity/Morales) for a run — most notably, shortstop Tara Vandewater (Nebraska Gold) made three breathtaking plays in the infield, definitely flexing her capacity to perform at the next level.