Unbeaten Patch takes crown from Royals
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 24, 2014
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – Mission accomplished.
The Patch Panthers completed their perfect season, avenged last spring's stinging title-game loss and captured the 2014 DODDS-Europe Division I championship Saturday with an 8-2 defeat of the Ramstein Royals.
"It was great. They beat us bad last year," Patch third baseman Cosette Puckett said. "It was good to come back and give it to them."
The Panthers crushed all comers in the regular season, including two sizeable late-season wins over the Royals. On Saturday they completed the season sweep, ended the Royals' two-year title reign and prevented Ramstein from sweeping DODDS-Europe's Division I spring team sports championships.
The teams traded runs in the first inning, but the confident Panthers settled in at the plate and set to work gradually building a lead. Breanna Rodriguez and Puckett took advantage of Royal throwing errors to score in the second inning, and the same two Panthers crossed the plate on a Jessica Eisenhauer hit as the Panthers stretched their lead to seven in the sixth inning. They padded it further in the seventh, putting the homestanding Royals deeper in the red.
"Once we started hitting off the pitcher, and she started getting tired, we just kept hitting," Patch infielder Shannon Nam said. The Royals' pitcher, All-Europe senior Katherine Enyeart, threw all seven innings Saturday, a day after a complete-game semifinal win over Kaiserslautern.
Patch, meanwhile, trumped the Royals with a pair of aces.
Panther starter Colleen Fenton, who threw five innings in Friday's semifinal win over Vilseck, got in a bases-loaded jam in the third inning.
So Patch coach Brian Tingey handed the ball over to the fresher arm of Amber Marvin, who threw two innings against Vilseck. Marvin calmly stranded the three Royal runners.
Tingey said he's already planned to give Fenton the early innings and bring Marvin in around the third or fourth. He didn't hesitate to place her in such a difficult predicament.
"We thought she could handle it," Tingey said.
Marvin has handled worse. She hasn't pitched at the European tournament since her freshman season, and spent last year's tournament in the hospital battling whooping cough.
"This is way better," Marvin said. "A great way to end my high school career."
While the Panthers took a decisive lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the Royals made the Panthers work for those last three decisive outs. Sarah Wilhite hit an infield single that scored Jillian Holmes, and Ramstein placed runners on second and third with no outs. Again, Marvin and the Panther defense got the job done.
"I just zoned in and focused on the catcher's glove," Marvin said.
Puckett threw out a Royal runner at home and scooped up the game-ending grounder, tossing across the diamond from third to first to seal the Panther championship.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking," Puckett said. "I was just like, we need to calm down and make these outs, and we did it."