It took a dozen hits and a relief appearance by their ace pitcher, but AZ Desert Thunder is on its way to the ASA Gold Nationals after a 6-4 win Sunday over the Arizona Storm in the Rocky Mountain Gold Regional at Rose Mofford Softball Complex.
The Storm, 9-7 winners over the Colorado Stars in a morning game to earn a shot to beat Thunder twice for a nationals berth, scored four times in the top of the fifth to erase a 4-0 Thunder lead.
Thunder turned to ace Kenzie Fowler with four in, two on and two out in the fifth. She proceeded to retire seven straight Storm batters and stop any thoughts of an "if" game.
Offensively, meanwhile, Thunder responded quickly, scoring the game-deciding runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Katie Asher and Becca Tickey led off with back-to-back singles. Molly Smith advanced them with a sacrifice. After a groundout, Sara Sandoval beat out a slow roller on the infield for a base hit and an RBI. Shelby Fisher followed with a ringing single to right for another run.
Fowler took care of the rest, and the Storm's dramatic four-run fifth was just another memory from a steamy morning.
Breanna Kaye started the Storm's big inning with a one-out single. An infield single by Bailey Wigness and a walk by Morghan Doughty loaded the bases. After an out, Codi Kelly made it 4-2 with a two-RBI single up the middle, and Kelsey Rodriguez tied it up with a double into the corner in left, plating two more. Jenny Tyler drew a walk, and Thunder turned to Fowler, who got a fly out to end the threat.
Thunder started early, scoring twice in the first inning.
Sandoval led off with a double. She moved to third on a bunt single by Fisher, and Shannel Blackshear walked, loading the bases. Vanessa Alvarez then launched a shot to dead center that short-hopped the fence for a double and a 2-0 lead.
They scored two more in the third. Alvarez drew a walk leading off and moved to third an out later on a double by Asher. Tikey, who was 5-for-10 for the weekend with four RBI, drove in both of them with a single to right for a 4-0 lead.