ZooTown All-Stars outfielder Hellie Badaruddin could have sat on the bench with a poor attitude. Instead, she tried to keep a positive mindset so she’d be ready for her next opportunity.
After being benched during the first game of the Senior League Softball West Regional on Friday at Playfair Park's Dale Clawson Complex, she was called to pinch run in a tie game later in the day. Her quick feet and heads-up base running helped ZooTown avoid a first-day sweep when she scored the winning run for a 4-3 victory over the Montana All-Stars from Billings.
“It was really fun,” Badaruddin said. “It was a tight game, so when I crossed the plate I knew it mattered.”
It was a game ZooTown was desperate to win after dropping its tournament opener against Southern California, 10-6. ZooTown finished 1-1 on the first day of pool play and will play three games on Saturday and three on Sunday before the knockout rounds on Monday and Tuesday.
“It was really important we won because had we been 0-2 it would have definitely lowered our spirits,” Badaruddin said. “Being 1-1 is a lot nicer. We wished we could have been 2-0, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Billings beat Northern California 17-1 to open pool play.
Before Badaruddin came in to pinch-run in the sixth inning, she had been sitting on the bench since being pulled after the fifth inning of the previous game.
“That’s what happens when you strike out a lot,” Badaruddin said with laugh about her two strikeouts looking.
She was excited to pinch-run because that meant she was free from the pressure of having to reach base, she said.
Her speed was needed since the game was tied 3-3 and ZooTown had managed just seven base runners through five innings against Montana. She replaced Taylor Brinkman and stole second base on the first pitch to Shaina Allen, sliding under the tag. On the next pitch, she advanced to third on a wild pitch to the backstop.
When Taylor Leistiko laid down a bunt one batter later, Badaruddin started toward home but dove back to third under the tag. Coach Tim Gray sent Leistiko to second, and as the defense tried to tag Leistiko in a rundown, manager Dennis Staves sent Badaruddin home. She crossed home plate without a slide because of an errant throw in the Leistiko rundown.
“This game was a prime example of somebody who sits on the bench and comes out and plays their heart out,” Staves said. “This is the reason we won this game. That baserunning she did was huge.
“I got a lot of confidence in her. She’s a smart baserunner. She proved it.”
Amber Hickethier got the win in relief, throwing three innings of one-run ball. Hickethier had an RBI single, Kate Nelsonn scored on an error, and Makennah Hewitt had an RBI fielder’s choice.
Montana’s Alison Eldridge held ZooTown to three hits and one walk while striking out six in a complete game.
“That’s a tough one to lose,” Montana coach Dobie Beck said. “I hope that’s how they all are. If we get beat or when we get beat, I want to get beat by a team that does something better than us or is better than us on that day. I don’t want to throw it away, have a ton of errors and stink it up.”
ZooTown dropped its tournament opener for the second year in a row, losing 10-6 to Southern California. It hasn’t lost more than once in a regional the last three years.
The teams combined for 12 runs in the final three innings after a 2-2 tie heading into the fifth.
Hickethier went 3-for-4 with a team-high three RBIs and one run scored. Her three-run double in the bottom of the sixth pulled ZooTown within 7-6.
ZooTown’s only lead came at 2-1, when Nelsonn scored on a wild pitch in the third inning.
Southern California pitcher Maritza Arroyo tossed a complete game to earn the win.
In the Junior League Softball West Regional, the Garden City Softball Little League team representing Montana opened 1-0 by beating the host team from Tucson, Arizona, 19-0, in five innings.
Montana scored 11 runs in the top of the fifth inning to win by the 10-run rule.
Shelby Dunwell threw a complete-game one hitter for Montana.
In Little League Softball West Regional action in San Bernandino, California, Montana's Garden City Softball Little League started 0-1. It lost 9-2 to Hawaii in six innings despite outhitting Hawaii 9-8.