July 29, 2009
Over the next two weeks, Georgia Tech Assistant Softball Coach Aileen Morales will be blogging from Maracay, Venezuela at the Pan Am Games qualifier. Morales is on the Puerto Rican National team who will be looking to qualify for the 2011 Pan Am Games.
Aileen Morales Blog #5 (August 8)
Yesterday was a heartbreaker. We fought an incredible battle against the Dominican Republic, but came up short. The game was a thriller and each inning the lead seemed to switch sides. We were the visitors, so I led off the game. I took my 2-0 pitch and sent it over the left field fence…Puerto Rico 1, Dominican 0. Two batters latter, Ice blasted a shot over the center field wall, 2-0. The next batter, Davina, got hit by a pitch and we eventually loaded the bases but were unable to score. In the bottom half of the inning with one out and a runner on first, their big slugger came to the plate and took the first pitch out of the park… 2-2.
Almost every inning followed this pattern of push and pull between the teams. The game seemed to last an eternity, but it was one of those games that you don’t want to stop until you are the victor. With so much riding on the contest, the intensity, passion, and love of the game could be seen on every players face. It was the type of game that reminds you what is so great about the sport. Losing it was hard to swallow, but we left every ounce of ourselves and Puerto Rico on that field. Sometimes it just isn’t quite enough, but we gave it everything.
I was so proud to be in a Puerto Rican uniform after that game, proud to represent my country and to fight with my borinquen teammates. Although we did not qualify for the World Cup we did qualify for the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, along with the 2010 Central American games in Puerto Rico. These past 12 days have been such a thrilling experience. I am sad that we are no longer in the tournament but I am satisfied with our effort and our body of work. When I return home to Atlanta tomorrow I will look back on this tournament and be proud of what we achieved here. That is all from Venezuela, I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip and I can’t wait to get back to Tech and start working with the team again. Bye!
Aileen Morales Blog #4 (August 6)
I just got back from lunch and our last game of pool play. Yesterday we had an early game at 9 am against Peru. It was fairly quick as we were able to jump on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning, and then put up an eight spot in the the third. We finished the game in five innings with a final score of 11-0. The Peruvians were able to manage one hit during the contest. After the game we went to the dinning hall to grab lunch. To my surprise, the Canadian team was also there after finishing their game against Argentina. I was able to chat with Jen Yee and Caitlin Lever, aka “Yever” and we talked about their big game against Venezuela that would happen that night. I told them I would be watching their game on the Venezuelan tv channel and cheering for them. Unfortunately, Canada ended up losing 1-0 that evening.
This morning, we had a thriller against Mexico. It was also fun because Lever and Yee were with their teammates warming up beyond the outfield fence. Entering the fifth inning we were down 3-1. I came to the plate with one runner on and sent the first pitch over the center field fence, right to where the Canadian team was watching. The crowd went wild and out of everyone I could here Caitlin screaming for me! It was so exciting and I had such a huge smile on my face as I trotted around the bases. Our bats finally came alive and we put up a five spot to take a 6-3 lead into the top of the sixth.
In the sixth we surrendered three runs to the Mexicans and entered the bottom of the inning with the score tied. We scratched another two runs in the bottom half and began the top of the seventh with a score of 8-6. The Mexican squad refused to go down easily and tied the game with two outs. In the bottom of the seventh, we were able to push one run across finished the game with a win and a score of 9-8. This game was very important for us as it puts us at 7-2 and seeds us third for our pool. The bracket play starts tomorrow and we will play the fourth seed from pool A. The winner of that game qualifies for the 2011 Pan American games in Mexico as well as the 2010 World Cup tournament in Oklahoma City. Qualifying for these tournaments will be big steps for the Puerto Rican program. All of us are excited to play tomorrow and cannot wait. As of now we are not 100% sure who we will face, but it looks like it may be the Dominican Republic. That is all for now, we are going to take a trip to a market down the street with one of our security guards.
Aileen Morales Blog #3 (August 4)
Hi again from Aragua, Venezuela!
It has been a few days since I last checked in and we have since played five more games and are now 5-2. Two days ago (Aug 2), we had a doubleheader against Jamaica followed by Venezuela. The game against Jamaica was an offensive explosion for team Puerto Rico as our pitcher Brenda threw a no hitter. We scored every inning and ended up finishing the game in the 4th inning with a final score of 19-0.
The second game against Venezuela was a different story. The stadium and surrounding area was packed full of fans cheering on their home team. The game was even aired live on a local Venezuelan TV channel. Yet again, the atmosphere was so thrilling. It is exciting to play in front of fans who have so much pride and passion for their country! I even got interviewed on live TV before the game. That was interesting, especially since I had to have a translator in order to answer their questions intelligently.
We were the visitors for this game, so I was the first batter of the game. First pitch from the Venezuelan ace pitcher…STRIKE, and the crowd explodes. It was very intense to hear such an eruption from the entire stadium because of one pitch. We were unable to score in the top of the first and the Venezuelans wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. They scored three runs in the first and never looked back. Later in the game, we had a few opportunities to push across a run but were unsuccessful. The game ended with a final score of 7-0 in six innings. Not exactly the outcome we were hoping for, but they out-hit us and we were unable to make adjustments at the plate.
Yesterday, we had another doubleheader. The first game was against the US Virgin Islands and we won 13-1 in five innings. In the top of the first inning the US VI jumped on the scoreboard, taking advantage of a leadoff walk and then hitting a two out double. But after that our pitcher Jennifer Martinez settled in and silenced their bats for the rest of the game. In the bottom of the inning we quickly responded by taking the lead and thus scoring multiple runs. The game proceeded with us continuing to score runs and consistently putting pressure on their defense.
Game two of the day was against Canada. It was eerily similar to our game against Venezuela the night before. We were the visiting team and were unable to score in the top of the first. But as soon as the Canadians stepped to the plate, they began to put pressure on our defense and ended up scoring three runs in the first. Jen Yee hit a moonshot that probably went about 325 feet. Thankfully, it was only a triple due to the extremely large fences and the speed of our outfielders. I believe Lever and Yee both ended the day with a few hits each, along with a few RBI’s. It was somewhat strange to play against those two! But at the same time it makes me pleased to see Georgia Tech represented so well in this tournament. I am so proud of what those two have accomplished in the three years since when we last played together wearing the GT uniform. The game proceeded with the Canadians continuing to push runners across and ended in the sixth with a final score of 7-0. Again, we were unable to take advantage of the few mistakes the opposition made, which resulted in us being shut out for the second time in the tournament.
That brings us to today, August 4th. We had to be up and ready to leave by 7:00 this morning. Let me tell you it was not easy getting myself up this morning. Thankfully, my roommates Ice (Izemena) and Davina Hernandez, got me in gear. Our security guards and bus driver were up and ready to escort us to breakfast. Oh, I forgot to tell you all that there is a dining hall here where all the teams can go for meals which is a lot of fun, too. So we grabbed a quick breakfast there before our 10:30 game with Guatemala. The Guatemalans were unable to mount any type of offensive attack against us. We did not score in the first, but in the second we swiftly tacked up four runs. The game was not extremely eventful as we tacked on two more runs, while the opponent struggled to hit our pitcher Jennifer Martinez. The game ended with a final score of 6-0. That now puts our record at 5-2 and we need to win the next two games to advance to bracket play. My roommates are currently napping and I am getting sleepy, too! So I think it is about time to grab a little extra shut eye.
Until next time…bye.
Aileen Morales Blog #2 (August 1)
A lot has been going on since I last checked in. We have played two games and are 2-0. The first game was Friday against Aruba and we won 13-0 in five innings. It was an exciting atmosphere as the Venezuela fans cheered for us on our way to victory. The people here are so nice and accommodating. Lots of the fans ask for our autographs and to take pictures with us.
Last night we had the opening ceremonies and 10,000 people were there cheering on all the teams. It was such an exciting spectacle as the band played Venezuelan music and dance teams performed. Team Puerto Rico was announced before the Venezuelan team and the crowd went wild when they announced them. It was such a loud uproar and you could see the pride on the fans faces. After the ceremony we were able to mingle with some of the other teams. I found Caitlin Lever and Jen Yee and we talked about how our games went earlier in the day. We also found my fellow Bandits teammates and some of the other USA players that are on NPF teams.
This morning we played against Argentina and won 3-0. The Argentina hitters forced our defense to make plays as they continued to get runners on all game long. We did a great job of making outs when we needed them and keeping them off the scoreboard. In the fifth inning there was a dispute over an unapproved bat that an Argentina hitter used. The game was stopped and the crowd became anxious. At one point they started cheering in spanish, “JUEGA, JUEGA, JUEGA” which means play. It was crazy hearing everyone chanting in unison and being so involved in the game. There was even a small section of Argentinean fans booing us at one point. It is exciting to play in front of the fans as they cheer constantly and seem to have such an appreciation for the game as well as the athletes.
Tomorrow we will play Venezuela and that game will be an intense matchup. Two years ago at the 2008 Olympic qualifier we lost a three game series to them. Had we won the series we would have been in the Beijing games last summer. It will be an exciting game and I know both teams will come prepared to play hard.
Ok I am off to my team meeting now, and then dinner!
Aileen Morales Blog #1 (July 29)
Hello, from San Juan, Puerto Rico!
It has been a pretty busy summer for me so far and it is about to get even busier. After finishing up at Super Regionals, I headed up to Elgin, Ill. to begin my second season with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League. We have been traveling around competing against other NPF teams and have already been to Philadelphia and Orlando. Fellow Yellow Jacket Caitlin Lever is also a member of the squad. The team is stacked with former college standouts, All-Americans, national team members, Olympians and yes — Jennie Finch. So far, the Bandits have been on fire, tearing up the opposition en route to a 27-6 record. We just finished up a five-game series against the second place Akron Racers. If you didn’t know, Akron is the home of Firestone tires and the one and only, LeBron James. Currently, our team sits in first place and it has been an exciting season thus far.
Yesterday I flew to Puerto Rico to begin training camp for the Puerto Rican Team, and joining me will be fellow Chicago Bandit, Izmena Cabrera. We spent most of the day at the field working on defensive situations and preparing for the tournament. The first thing I noticed when arriving at camp was that our hitting has improved since the last national team. I am staying at a hotel in Old San Juan, and we are planning on going to the shops and site seeing tonight. The Island is beautiful and holds so much history.
Tomorrow we will travel to Maracay, Venezuela for the Pan Am Qualifier. The Pan American games which will be held in 2011, now hold even more significance since fast-pitch softball has been removed from the 2012 Olympic program. This qualifying tournament will hopefully show the Olympic committee the interest in the sport and help the push to get softball back into the 2016 games. There are an impressive 22 countries competing in the qualifier, as the tournament will also qualify teams for next year’s ISF XII Women’s World Championship and the XXI Central American & Caribbean Games. The tournament will be a great opportunity to face some of the best international competition. I am extremely lucky to be able to travel to amazing places while playing the sport I love. Putting on the Puerto Rican jersey and stepping on the field is so surreal, because not only do I represent myself and my family, but also my heritage. That is all for now, next time you hear from me, I will be in Venezuela.