Game 22 Leaders Pack | 2020 Athletes Unlimited
Written by Bruce Miles, Athletes Unlimited
If there’s a feel-good story at Athletes Unlimited, it’s being authored by pitcher Jessica Burroughs.
Unavailable to play just two weeks ago, Burroughs on Sunday tossed one of the best games over the first four weekends of play so far.
Looking strong and fit, Burroughs tossed five innings of four-hit shutout ball in helping Team Warren beat Team Osterman 11-0 at Parkway Bank Sports complex.
Burroughs entered the day 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA, but she worked through the Team Gold lineup and left feeling good about herself, both mentally and physically.
“It feels really, really good to be back,” she said. “I’m kind of feeling like myself a little bit. Jessie Warren and I had a really good conversation before the game about just kind of going back and staying true to what I do best, and that’s what I stuck with today. It felt really good mentally and physically.”
It helped, too, that the Team Warren offense was ready to hit from the get-go, setting up a showdown Monday afternoon (4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT) vs. Team Hayward in a battle of 2-0 teams this weekend and a battle of teams that bring power as their calling cards.
Team Warren got all it needed in a five-run first inning, sending 11 batters to the plate and chasing pitcher Trish Parks, who joined Athletes Unlimited this past week and was a fourth-round draft pick of Team Osterman. Parks lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up three hits and five runs (four earned).
Captain Warren got things going right away with a leadoff homer to left-center. Erika Piancastelli singled, and Tori Vidales walked, setting the stage for Morgan Howe to blast a three-run homer to left-center.
Howe also doubled and singled, giving her 70 stats points Vidales homered in the second, and Nadia Taylor added a big three-run homer in the fourth to make it a 10-0 game.
With a triple in her final at-bat, Howe would have hit for the cycle, but it was not to be.
“It did cross my mind; that’s why it didn’t happen,” she said with a smile. “I was sitting out there in the outfield and (thinking), ‘Oh, no. It’s not happening today.’”
Howe gets it done at the plate in an unusual and some would say old-school way. She’s the only player here not wearing batting gloves when she hits.
“I think it just feels better,” she said. “I personally want to feel everything – the good, bad and ugly. If I get jammed, I feel it.”
Howe earned MVP 2 honors (40 extra points) to finish behind Burroughs, who picked up 60 extra points for MVP 1 honors. Warren won MVP 3 (20 points) and now has 1,460 overall points as she sits second to leader Cat Osterman (1,726).
Tori Vidales and Nadia Taylor also hit homers for Team Warren. There are some interesting things to watch as Athletes Unlimited gets set to wrap up the penultimate weekend of softball play.
Monday afternoon’s game will feature the captains who drafted third and fourth, respectively, in Victoria Hayward (Blue) and Warren (Purple). The top two drafting teams, Osterman and Reed, will square off at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT with 0-2 records this weekend. So these past two days have been a tribute to the drafting of both Hayward and Warren, both experienced captains.
“I am super happy with the picks that I got,” Warren said. “I had a set plan going into the draft. The majority of my plan came out to what I wanted it to be. The Zoom room (on draft day) was [where] we talk about who we think is the best fit for that position or for the team, has good vibes and positive energy. I think everyone here is a good fit any team because these 56 athletes that are here are talented beyond measure.”
And there’s that little matter of the race for the top two points spots overall between Osterman and Warren.
I honestly didn’t even know about the points or where I stand in the rankings,” Warren said. “To be honest, I’m here to play softball. I’m not really worried about where I sit 1-56. I’m having the time of my life just playing the game of softball with these girls that the points don’t even matter to me. I’m so in love with this game and just so grateful to be here to play the game.
“Those points and stuff never really cross my mind. Obviously, when we’re in the game, we talk about winning the innings and things like that. I don’t really focus where I’m at rank-wise.”