Danielle O’Toole pitched a great ballgame today and guided Mexico to a crucial win over Puerto Rico, 2-0, and make a giant step in their way to Tokyo 2020. Mexico was outhit by Puerto Rico 7-5 but delivered a pair of clutch hits early in the game to take a 2-run lead, enough for O’toole to clinch the win.
The left-handed pitcher was magnificent today, painting the corners with all the pitches and changing speeds to keep chasing and out of balance the Puerto Rican hitters. O’Toole worked 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing 7 hits with 4 strikeouts and no walks.
In the top of the first inning, Carsyn Gordon hit a stand up triple to right field with one out, and a few pitches later tried to score on a grounder by Aleshia Ocasio to first base. However, Victoria Vidales fielded, assisted Sashel Palacios at home plate and retired Gordon at home in a very close play, that could have changed the course of the game.
Mexico jumped on the scoreboard in its first opportunity. Leadoff hitter Nichole Mendes drew a walk and stole second base to put herself in scoring position. Puerto Rican starter Taran Alvelo struck out Amanda Sanchez and retired the always dangerous Victoria Vidales on a pop up to catcher in foul territory for the second out. Then put Anissa Urtez with two strikes, but the shortstop connected a pitch in the inside corner of the plate for an RBI single to left field, producing the first run of the game.
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In the second inning, Karla Claudio opened the inning with a single but the Mexican defense showed up to end the inning. O’Toole fanned Alyssa Rivera wit a full-count, nasty changeup for the first out of the inning, and then the Mexican defense completed a beautiful 2-3-6 double play, retiring Shemiah Sanchez at first base and tagging pinch-runner Natalia Rodriguez in the second base to finish the inning.
One episode later Mexico scored the second and last run of the game. Tatyana Forbes slapped a chopper down the third-base line for an infield single. Then advanced on a passed ball and finally crossed the plate on a run-scoring single to right field off the bat of Mendes.
In the fourth inning, Sashel Palacios singled on a grounder that bounced in the first base and got into the right field. Brittany Cervantes was hit a pitch, and that was all for Alvelo, who was replaced by Meghan King, who escaped the jam with a strikeout and a fly ball to shortstop. Alvelo exited the game after 3+ innings with 4 hits, 2 runs 2 walks and 2 Ks, and was charged with the loss.
O’Toole remained in control over the next two innings, and in the top of the seventh retired Claudio on a grounder to second base for the first out, but then Rivera and Sanchez hit back to back singles to put the potential tying run on base. Head Coach Carlos Bernaldez made a pitching change, bringing Sierra Hyland to the pitching circle. The powerful right-hander struck out Aleimalee Lopez but walked pinch hitter Yahelis Muñoz in five pitches to load the bases. Bernaldez came back to O’toole with two outs, to face Quiana Diaz, in a lefty versus lefty matchup. And the pitcher fanned the Puerto Rican leadoff hitter with three pitches on the outside corner to secure the out 21 of the game.
Mexico improves to 3-0 in the Super Round and is one step closer to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.