Just hours after the Kansas City softball community and those from around the United States gathered for a tailgate in the parking lot of CommunityAmerica Ballpark on Monday, the Texas Charge defeated the USSSA Pride 7-4 in a National Pro Fastpitch league matchup in front of a crowd of 6,739, kicking off an eventful week of softball.
The Charge dominated from the start, as Lauren Haeger crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. The long balls did not stop there for the Charge, however, as Kristyn Sandberg followed suit with a solo home run in the second inning.
Bailey Landry launched a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to put the game away for the Charge.
“It feels so good when you put runs on the board early, especially against such a good team,” Haeger said. “(Hitting home runs) makes it easier, and it’s more fun. You can’t expect that every time, but it’s a bonus.”
The Pride threatened to come back, scoring on a solo home run by Andrea Duran in the top of the third and adding a run in the fifth. USSSA tacked on two runs in the top of the sixth, cutting the Texas’ lead to 7-4.
Ultimately, the Pride could not string together enough hits, and failed to complete the comeback.
The contest, which was the first of three between the Pride and the Charge at CommunityAmerica Ballpark this week, is part of a full week of softball in Kansas City.
Kansas City is, once again, hosting the USA Elite Select World Fastpitch Championship through Sunday. In the short seven-day span, over 250 teams from 32 states and Mexico will compete across the Kansas City area.
Taylor Gadbois, who played at the University of Missouri and currently plays for the Charge, said she loves playing in front of the fans in Kansas City.
“Everyone thinks I love Kansas City because it’s my hometown, but I love Kansas City because of all the fans,” Gadbois said. “We love playing in front of crowds like this, and we want people to know that pro softball is fun to watch.”
Shelby Pendley, Keilani Ricketts and Lauren Chamberlain all played at Oklahoma and currently play for the USSSA Pride.
“Playing in front of a crowd like this is amazing,” Chamberlain said. “Anytime you tie a game in with a tournament like the World’s Fastpitch Championship, it’s huge. This is how we want every game to be.
“We love playing here, this is my favorite stop. I love Kansas City.”
Teams in the 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U age groups will compete all week for a chance at the championship this weekend. For the players, it’s an opportunity to compete against the best players in their age groups and do it in front of college coaches.
Mizzou, UMKC, Wichita State, Kansas and Missouri State are just a handful of colleges near the Kansas City area that are expected to be represented at the championships. Other top colleges such as Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Stanford and LSU will be in attendance as well.
Despite the immense pressure of playing in front of college coaches, remembering to have fun is the key.
“A lot of girls forget that this is supposed to be a game and they need to have fun,” Gadbois said. “You have to remember why you started playing in the first place.”
All of the events throughout the week are estimated to bring in around $10 million in economic impact for the Kansas City community, according to a news release.