Baseballs, softballs and memories rained down at Upchurch Field

Image: Sa’Kendra Norwood gives a Lady Gladiator effort behind the plate — Sa’Kendra Norwood gives 110% against Hillsboro in the Girls 15 & under division.

Sa’Kendra Norwood gives a Lady Gladiator effort behind the plate — Sa’Kendra Norwood gives 110% against Hillsboro in the Girls 15 & under division. (Barry Byers)

In reality, those pings, dings and booms everyone was hearing was actually the sounds of IYAA hitters tagging the ball into the outfields.

12 & under Boys:
Ken Norwood, Jr., who plays in the Italy 12 & under Boys division, got the hitting storm started when the cracking sound made when his bat met the ball was so intense, it was reported a blip showed on the Italy Fire Department’s storm tracking equipment.

It was a monstrous shot as Norwood dashed all the way home, only to get called out on a controversial call at the plate. And even though spirits may have been temporarily dampened with the result of the play and ultimately a loss, the effort set a thunderous tone for the three other Italy teams.

14 & under boys:
Italy’s 14 & under Boys team, who refer to themselves as the Italy Eagledogs, since the team is made up of players from Italy, Avalon and Milford, kept the storm clouds rolling compared to the light drizzle managed by visiting Covington.

And even though there was not even a sprinkle, it began raining baseballs, one after another. Spectators were even forced to take cover to avoid foul balls.

Pitcher Justin Wood kept throwing stinging strikes across the plate as Covington remained bogged down. While Italy’s offense was lighting up the fading night.

Representing the Avalon piece of the Eagledogs, Victor Ledezma nailed a 2-run double scoring Zain “Zilla” Byers and Eric “Flash” Carson. Jacob Gonzalez was late to the plate but made up for it by taking the ball all the way to the fence. The shocking shot electrified the crowd and earned Gonzalez the game ball.

Already running away with the game, Gonzalez showed good sportsmanship when he politely trotted around the bases to 3rd, instead of going after the homerun. Carson, Russell Clingenpeel, Colton Petry along with most of their teammates were hitting onto base as well.

In fact, things were going so well, that when Coach Gary Wood asked Bailey Walton to purposely strikeout, he hit a single. And when Coach Wood asked Justin Wood, who has 1 homerun this season already, to bunt the ball hoping to give Covington an out, Justin was able to run the bunt out and get on base.

Eventually the game was called to due inclement weather conditions even though there wasn’t an actual storm cloud in the sky. The Eagledogs, the youngest team in their division with only three 8th Graders, Chase Hamilton, Brandon Jacinto, and Jacob Gonzalez, managed to stay in the race for 2nd Place in their division, winning 18-1.

15 & under Girls Softball:
Simultaneously, on the adjacent ballfield, Italy’s 15 & under softball girls had their hands full with a high-performing Hillsboro team. Nikki Brashear carried the load as pitcher but it was an emotional, hard working performance turned in by catcher Sa’Kendra Norwood, that was worth the trip out to the ballfield.

Despite the young Lady Gladiators best efforts, Hillsboro was the one dancing in the mock rain.

12 & under Girls Softball:
And then the next softball game was between Italy’s intimidating, undefeated 12 & under girls team vs. Itasca. And while Italy was having their way with the Itasca pitcher, Itasca was suddenly feeling the chill of the storm stirred up by Norwood’s thundering blast earlier in the day.

And the pretend storm created to enhance this article hadn’t letup as a fired-up Tara Wallis took the mound for Italy. And after Wallis continued striking out one Itasca Lady Wampus Cat batter after another, even Umpire Robert Jones was in danger of choking on a fur ball.

During Itasca’s last at bat, after Wallis had just nailed a piercing homerun shot to left field, she needed one more out to officially pitch a no hit, shutout.

Unfortunately, Itasca’s batter popped the ball toward short stop. Fortunately, Bailey Eubank, who had both knees bent and was at the ready, hustled forward to snag the ball before it could drop. The catch preserved a perfect game for Wallis and Italy won easily, 21-0.

Eubank has recently worked with Megann Lewis, a college softball player at Vernon College and former Lady Gladiator. In fact, catching pop-ups was something Bailey has been working to improve on, and it paid off Thursday night.

And then, as suddenly as it came, the IYAA storm subsided…