Five Takeaways From Athletes Unlimited Season 3 Opener
The third season of Athletes Unlimited softball is officially underway. From pitchers' duels and strikeouts to monster home runs, the first week of season three had it all.
After six thrilling games, the new captains’ spots have been determined for week two and a draft will take place Monday afternoon to determine the new teams.
First, though, we recap the opening week and everything that went down to begin Athletes Unlimited softball season three.
Captains Shine On Opening Day
It was all about the team captains on Friday evening, as they were each able to make a major impact for their respective teams. In the first game of the season, Team Eberle and Team Chidester battled all evening, before Team Eberle was able to scratch a run across in the top of the seventh inning to pick up the victory.
After entering from the bullpen, Carrie Eberle did not allow a run in the final four innings, inducing ground ball outs and double plays on her way to earning MVP honors. Amanda Chidester also shined for her team, as she hammered a ball to center field to bring her squad within one run.
In the second game of the night between Team Zerkle and Team Ocasio, once again, the captains stepped up big. After points had rolled over for three innings, captain Morgan Zerkle came up clutch with a double to left center to score a run and take 30 points for her squad, while Aleshia Ocasio blasted a solo home run that went over 300 feet down the right field line to help her own cause in the circle and bring her squad within a run. However, it was not enough, as Team Zerkle was able to win the contest 4-2.
In the first two championship seasons of Athletes Unlimited, pitchers really struggled to keep offenses off the board. ERAs were through the roof, walks were up and there was a lack of strikeouts.
Things are looking to be very different in 2022, though, as the story of opening weekend was the strikeout. Cat Osterman may have retired, but the strikeouts have not gone away, as there were 65 combined strikeouts to just 38 walks allowed. That totals to about 10 batters striking out every contest.
Sunday Was All About The Home Run
In the debut of Athletes Unlimited back in 2020, the first three games on opening weekend featured double digits in the runs scored column, including one with 18 runs. This weekend, that was not the case, as pitchers slowed down offenses and prevented the damage to mostly solo shots.
The first four games this season were decided by two runs or less, but that changed on Sunday evening when Team Zerkle’s offense turned on and plated nine runs in their weekend finale victory over Team Eberle. Sahvanna Jaquish hit two two-run home runs, Dejah Mulipola hit a two-run homer, while captain Morgan Zerkle went yard as well on Sunday evening with a solo home run.
In the second game of the night, Shannon Rhodes hammered a pitch to center field that plated two runs for Team Ocasio in the first inning. However, the home-run party continued when Bubba Nickles hit her second home run of the weekend.
Pitchers' Duel Goes To Team Eberle
In the first-ever 1-0 game for Athletes Unlimited, Team Eberle came out on top against Team Ocasio. Kelsey Harshman was the top star, as she led the way offensively and defensively. The second baseman had three hits, including driving in the only run of the game. Harshman was also incredible in the field, as she robbed Janae Jefferson of a base hit, while landing and tagging second base to double up Aleshia Ocasio.
Captains Set For Week Two
After six incredible matchups, the team shuffling is underway, as four players emerged at the top of the leaderboard to secure a captain’s spot for week two. Eberle collected 452 points to lead the way, while becoming the captain of the gold team. Eberle will repeat as team captain, after leading the blue team to two victories. The former Oklahoma State star was fantastic, as she did not allow a run in 9.1 innings of work, while picking up eight strikeouts.
After a monster opening weekend, Jaquish will lead the orange team, Dejah Mulipola will lead the blue team and Kelsey Harshman will serve as captain of the purple team.