Nora Adams and her St. Louis Chaos softball teammates fully expected a daunting challenge Monday when they played an exhibition game against the Team USA Under-19 national team.
Those feelings were confirmed when the Under-19 squad won an earlier exhibition Monday by a 23-1 score against another club team.
But the Chaos made a fine showing and had their opportunities to break through despite losing 1-0 in the game played in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
"Going into that game, seeing the 23-1 score was (daunting),” said Adams, a Nerinx Hall graduate who will play collegiately for Illinois Wesleyan.
“I couldn't be more proud of my team, the effort that we gave, only losing 1-0. We weren't hitting everything they were throwing, but they weren't hitting everything we were throwing. It was a great game overall.”
The exhibition games against the USA Under-19 national team were played during the annual Junior Olympic Cup tournament. The Under-19 team used the games in preparation for the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-19 Women’s World Cup, which begins Aug. 10 in Irvine, Calif.
The Chaos, coached by Evan Beatty, earned the chance to play against the Under-19 national team by winning last year's Junior Olympic Cup in Chesterfield.
“It was incredible, absolutely,” Beatty said. “They score on a trick play and we had a player thrown out at the plate. The effort was there and the girls gave everything they had.”
UCLA signee Kelli Godin scored the game's only run, stealing home with two outs in the bottom of the third inning for the Under-19 national team. It was an unearned run.
Chaos pitchers Paytience Lawson-Holman (Mexico, SEMO) and Emma Nichols (Hillsboro, Mizzou) pitched three innings each and combined to allow only five hits. Lawson-Holman, who pitched Mexico to Missouri's Class 3 high school state championship last fall, and Nichols struck out two each.
"I think it started with the work of Paytience and Emma," Beatty said. "They kept the national team off-balance and did a great job.”
The pitchers got a big hand from the Chaos defense, which turned a pair of double plays in the fourth and fifth innings.
Festus High senior-to-be Abby Rickerman played a hand in both double plays, as did Ladue graduate and Wichita State signee Madyson Espinosa. Nichols and Kelsey Sachs (Troy Buchanan, McKendree) also had a hand in recording the double plays.
Offensively, Espinosa reached on a fielding error and was thrown out at the plate to end the fifth inning after a single to center field by Tabby Cacheris (Marquette, St. Louis University)
Also, Rylea Smith (Parkway North, Kentucky) had a single in the fourth inning but was stranded along with Rickerman, who had reached on an error.
“It's hard to explain the feeling you had after that,” Adams said. “Honestly, from the intimidation you felt, walking in and seeing the USA on their uniform, so many girls our age work to get to the level to play in a game like this. To be able to see what you can do as a team up against them it was unreal and surreal.”
The Chaos continues play at the JO Cup with games Wednesday in Spartanburg. The event is scheduled to run through Sunday.