After getting her first taste of regional competition last summer, Kylan Bower wanted do even better in this year’s Pitch Hit and Run.
The 8-year-old accomplished her goal, finishing first in her age division in the 2019 Colorado Rockies Team Championship at Coors Field in Denver on June 15.
“It was a little easier because I did it last year so I knew how it went,” she said. “I got a trophy in the shape of a baseball.”
To advance to the championship, Bower, who took third last year, first won the local event in Cody. She then competed at sectionals in Worland. Her marks from that event were compared to participants from various states and were high enough to earn her a spot in the championship. Participants came from all over the Rocky Mountain West, including Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah and Montana.
The Team Championship brought together youth baseball players ages 7-14 to compete in the third of four stages.
During the competitions, participants are given six pitches to fill the strike zone, three swings off a tee to drive balls as far as they can as close to dead center field as possible, and one run from second to home to show their speed on the basepaths.
“In the running it seemed like I was going faster than last time,” she said.
Girls compete with a softball, which Bower doesn’t do normally, but she said it came easier this year.
“I practiced more so I got used to using a softball,” she said.
She played baseball this season for the Rockies in the Little League coach-pitch division.
“You have to swing up to get air on the baseball (off the tee) and when you’re playing softball you swing level so it changes a little,” she said. “At the start of some games I was swinging wrong, but you get used to it.”
After checking in, the competitors are escorted down on the field which Bower said is “really big compared to the one I play on.”
At each station the contestants go in alphabetical order from the youngest age division up. Girls go before boys so Bower was the first competitor for each of the three stages.
“I didn’t get to see the other girls before I went,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous because I knew how it went.”
It was a close contest, but in the end Bower edged out Kyper Vaughn of Holdrege, Neb., who took second, and Kourtaney Talbert of Stratton, Colo., in third.
“I didn’t know I would win,” she said. “The two girls did better pitching, but in hitting they didn’t do as good.”
All three competitors were given an award, along with tickets to that evening’s Rockies game against San Diego. As one of the winners, Bower was down on the field for a pregame ceremony and had her face broadcast on the jumbotron.
“It was weird because on the board you can’t see my hair, just my headband,” she said. “It didn’t look like me.”
The 24 participants in the nation with the highest marks from the Team Championships advanced to the finals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., during the recent MLB All-Star Week festivities. Bower’s scores didn’t qualify her for the final event, but she still finished in the top 30 in the nation and plans to give it another try.
“It was fun doing it and I hope to do it again next year,” she said.