As the Diamondbacks and Cubs prepared for a baseball matchup Tuesday at Riverside Park, the key question was "Where's Estelle?"
Estelle Saenz (pronounced "signs") has garnered some attention as the only girl playing in the Columbia County Recreation Department's 10-year-old division, so she was conspicuous by her absence.
Dennis Saenz thought Estelle's team was playing at Patriots Park.
When they finally made it to Riverside Park, Estelle grabbed her gear and sprinted to the dugout in the nick of time.
"I thought we were losing, so I hurried up," she said.
With the ace arriving late, Alex Osborne pitched the first inning for the Diamondbacks, and held the Cubs scoreless. Estelle relieved in the second inning, and struck out two Cubs.
"I think a lot of teams look at her and snicker," Diamondbacks coach Doug Ansley says of the general reaction to the lone girl in the league.
"When they strike out, Estelle has the last laugh. Then they know she means business."
The Cubs managed a three-run rally off Estelle in the fourth, and the contest finished in a 3-3 tie when the game ended on the time-limit rule.
Estelle took it all in stride, saying, "I think I did fine."
That kind of positive perspective, along with a good arm and a polished pitching motion, make Estelle one of the most consistent performers in the league.
"Estelle is outstanding. I can't say enough about her," Ansley said. "She's always eager to pitch and she's just a great kid to work with."
Estelle began playing baseball in a tee-ball league at the age of four. Soon, she decided she wanted to be a pitcher, which caused some concern for her father.
"In the beginning, I didn't want her to pitch, because pitcher is a dangerous position," Dennis said. "She insisted, so I told her to go for it, but to be alert."
Taking on daring duties on the diamond was no surprise, though.
"She wanted to play football one time," Mr. Saenz said. "She'd play any sport."
When Estelle isn't pitching for the Diamondbacks, she plays shortstop, which she says is her favorite position.
Dennis Saenz is in the military, and also will be changing positions. After five years in Columbia County, the Saenz family is moving to Manheim, Germany.
"I do like being in the army, but I don't like leaving my friends behind," Estelle said.
Westmont Elementary classmates are included in that list of friends, and so are her baseball teammates; Estelle, however, may give them a memorable goodbye this week.
The Diamondbacks finish their regular season with games on Tuesday and Thursday, then they'll compete in the league tournament this Friday and Saturday at Patriots Park.
The D'backs record moved to 8-0-1 after the tie with the Cubs. Second baseman Evan Ansley turned in several sparkling plays, while first baseman Barret Centers and catcher Drake Cooper have helped put the team atop the division.
The Saenz's were set to fly to Germany this week, but they will delay the trip until after the tournament.
"That's good news," Coach Ansley said. "The team really depends on her. She's just like one of the guys."
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