E.A. Sports Today

Vipers strike

Heath, Brookshire homer, Fiser pitches shutout as Smash It Sports Vipers get first Women’s Professional Fastpitch victory since moving to Oxford

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The Smash It Sports Vipers have weathered a few storms six games into their first Women’s Professional Fastpitch season in Oxford. Storms postponed two of their games.

Amber Fiser came plenty ready to weather storm after storm Saturday.

Fiser weathered runners in scoring position every inning but the seventh to pitch a shutout, and home runs from Karly Heath and Suzy Brookshire helped the Vipers beat the Texas Smoke 6-0 at Choccolocco Park for their first victory since moving to Oxford ahead of the 2023 season.

The victory came after an 0-5 start, including four losses on a season-opening road swing through Oklahoma City and Texas. Three losses came against Texas, including the Smoke’s 6-2 victory in the Vipers’ home opener on Friday.

Everything came together Saturday.

“It feels good to see a lot more faces smiling today,” Heath said. “A lot of people have been struggling a little bit. It’s good to see them out there getting hits. It’s good to see people smiling.”

The Vipers outhit the Smoke 9-6. Besides Heath’s solo home run in the fourth inning and Brookshire’s two-run shot in the five-run fifth, Brooke Wilmes delivered a two-run double. Raina O’Neal delivered a two-run double as the Vipers worked through three Smoke pitchers in the fifth.

“This is huge,” Vipers’ coach Gerry Glasco said. “It’s a young team. To see them get that first win, no win comes easy in this league. The first one is always the hardest.

“To see them get relaxed and to see the smiles on their faces the last two innings? We’ve waited a long time.”

Heath’s home run to center field helped her batting average to reach .444 on the season, good for second in WPF to the Smoke’s Shelbi Sunseri’s .455.

“I kind of worked on it this morning,” she said. “I was hitting a lot of ground balls, and I’m not a ground-ball hitter. I was just like, ‘I need to get a pop fly or something.’

“That was the big thing with the home run, just being myself. I’m a rookie, so I have a lot of adrenaline and emotion going on, so just making sure I stay in myself.”

Vipers pitcher Amber Fiser lets fly during her shutout victory over the Texas Smoke on Saturday at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/Gunghophotos.com)

Perhaps nothing mattered more to a previously winless team than Fiser keeping the scoreboard clean until Heath broke through. She struck out five batters and walked three.

The former All-American from the University of Minnesota stranded nine base runners over the first six innings before retiring the side in the seventh to finish it.

“I just told myself, I’m like, they’re just not going to score,” Fiser said. “Just make your pitch a little bit better and get the hitter out. Just focus in on every single pitch. That’s all you can do.”

A night after the Vipers sold 600 tickets for their home opener, they sold 478 for what became their first win since moving to Oxford. The crowd for the Vipers’ second home game included a youth all-star team from Lineville.

“Seeing all of those travel-ball girls, that’s what we’re here for,” Fiser said. “They’re cheering for us in the stands, and we’re here to grow the game. To see them happy to come to one of these games, that’s what it’s all about.”

Heath called the crowds for the first two games “insane.”

“”I love the in-game stuff that we have,” she said. “I like the fans and support that we have from this town.”

Cover photo: Smash It Sports Vipers’ teammates celebrate as Karly Heath (9) returns to the dugout after hitting a home run in a 6-0 victory over the Texas Smoke on Saturday at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/Gunghophotos.com)

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