by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- In a game where 27 runs are ultimately scored, it seems crazy to linger over opportunities that didn't work out, but you might extend a little grace to the Inland Valley Venom 13u Elite squad.
The Venom hit into four double plays Wednesday against Mojo Baseball, which threatened to send the Venom (CA) toward a disappointing finish to Day 1 of the Triple Crown World Series. But as the Mojo (OK) labored to find the right answer in terms of relief pitching, the Venom put across five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and eked out a 14-13 victory at Simillion Field.
The Venom went 2-0 on the day, posting a 14-6 win over the Dallas Tigers earlier. In Game 2, both teams scored seven runs in the first two innings as fielding miscues and powerful at-bats drove the action.
In the top of the fifth, Stratton White singled with two outs to put Mojo up, 10-9, and three more runs were scored by Mojo in the sixth, all with two outs. In fact, the Venom had a runner picked off for what should have been the third out, but an errant throw led to a run and kept Mojo afloat, with the final two runs also coming across on yet another error.
The Venom could have been sunk emotionally at that point, having already hit into double plays as well in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings. After a flyout to start the sixth, the Venom put together four straight hits and plated the tying run when Eli Guzman was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded -- it was the third HBP for Guzman on the day.
Finally, Bradley Gilbert finished it off -- he swung absolutely as hard as he could and missed, then waited on a pitch and smoked one into the right-center gap for the game-winner.
"I was thinking, all it takes is a good attitude to have a good hit. You have to stay mentally prepared," said Gilbert, who had four singles and a walk, driving in four runs overall. "I got up and thought, let's just end this with a walk-off ... and I did. It was frustrating today, but you could see in the last inning, we got it started."
One example of the Venom's tenacity was Nevin Zerbe, who hit into two double plays and faced a key at-bat in the sixth. After taking some high pitches and looking a bit uncomfortable, he drilled a pitch to centerfield to drive in two critical runs as the Venom rallied.
"I hadn't been doing very well all day, and I was hitting everything on the ground," Zerbe said. "I was going to keep trying, and I wasn't that mad about the double plays. I just forgot about it and knew I'd get a chance later on. This game shows that we won't stop fighting when we are down."
"Nevin has one of the best batting eyes on the team, so when an umpire calls a strike when he thinks it's a ball, it bothers him. For all the players, I tell them you can't mentally check out at that point," said Venom coach Chad Zerbe. "You still have a job to do. I try to keep them all in the game, whether it's an error, a bad pitch ... you have to be engaged. Nevin didn't break down, he knew he had one more strike, and he got a fastball and drove it.
"Bradley will show his emotions, but for the most part, he's a calm, cool and collected kid. He handles pressure very well, and in that situation he knew what he had to do. The first pitch, he came out of his shoes on the swing, and I get that. Then he tightened it up and got a pitch he could handle for the game-winner."
Mason Swogger and Korbin Fickett each had a run, two hits and two RBI for the Venom; Guzman and Dylan Buzard each scored three times. Diesel Toth reached base on three walks and a single. Daxtyn Clark had a bases-loaded triple for Mojo.