Whenever trouble brewed for the Premier Baseball Club Purple (WA) on Saturday, the players had an amazing ability to turn down the heat.
The 13u squad built a small lead against Bad Rock BBC (MT) heading into the late innings of their Triple Crown World Series game in Steamboat Springs, then preserved the edge with just enough defense at the end to claim a 7-5 victory and move into Sunday's championship. The double-elim format means Premier can lose their first game Sunday and still get a chance to play for the title; they'll face either Bad Rock or the Laguna Lightning (CA), who will swing it out in the loser's bracket.
In the top of the seventh Saturday, Bad Rock hit three stiff line drives and had a runner reach on a misplay of an infield grounder. But Premier chased down the long shots and chased away any thoughts of stumbling at the finish line.
"All coaches know, the last three outs are the hardest. We get a routine grounder to the right side, pitcher doesn't cover, so we gave them four outs that inning," said Premier coach Tyler Long. "All the outs were hard-hit balls, so we had to earn it, for sure. The boys, their hearts and minds are in the right spot, and I'm just sitting here enjoying the ride. I told them before the game, we're already top three, so go out and have fun."
Bad Rock took a 1-0 lead in the first, as Jacob Polumbus walked and scored on a groundout by Mike Glass. In the bottom of the frame, Premier started with a triple from Graysen Reveal and a run-scoring hit by Stephen Hammergen, and Gavin Fugate added a long two-run homer. Bad Rock 's Fynn Ridgeway brought in a run on a grounder, but Premier was ready to respond offensively as Hammergen and Jayden Rippelmeyer each hit substantial solo home runs in the third inning.
Bad Rock brought across three runs in the fourth to tie the game at 5-all, two scoring on an error, and that's when Long turned to Fugate for a steadier touch on the mound. Fugate handled the pressure just fine, even when Premier faced those scary moments in the seventh.
"I just had to not worry about what anyone else was thinking. I just had to get back on track," Fugate said. "I wanted to focus on the job, throw strikes and let the defense go to work. We were just over the top (emotionally) today, more than usual."
"He's been money this whole tournament, our best pitcher hands down," Long added. "To come in that high-stress situation like that and deal ... he's got the stuff, and he trusts his stuff."
The go-ahead run for Premier came with two outs in the fourth, as Connor Noah brought in a run with a triple.
"I was looking for a fastball to hit, and then I got a curve ball. I just waited on it and drove it to left," said Noah, who had struck out in his first at-bat. "We were pumped up for this big game and to get to the championship. Gavin did an amazing job and pitched through all the roadblocks out there."
Ty Schwaiger had three hits and scored a run for Bad Rock.