When the Brighton Braves (UT) took the field Thursday at the 11u Elite Triple Crown World Series, they'd played exactly one game in the past month, and that was a loss Wednesday to kick off the event.
Good thing Riley Brown and his teammates have good muscle memory.
The 3-hole hitter for the Braves homered and drove in all five runs for his team against the Dallas Patriots-Sheets in a 5-2 victory; coupled with a 9-8 victory versus the Dallas Tigers-Bazzell later in the day, the Braves secured the sixth seed in the upcoming double-elimination championship bracket, which fires up Friday morning. Brown rapped a two-run, two-out single in the third inning to tie the Patriots, then smoked a long, high one over the left-center fence for the final runs of the contest.
"We had about a month off, and we've been scrimmaging at home trying to get ready. It was good to shake off the rust yesterday, and we started a little slow today," said Braves coach Donnie Saba. "That two-out, two-RBI hit from Riley Brown was huge. I am proud of these boys, and it was good to see the bats wake up a little bit."
Tommy Yates reached on an error for the Braves in the third inning, and Jaxon Soto singled, with both coming home on Brown's hit. Miles Layton walked to start the fifth; Soto singled again, and Brown was there to finish the task.
"I saw that pitcher really good, the balls that were coming down the middle. I had to do something with that," Brown said. "It feels good, especially being your second game in a month. Our pitchers did a good job and threw strikes."
The Braves used four pitchers; Saba is hoping to spread the responsibility around while also having options during the double-elim bracket.
"We're trying to limit innings, win the game, play some strategy .... it's always a tricky thing," he said. "We are deep in regards to pitching, which is a good thing. The teams we are seeing are amazing, very well-coached with a lot of talent, so we're trying to find a way to win and have some left for later."
Soto reached base three times and was about as flawless from the leadoff spot as one can expect.
"I love it at leadoff; you're the first one to see the pitcher, the first one the team has ... getting on three times sure felt good," Soto said. "Whenever Riley came up and you were on base, you felt like you had a good chance to score."
Collin Wootten scored on a single by Luke Billings in the first inning for the Patriots, and Kaden Jones scored on a wild pitch in the second inning. They had runners on second and third with one out in the sixth, but Braves reliever Case Beames got a popout to first base and a strikeout to close the contest.
Five teams went 3-0 in pool play in the 11u Elite division, with the Santa Clarita Clutch securing the top seed. The Utah Grays, Chino Hills Thunder and Lone Tree Halos wrap up the top four, with all earning first-round byes Friday.