The 11u Elite Chino Hills Thunder gave its fans a scare in its first game of the 2018 Triple Crown World Series, sliding by Dallas Tigers-Bazzell by one run, 5-4. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing for head coach Rene Lopez and his boys.
No other team crept within four runs, including Chino’s 11-1 championship-capturing contest Sunday against Santa Clarita Clutch.
“That’s probably the best we’ve hit as a collective unit,” said Lopez. “All year long, the key to our success has been our pitching and our defense. We come out to this tournament and all 11 guys were on fire. It was fun to watch.”
Starting pitcher Jerry Mendoza began his day with confidence, forcing a quick fly out to start the game. Two batters later, Trajveer Brar sent one right back off Mendoza’s leg, redirecting to first base for the second out of the inning. Mendoza would take a couple of moments to gather himself and elected to stay in the contest.
“After I got hit, I thought it’s time to throw strikes now,” Mendoza said. “I didn’t want them to hit the ball anymore. I’m not going to lie, every time the ball was put in play, I was a little scared of being hit but my infielders and the guys in the outfield did a great job all day of making plays.”
If Mendoza’s confidence was going to waver after an understandably nerve-rattling moment, it was going to come in the next at-bat when Clutch lined one toward the pitcher once more. The undeterred 11-year old stood tall, though, ending the inning with his second assist of the inning, this one a little more conventional.
The Thunder looked to continue its hot offensive streak heading into the bottom of the first inning. Chase Davidson led off with a single, stole second and third and came scampering home on a Clutch throwing error putting Chino Hills up 1-0 in a hurry.
Jacob Arreguin didn’t need that kind of speed when he got to the plate. The clean-up hitter hammered an impressive opposite-field shot over the right field fence, scoring two more runs for the home side.
“It was a simple fastball on the outside corner,” said Arreguin. “Whenever I see that pitch, I’m just trying to take it the other way and elevate it.”
Chino scored a fourth run in the first inning thanks to Justin Lopez’s RBI-single. The Thunder were in complete command as Mendoza headed back the hill.
For the second consecutive inning, Santa Clarita could not figure out the right-hander. On the day, Mendoza would finish with four innings pitched, gave up just six hits and one run, while letting his defense do most of the work.
“That kid is a bulldog,” said Lopez. “He’s actually tougher on himself than we are on him, which makes him one the best competitors on the team.”
After adding a fifth run in the second inning and Mendoza dealing, Chino looked to break the game open in the bottom of the third. Arreguin sparked the Thunder’s second multi-run inning with a double. In fact, the first nine batters of the frame would at least reach first base. Scoring five more runs, the Chino raced out to a daunting 10-0 lead.
Brady Stull, Justin Lopez and Jerry Mendoza all came up with run-scoring hits in the big frame.
Santa Clarita ended its scoring drought in the bottom of the fourth inning to make it 10-1. Chino Hills needed just a single tally in the bottom end to claim the 11u Elite crown.
Fittingly, with the bases loaded it was Mendoza who walked the plate. Already with two hits and two RBI on the afternoon, Mendoza completed a perfect outing, lining the first pitch he saw up the middle to score Joshua Springer, sealing the win, 11-1.
“It was a knuckleball that he left hanging,” said Mendoza. “I really just tried to hit the ball in the air, but I guess I hit a line drive over the shortstop’s head but it got the run it. That’s what matters.”
Chino Hills didn’t need much time to acclimate to the mountain conditions in Steamboat Springs, CO, completing a perfect 7-0 run to the 11u Elite title. Taking down a fellow Southern Californian squad made it even that much better for the Thunder.
“We’ve seen them a lot,” said Arreguin. “The Clutch are a great team. They’ve beaten us a couple of times but today was our day.”
“It means a lot to these guys,” Lopez said. “We have a couple of guys that have been with us since they were five or six years old. It’s nice for us to come to such an elite event and win a championship.”
With the Saddleback Cowboys Black (CA) rumbling through the top of the bracket at the 13u Elite Triple Crown World Series, it was flat-out shocking to see them yanked to a stop.
But blessed with an offense capable of springing to life at any time, the Cowboys got right back to work Sunday in the championship game against the Utah Yard Dawgs, scoring seven runs in the second inning and eventually posting a 13-3 run-rule victory in five innings at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. Going 6-1 overall, the Cowboys prevailed as the Dawgs made an impressive run through the loser's bracket by winning one game Friday, two on Saturday and one more Sunday morning.
The Yard Dawgs scored two runs in the top of the first as Kaden Miller and Hunter Gatti reached to start the game and Evan Atkinson brought them in with a double. In the bottom of the frame, the Cowboys began with a double, a double and a single, but just got one run when Zach Fjelstad hit into a double play.
Utah brought another across in the top of the second when Miller singled in Daxton Maroney. The Cowboys immediately responded as the first five batters reached, and the next two also got on thanks to two errors. Dylan Werhas contributed a key two-run single, and Fjelstad added his own two-run, two-out hit after falling behind in the count 0-2.
"I took a deep breath and regrouped at 0-2, told myself this was a new at-bat that had nothing to do with the double play. I took one the other way on an outside pitch," Fjelstad said. "We all stayed pretty positive after (the first inning), got off the bench and were cheering our teammates. We started hitting again in the second and it all felt better."
"These guys have been good about putting up runs all tournament, and all summer. They usually find a way; they are a competitive group and don't shy away from anything," said Cowboys coach Richard Mercado, whose team came back from an 8-0 hole Saturday to win. "Zach grounded into that double play, and he's going to be down a little after that. He came up with a big hit, and that speaks to him and all our players, how they stay mentally prepared and move on to the next pitch."
Luke Spiridonoff launched a two-run homer for the Cowboys in the third inning to extend the lead, and the finishing blows came in the fifth. Werhas reached after being hit by a pitch; leadoff hitter Blake Wilson singled, Landyn McKeown also singled and Drew Rutter closed the afternoon with a two-run single to invoke the run rule.
"I like leadoff because usually the first pitch is a fastball and usually a strike, so it's pretty easy to hit. That perfect pitch, you can hit pretty far," said Wilson, who had three hits and three runs to go with an RBI. "We felt pretty good after the first, and maybe some were a little down after that double play. But we were all hyped and pumped up. We were always one game at a time, but all of us expected to go pretty far in the tournament."
Cowboys starter Luke Shulga also deserved some recognition after throwing 3 1/3 solid innings. Fjelstad came in to close the game, allowing one hit and two walks.
"(Shulga) didn't have his best command today, but that's a good team over there that was here for a reason," Mercado said. "They played a lot of games; we expected them to put up a fight. But we thought if we could get up and score some runs early, ideally we could wear them down."
In the 13u division that was also decided Sunday, Premier BBC Purple held off Bad Rock BBC, 15-3.
Fans cannot complain about the excitement the 13u Elite Saddleback Cowboys bring to the table.
Through six games in the 2018 Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs, CO, the Cowboys have put together double-digit run totals in all of its contests. The only black mark on Saddleback’s record is a 13-12 loss to Slammers Armour. In Saturday’s semifinal matchup against BC KC Rawlings Prospects, Saddleback battled back from an eight-run deficit to win, 16-10.
“To be down eight to nothing is tough in any game you’re playing in,” said head coach Richard Mercado. “I know these boys. They can score runs with the best of them. They just have to stay positive and confident.”
Saddleback dug themselves a mighty hole to climb out of right out of the gate. The Prospects tallied six runs, including a two-run blast from Easton Wasinger. After two more runs in the second inning, KC had a sizable advantage and virtually all the momentum, leading 8-0.
“With our hot bats, we knew we could score runs,” said the Cowboys’ Blake Wilson. “We just had to keep our heads together and hit the ball.”
Adjusting to the speed and power of the Prospect pitching staff, Saddleback began the long road back with a duo of timely hits in the bottom of the second inning. Dylan Werhas and Dominic Smaldino each batted in a run to get the Cowboys on the board.
The journey continued with Wilson leading off the third frame. Wilson’s single sparked four consecutive hits from the California kids, resulting in four runs, creeping within two, 8-6.
“We weren’t seeing a ton of off-speed pitches,” Wilson said. “Especially that second time around, I was really concentrated on looking for the fastball and hitting it the opposite direction.”
Sensing the momentum swinging to the opposite dugout, the Prospects rallied for a response of their own in the top of the fourth inning. Wasinger, KC’s run machine, drove in his third of the afternoon in a two-run effort that put the Prospect back on top by four, 10-6.
There would be no stopping the Saddleback offensive locomotive, however, as Mercado’s boys went back to the plate hungry for more in the bottom end of the inning. For the first time since the opening frame, Saddleback would draw level, 10-10, with back-to-back RBI doubles from Blake Wilson and Landyn McKeown.
Back in the game, Mercado tabbed Wilson to head to the bump to keep the Cowboys in the contest. Right away, Wilson’s precision stunned the Prospects as KC went down in order in the fifth inning.
“Drew (Rutter) did a great job early throwing strikes against a good hitting team,” Mercado said. “Blake came in there and did what he does best. We couldn’t have asked anything more from him.”
The Cowboys vaulted into the lead in the bottom end of the fifth, capitalizing on a pair of KC errors. Wilson, with his team now ahead 11-10, remained focused on keeping the advantage.
“I was trying to keep them inside the ballpark,” explained Wilson. “I knew if they hit a home run, it would either tie it up or they would go ahead, and we would lose our momentum.”
Not only did Wilson keep them off the base pads, he nearly kept them off first base altogether in the sixth inning, giving up just one hit before exiting the inning.
With Wilson dominating on the hill, Saddleback may not have needed extra insurance but the Cowboys were determined to give it to him anyway. By the time Drew Rutter stepped into the batter’s box, the bases were loaded and there were no outs. As the wind whipped in from centerfield Rutter managed to pierce through the mountain air and send a rocket over the wall for a grand slam.
“It was a new pitcher and I hadn’t face him before,” Rutter said. “The first pitch was outside. I tried to drive it to the left side of the field and it worked.”
The Cowboys tallied two more, giving Wilson six runs to play with for the final three outs. Throwing up his third consecutive shutout inning, Wilson slammed the door shut on KC, sealing the win and a championship birth in the 13u Elite division, 16-10.
“These guys are the same animal they’ve been all year,” said Mercado. “They’re competitive and they’re hungry for more, certainly after a win like this.”
Saddleback moves into Sunday’s championship game where they’ll await the winner of the BC KC Prospects and the Utah Yard Dawgs. Sitting atop the winner’s bracket, the Cowboys just need one win to take home the crown.
“We just need to stay positive,” said Rutter. “We don’t need to do much else, we’ve been playing pretty good baseball and I know we ’ll keep it going tomorrow.”
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.
A 2-1 record out of pool play and a 16-1 rout in the first round of the bracket had Bombers Baseball Club feeling confident in the 13u Division of the Triple Crown World Series. After a misstep against Premier Baseball, Bombers showed its grit, outlasting NW Premier in a tension-filled 7-6 win.
“Even when it got close at the end there if you looked at any of them, you couldn’t tell that it was a one-run game in the final inning,” said head coach Brett Grayson. “At any point in the game, you couldn’t tell what the score was. They all competed like it was any other pitch, and I love that.”
Much the delight of Grayson, his players were locked in early. Back-to-back one-out walks gave Grant Selig the opportunity to drive in the game’s first run. Selig did not waste the early opportunity, singling to score Max Rubalcaba. Five players crossed home plate before the end of the top of the first inning, including a two-RBI triple from Luca Bove, the inning’s only extra-base hit.
“Premier’s pitcher had a little velocity,” said Bove. “I didn’t want to try to do too much. I was just looking for a pitch to drive up the middle. Luckily, I made it a bit farther.”
After NW Premier plated a run in the bottom of the first, Bombers recaptured its four-run advantage with an answer in the top of the second.
“I think if you ask any one of the coaches in this tournament, they would all say getting off to a hot start is in your favor,” Grayson said. “We chose to be the visitors, and any time we can get out and throw the first punch, we’re going to. The first couple of innings played out just the way we wanted.”
Down by four once again, Premier rallied once more in the bottom of the second inning to chip away at the Bomber lead. Two runs came across to narrow the margin, 6-3.
“They were a great hitting team,” said Bombers pitcher Kent Goodman. “The only way to get past them was to keep them off balance.”
For the next two innings, the Bombers pitching staff did just that. Dylan Eshoff and Preston Lee both found the right buttons to press in the third and fourth innings, limiting Premier to just two hits before handing the reins to Goodman.
While the Bomber defense was maintaining a lead, the offense stayed stagnant until the fifth inning. Rubalcaba stretch the lead from three to four with an RBI single, an important insurance run heading into what would be the sixth and final inning.
The bottom of the sixth inning began with a harmless walk. However, as time went on, Premier began pushing runs across, increasing the level of excitement on both sides.
“Damage control was key,” Goodman explained. “My mentality in those final moments was to go back to what was working, keep them off balance and limit any major mistakes.”
Three runs from Premier made it a one-run game. With runners on second and third, a hit could represent a walk-off. A poised Goodman confidently struck out the final two batters, sealing the win, 7-6, and keeping Bombers tournament hopes alive.
“As long as these guys have a little energy, I think we have a chance,” said Grayson. “It’s day four and it’s a long time to be at altitude. We had it today and I’ll be looking for that energy tomorrow.”
The Bombers' long road to the championship game continues on Saturday, where they’ll need to win three consecutive games to stay alive. Despite the lengthy stretch ahead, Bombers Baseball remains optimistic.
“We just need to play our brand of baseball,” said Bove. “If we play like we usually do, play hard and stay positive, we can win any game.”
For the Cascade Crush Orange (WA), the 13u Elite World Series has reached the all-or-nothing juncture, where the next loss will send the team out of the loser's bracket and on their way home.
As it turned out Friday in Steamboat Springs, the Crush scored all their runs against the East County Rattlers in one inning, and nothing felt finer than walking away with a 7-5 victory. The Crush are the highest-seeded team from pool play left in the loser's bracket, and they will face the Omaha Pacesetters at 9 a.m. Saturday at Howelsen Hill.
After the Rattlers jumped ahead 1-0, the Crush brought home seven runs in the bottom of the second and did a nice job of simply outlasting their opposition, turning two double plays and riding some stellar pitching. Other than a bumpy third inning when the Rattlers scored three times, Crush starter Clayton O'Larey was in control, and Dylan Strom pitched a perfect seventh for the save.
"I love the effort level of the players. They were loose the whole time -- Clayton does a great job rolling ground balls, and the defense played great behind them," said Crush head coach Kevin Bolt. "That's what is going to win these ball games out here. We have to come out and win three tomorrow to make it to Sunday; it will be a tough task, but you have to do it one pitch at a time. We've got plenty of guys who can throw the ball and get guys out, so it will depend on the defense and how we swing it in tough situations."
In the big second inning, Jacob Mason doubled and Isaiah Carlson walked; Jacob Hayes couldn't get a bunt down, but he responded with a two-strike single that brought in a run. O'Larey moved the runs over and reached first base, and Cade Slayton drove in a run with a single. Strom then came up and absolutely pummeled a pitch way over the left-center fence to close the scoring.
In the sixth, the Rattlers got leadoff hitter Shane Bailey on via an error, and the next two runners reached to load the bases. But the Crush then turned a double play, which kept the damage to a minimum.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and get ground balls. I wasn't feeling real comfortable on the mound (in the third inning), like I was slipping," O'Larey said. "But after that, I was good. We had to score those runs to get in the lead, and then go out in the field and shut them down."
"I was just trying to swing the bat and make contact, hit the ball far," Strom said if his monster home run. "I know this is a good team that can make plays. Clayton did a nice job and got us a lot of ground balls."
Jacob Jackson had two doubles, two runs and two RBI for the Rattlers. Luke West reached base three times and also drove in two runs.
The 11u Elite Utah Grays had not trailed in the 2018 Triple Crown World Series until they came across Twelve Gold in its opening-round matchup in bracket play. Trailing by four midway through the contest, the Grays flipped the script, erupting for nine runs in one inning, and outlasted Twelve Gold, 12-8, moving into the quarterfinals.
“Right from the first pitch I knew we were in it,” said head coach Jed Chrisman. “Twelve is a phenomenal baseball team and we knew we had our work cut out for us.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the first seed or the 12th seed, anything can happen. Once we pumped in that first strike, I knew these boys were locked in and ready to go."
Starting pitcher Cy Chrisman not only hit the strike zone with his first pitch but set two of the first three batters down with ease. Twelve Gold were desperate to strike first, though. Terri Lawrence’s double scored Tanner Galik, and Lawrence himself scampered home two batters later on a passed ball.
Utah waited until the second inning to begin chipping away at the Twelve lead. Alex Vernon, on the second pitch he saw, rocketed a ball over the centerfield fence.
“I knew I was going to swing at the first strike that I got,” said Vernon. “It was a fastball right down the middle, and I was able to make a good swing.”
Despite the solo home run, Twelve went right back to work in the top of the third inning. A couple of Utah mistakes combined with Terri Lawrence’s second RBI knock of the game stretched the Twelve advantage, 5-1.
“It was a big moment for the team,” Vernon said. “We needed to come up with big hits. Guys were a little down in the dugout and we needed something to cheer us up.”
The Grays’ cheering began with Abraham Atencio’s single to kick off the bottom half of the frame. Atencio quickly made his way to third via a stolen base and a double from Peyton Ingram before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Xaviah Patch to make it 5-2.
Utah’s next out wouldn’t come until four batters came to the plate and three more runs had scored, including the Grays’ second long ball, this time from Cy Chrisman.
“It was a really exciting inning,” said Atencio. “We all just wanted to stay positive and keep the wheel turning.”
In total, Utah brought home nine runs, turning the game on its head, 10-5.
Back in familiar territory with the lead, Utah’s defense began to look just as sharp as its offense. Atencio, coach Chrisman’s shortstop, was the focal point as the youngster would come up with five assists on the afternoon and turned two double plays.
“We replicate those plays every day in practice,” Atencio said. “When it comes to a game, we all have faith in each other to make the play.”
The Grays added two insurance runs in the fourth inning on Vernon’s second RBI of the day and a passed ball that allowed Max Johanson to scamper home. Carrying the lead into the fifth inning, Utah was just three outs away from an 11u Elite quarterfinal appearance.
Andrew Nice was charged with digging up the final three outs for Utah. Though Nice gave up a pair of runs, the game would come to a close with a flyout to center.
“This win was really more about the guys that weren’t playing in the game but were being great teammates from the bench,” said Chrisman. “They were up in the dugout, keeping the starters in it, hustling in and out of the dugout, keeping everything moving. As long as everyone was moving and staying active, it keeps the mindset there to play five, six or seven innings.”
Utah draws the Chino Hills Thunder in the quarterfinals, a familiar opponent they faced just two weeks prior. Though the heavyweight bout looms on Saturday’s schedule, Chrisman will be looking for his players to enjoy the picturesque Steamboat Springs setting.
“I want these guys to enjoy where they are,” Chrisman said. “I want to see them go fishing. I want to see them have some fun. We’ll come back here as long as we can but it’s important for these boys to have a little fun and take their minds off things before we get back at it tomorrow.”
The view is always nicer from the winner's bracket, and no one had to tell the Lone Tree Halos (CO) on Friday that their window of opportunity was closing.
Trailing 5-1 against the OBA Pistols (OK) in their 11u Elite World Series bracket game in Steamboat Springs, the Halos sprang to life in the bottom of the fifth inning by getting the first five batters to reach base. The rally became a six-run burst of productivity, and the Halos made it stand up for a 7-5 win to advance in the double-elim bracket.
The No. 4 seeded Halos will take on the top-seeded Santa Clarita Clutch on Saturday (8:30 a.m. at Howelsen Hill), looking to keep the rhythm that eluded them for a hefty portion of Friday's contest.
"We've been in situations like this before, and the kids are so resilient. They believe in themselves, and it just takes one inning for them to get their momentum going," said Halos head coach John Stranak. "And we had the guy out there who could throw strikes and keep (the Pistols) in check."
That would be pitcher Hayden Stranak, who came in relief in the third inning and doused a threat with two quick outs. He only allowed two hits the rest of the way and rang up five strikeouts for good measure.
"We really battled through that one. That was a team win, and we all made plays in the infield and the outfield," Hayden Stranak said. "I just wanted to throw strikes. If they put the ball in play, I have a good feeling that my teammates will make the plays. I felt really good."
The Pistols jumped ahead on a home run from Cash Williams in the top of the second; in the third inning, they got a two-run double from Cooper Auschwitz, who later scored on a wild pitch. A run-scoring groundout by Braden Pride pushed the Pistols up, 5-0.
Hayden Stranak drove in Trevor Gottsegen with a double in the fourth to breathe some early life for the Halos. With the bases loaded in the fifth, Ethan Adams took a pitch off the helmet to bring in a run, and Carter Landen followed with a two-run double. With Andrew Hover's single bringing in the go-ahead run, Hayden Stranak added one more hit for an insurance run, bringing the score to 7-5.
"I was just thinking get a double or a single ... we just need one more run for the lead. Even if I got an out there, I wanted that RBI," said Hover, who caught the game and made a tough basket-catch of a foul ball for the next-to-last out of the game. "As a team, we are good enough to come back anytime, and it's something we've done in the past. Hayden threw strikes; they hit the ball, but the defense was solid behind him."
"In the fifth, Jack (Wesolowski) led off with a hit; Braedan (Reichert) laid down a bunt that went foul, but we had confidence he could come back and get a hit," coach Stranak said. "Getting those two guys on, we knew the momentum had shifted."
In the 11u Elite Bracket, the top four seeds from pool play advanced in Friday's action.
The Utah Yard Dawgs were looking for the reset button after the first day of the 13u Elite Division of the Triple Crown World Series. An opening 20-10 loss to the Saddleback Cowboys Black left a bad taste in the mouth of head coach Josh Atkinson.
It wouldn’t take long for Utah to find its groove on Thursday. The Yard Dawgs flew past the Omaha Pacesetters, 15-7, and closed out pool play with an impressive and gritty victory over West Coast Baseball, 13-12.
“The kids came out a little flat yesterday and weren’t really motivated,” said Atkinson. “After they lost, they definitely found some of the motivation they needed. The next two games they were upbeat, wanted to win and were positive the whole time.”
Utah didn’t show any signs of rust after the 30-minute break between its win over the Pacesetters and the start of the afternoon’s final contest at Howelsen Hill. The Yard Dawgs stacked together six consecutive hits in the opening inning as seven runs would cross home plate by the time the dust settled.
“They were throwing a lot of off-speed pitches,” said Preston Jacobson, who singled and scored in the breakout first inning. “We had to sit back and wait for the pitches to come to us. It took a lot of patience.”
West Coast Baseball had nearly 24 hours to think about its final pool play contest. After a rocky start on the defensive end, West Coast’s offense was in fine form. Down seven, they rallied to send all 10 batters to the dish and plated five runs to get back in the game.
Nalder kicked the top of the second inning off with a double, standing in scoring position as Jacobson walked into the batters box. Where Nalder rattled the centerfield wall, Jacobsen cleared everything for a two-run home run.
Now leading, 9-5, starting pitcher Stockton Mathis had a little bit of a cushion to deal with. Despite a troubled first inning, Mathis rebounded with a quick second frame that including a nifty 5-4-3 double play.
“I just wanted to get it over the plate,” Mathis said. “Overall, it was just about having each other’s backs out there.”
Mathis helped himself out in the third inning, leading off with a single. Nalder, three batters later, drove Mathis home as part of back-to-back RBI efforts for the Yard Dawgs. Utah secured a third run to cap off the inning, extending the lead, 12-5.
Again, West Coast would counter in the bottom half of the inning. Mirroring their efforts from the opening frame, West Coast capitalized on two Utah errors, plating five runs to creep within two, 12-10.
As the two-hour time limit approached, the Yard Dawgs added a much-needed insurance run in the fourth thanks to Mathis’ third single of the afternoon that scored Taylor Engh. With the game shifting to the bottom end of the fourth, Utah needed just three outs to end pool play on a high note.
Atkinson tabbed Kaden Miller to finish off the job. Even though West Coast earned two runs on a pair of hits and a balk, Miller confidently shrugged off the pressure and struck out the final batter, ending the game, 13-12.
“I have coached these kids for a lot of baseball games this year,” Atkinson explained. “I know how they are. I know how they are going to compete. I was confident that they were going to make the right plays. It was scary there at the end but they pulled through, making the plays they needed to win the game.”
When it comes to picking favorites to make a run at the 11u Elite Triple Crown World Series, you might want to stick to teams with the sticks.
The Chino Hills Thunder (CA) rang up 34 runs in three pool play games (tied for second-most), closing Thursday's action with a 10-3 victory over Twelve Gold (TX) that saw them score eight runs in the final three innings. The Thunder ultimately claimed the No. 3 seed in the upcoming double-elim tournament, which begins Friday for them with a first-round bye.
Isaac Fanoga had two hits and three RBI against Twelve Gold; Roman Lopez threw three innings of drama-free relief and added two RBI, while leadoff hitter Chase Davidson reached base three times, scoring once and driving in a run.
"The boys competed better; we had better at-bats from perspective, with the boys taking more pitches. forcing the kids to take a strike," said Thunder coach Rene Lopez. "Our ultimate goal is to win it; we don't look ahead, and we always go game-to-game and will not overlook our opponent. But at the end of the day, we came out here with the goal to actually win it.
"Isaac has just been on fire for us the past two, three games. He's been taking quality at-bats, and single-handedly won Game 1 for us, with a big double and triple."
Three errors in the bottom of the first by the Thunder opened the door for Twelve Gold to score twice, but the Gold managed just two hits the rest of the way. Fanoga's crucial hit came in the three-run fourth for the Thunder, and they pushed four more across in the sixth on six consecutive two-out hits. Jerry Mendoza (who reached base three times and scored three runs) got on board with a double, followed by singles from Justin Lopez, Roman Lopez, Fanoga, Brady Stull and Frank Brazil.
"I just needed to put the ball on the right side to score those runs. This was more fun, in our first game we were hitting for about 40 minutes before the other team got on the field," Fanoga said. "Roman pitched three really good innings, hardly any hits, and for us, we just needed to not make any more errors."
"Our coaches told us to pick it up; we all started hitting and making better plays," Roman Lopez added. "I was just trying to throw strikes, not walk people, and make them put the ball in play so my defense could help me out."
Blaine Bullard reached base twice and scored a run for Twelve Gold; Chris Sampson doubled and had an RBI, and Carson Sydnor added a single and a run.