By Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – After giving his team two weeks off, head coach Kele Evans and the Colorado Crushers needed to shake the rust off before finding its groove at the 13u Triple Crown World Series. Following a 13-2 loss to the El Monte Dukes, Colorado rebounded with two resounding wins over Colorado Shield, 7-0, and the North Texas Marauders, 22-7.
“We were definitely rusty in that first game against a really good team out of California,” said Evans. “Late in the second game, we really got our bats going and it carried over to our next game. It was nice to see because we’re a good hitting club and it was nice to get going.”
Both the Crushers and North Texas cruised through the opening frame at Vannatta Field. In the top of the second inning, however, the Crushers found the right mix of patience and precision at the plate. Eighteen total batters came to the plate in the inning as Colorado tallied a monstrous thirteen runs.
“I was just swinging at good pitches,” said Blake Cowgill, who finished 2-3 with a single, a double, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI on the afternoon. “We started a bit slow this week and now we’re picking it up.”
Colorado didn’t need to flex its power to put up the big number. The Crushers’ patience paved the way to five walks. Only Ryan Brady and Brady Snow managed extra-base hits.
“They were throwing a lot of strikes up there,” Brady explained. “Collectively, we were just jumping on top and hitting it hard.”
Refusing to quit, North Texas responded with three runs in the bottom of the second, keeping the chance of a comeback alive.
The hot bats of Colorado would not cool, though. Seven more runs crossed the plate in the top of the third inning, creating an almost insurmountable amount of separation between the two squads.
“It’s baseball. You have ups and downs but you have to be resilient,” Evans said. “It’s not just this week. It’s been all season. We really pride ourselves in not getting down and staying in the fight."
Coach Evans didn’t just get a stellar performance from the offense. Defensively, Colorado began to lock down North Texas as the game wore on. Ryan Brady, who pitched one and two-thirds innings, gave up just one run and struck out three, all while making sure his team was on track for a decisive victory.
“The umpire had a pretty tight zone but they weren’t really swinging at anything,” said Brady. “So I just told myself to throw a lot of first-pitch strikes and get ahead.”
Adding two more runs in the top of the fourth, Colorado stretched its lead to 22-4. With Aiden Sporrer’s double, the Crushers also made sure each of its 12 players on the roster recorded a hit in the contest.
As the two-hour time limit expired in the bottom end of the inning, the Marauders managed to plate three runs but the late rally stopped short when Colorado forced North Texas into a fielder’s choice to seal the victory, 22-7.
“I think we’ve been pretty fired up since our second game yesterday,” Brady said. “We played a Colorado team that we knew really well and we really didn’t want to lose. We’ve just kept that same mentality since then.”
Earning the No. 7 overall seed in the 13u Platinum bracket, Colorado will begin its campaign through the bracket on Friday morning against the very Colorado Shield team that prompted its offensive explosion.
“We just need to get back at it and keep the intensity,” said Cowgill.
by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- No matter the nature of the path, the Rattlers Black 13u baseball team knew their journey at the Triple Crown World Series deserved to end with a shot at the title game in the highest bracket.
There's still work to do, but the Rattlers (CA) showed their intentions with a 24-12 victory over the KC Force (MO) at Strawberry Field on Thursday, closing pool play with a 3-0 record and earning the No. 3 seed of the 10 teams that reside in the Platinum bracket. The Rattlers scored 49 runs in pool play to lead all teams, and the bats were cooking immediately against the Force as 15 runs came across in the top of the first inning.
A total of 19 batters came to the plate in that frame; Justin Heffler hit a long two-run homer in an inning that also featured three doubles and seven walks.
Sure, the Rattlers had hoped to not give up as many runs as they did, and no doubt the coaches will address certain breakdowns. But the big win allowed the team to save its pitching staff and begin to scheme how to tackle the challenges of the Platinum bracket.
"The takeaway is to stay in the game. When you get a lead, you can't get too happy or think you're too good," said Heffler, who also tripled in the fourth and closed the day with three runs from the leadoff spot. "I think our mentality is to bang the baseball and not stop. I swung at a pitch before the homer and missed it, and I tried to make an adjustment, sit on the pitch more and drive it.
"From leadoff, I want to see the pitch and capitalize on any mistakes."
Xavier Farnum pitched two innings for the Rattlers, including the only one where the Force was held scoreless. It was the first appearance of the year on the mound for Farnum, which he backed up with three hits and four RBI while swinging the bat.
"The game was a little weird. A lot of runs were scored, and the other team could have been shut down earlier," Farnum said. "But we did pretty good. I felt pretty good about my pitching, and I've been swinging pretty well this summer, I just try to make contact and put the ball in play."
Kade Gaeir had two hits and three RBI for the Rattlers; Brandon Hermosillo, Rowan Haynes and Colin Riley each drove in two runs. The Force had strong efforts from Jackson Helberg (three hits, two doubles, two runs, two RBI) and Ari Shafton (two hits, a triple, two runs one RBI).
"You score that many runs in the first inning, you change the mentality of how you're playing the game. We weren't anywhere close to survival mode (in terms of using pitchers), so we took some chances with pitchers who aren't normally the go-to guys," said Rattlers coach Dave Zimkin. "Triple Crown monitors the health of the arms, and we appreciate that, and it becomes a chess game.
"We've been working real hard. We do a lot of off-field training, take the field away from them for a while. When we give it back, they appreciate the game more. And when we do something like this (World Series), like when we went to Cooperstown (at 12u), it makes for very special memories for the boys."
The Force ended up seeded No. 17 and will play in the Gold bracket, also starting Friday.
13u ELITE DIVISION -- The Dallas Texans-Nalley wrapped up pool play with the No. 1 seed in the 13u Elite, with the Utah Marshalls coming next at No. 2 in the 10-team bracket.
by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- You can't just totally ignore the impact of a sobering loss in baseball, although not much is gained carrying it around like a mark of shame.
For the Building Champions-Navy 13u squad, Thursday meant getting in the right frame of mind at the Triple Crown World Series after Wednesday closed with a 15-run loss in pool play. On a roster packed with talent and hard-earned skill, a nasty setback like that didn't make much sense, and the Navy regained a sense of order next time out with a 15-4 victory against the Texas Fire at Strawberry Park.
The margin of victory didn't get comfortable until a nine-run outburst in the fifth inning, but BC Navy (MO) did plenty of good work ahead of that. Starting pitcher Davion Harris gave up just two runs in his four innings, working out of trouble nicely when necessary, and he got the scoring started with a difficult swing on a high fastball that launched the ball well over the centerfield fence.
Ronnie Ross Jr. drove in a run in the third to make it 4-0, and his lefty swing made perfectly violent contact with a pitch in the fifth, leading to a skyrocketing two-run homer that announced BC Navy was back on track.
"I had to come back from that last game. I grounded out a bunch of times and had a bad game," said Harris, who also drove in a run in the third inning. "I had to come out strong today. I wanted to just breathe and keep throwing strikes, because I know our defense will take care of it."
"I slept on it a long time, and I just came here today ready to eat," Ross said. "And I did. My first at-bat, they really didn't give me anything to hit, then they brought in another pitcher, and he messed up when he came inside. (Harris) did amazing; today gives us a lot of confidence, but hopefully we stay humble and come away with a 'W.'"
After BC Navy staked out a 6-0 lead, Texas Fire responded with a single by Brittain Urbaniak to lead off the fourth. He came in on a double from Fisher Polydoroff, who went to third on an error and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Moore.
BC Navy's big blows in the fifth were Ross' homer, a two-run double by Caleb Trulove and a bases-loaded double off the bat of Caden Campbell that finished the scoring.
"After yesterday, you're humbled by every experience, and you'll have losses. It's all about how you respond," said BC Navy coach Jamie Oakes. "We had a team dinner and got our mojo back, and I told them to compete on every pitch. And get emotions to a high octave and stay there the whole game. I've coached in this age group for 20 years, and that's arguably one of the best games I've seen a 13u team that I've coached play. They hit the ball, and anytime there was a momentum swing, they changed it back."
Caleb Martinez tripled in a run for the Fire in the bottom of the fifth, and he scored on an error.
The BC Navy finished just out of the mix for the Platinum bracket at 13u; they are the 11th seed and will begin Gold bracket play Friday at 11:30 a.m. The Fire ended up with the No. 18 seed.