By Kyle Koso
GYPSUM, CO – By all means, give a well-deserved high-five to the Rangers 13u baseball team for their work.
But truthfully, that should be a high-10, because the squad spent almost all their time in double-digits at the Triple Crown World Series.
Based out of Overland Park, KS., the 18th-seeded Rangers capped a potent run through the opposition in Vail Valley with an 11-5 victory over the No. 8 Colorado Jaxx on Sunday to claim the 13u title at the Eagle Sports Complex. Over the course of the last seven games at the event, the Rangers outscored their foes 105-17; they took command of the final contest with an eight-run burst in the third inning, right after the Jaxx had scored two runs to tie it.
Two home runs, two triples and a double fueled the push, and starting pitcher Luke Hanahan kept things under control otherwise, going five innings to earn the win. He also had two inside-the-park home runs, with the Jaxx defense simply not playing deep enough to reel in his two high-arching shots to center field.
“I’m happy to end the season on a good note; got to thank my coaches, parents and teammates, and this all makes me very happy,” said Hanahan, who closed with six RBI and allowed just three runs on the mound. “I was just trying to find the fastball and hit it hard; I just gripped it and ripped it. The (big inning) made me very comfortable pitching, gave me a lot of confidence and I settled in.”
Hunter Higgins had the first noisy hit of the third inning, a run-scoring triple, and Noah Silver had an inside-the-park homer as well. James Forgy tripled, and Henry Goodwin punched in a double.
“I’m new to this team, and from playing against them before I knew it was a high-offense team. We started out a little rough the first two games, but we loosened up and had fun playing,” Higgins said. “You can’t think about the score, so the (triple) was just another at-bat for me. Just trying to produce for the team.”
Higgins had arguably the defensive play of the game as well from the catcher spot – he tracked down a loose ball near the dugout on the third-base side, made sure the runner on third stayed put and then fired a strike to second to get the baserunner who had wandered too far from the bag. That out ended the fifth inning, dousing a Jaxx rally.
“I guess that was a little bit of instinct. I was just trying to get to the ball, worried about the guy trying to score from third,” Higgins added. “He was halfway between second and third, so I thought why not give it a shot and try to get him out.”
Hanahan’s first homer drove in two runs in the second inning, and he capped his day at the plate with an RBI single in the sixth.
“It’s exciting. The way they’ve swung the bats the last six or seven games has been unbelievable,” said Rangers head coach Craig Stewart. “They’ve done that before at other tournaments; to see them do it at the end of the year at the last tournament, it’s pretty special. Luke battled from the start, had good command, and if it started to get away from him, he refocused. He did an outstanding job with the fastball and curve ball and getting contact.
“Offensively, their approach is to hit the first fastball they can get at. The first one they can do damage with, go do that. Until they get two strikes, look for doubles and home runs.”
The Rangers will move over to the Building Champions Academy next year in preparation for high-school baseball.
For the Jaxx, Colton Pamenter had two hits and a run, as did Cole Pfeifer. Tommy Hum,phrey had two hits and an RBI.
10u ROUNDUP – In the 10u division, the top-seeded Saddleback Vigilantes-Black wrapped up an undefeated run through pool play and the brackets with a 10-0 victory over No. 6 Dynasty NS to win the overall championship.
The Vigilantes allowed just four runs in their final four games at the event.