by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- The 13u Crown City American team had already worked through a big disappointment once on Sunday, so there was no interest in going through that again.
With the 13u Triple Crown World Series on the line, Crown City (CA) jumped ahead early and held on late versus New Level Xtreme-Ringrose on Sunday, claiming the title with a 10-7 victory at Simillion Field after New Level had won the "if" game earlier Sunday in the double-elim format.
After speeding ahead to a 10-0 lead through four innings in Game 2, Crown City spent the rest of the day gnawing on fingernails and fighting off doubt as New Level came back -- first with five runs in the fifth inning, and then plating two in a seventh-inning last-stand thriller.
Reliever Charlie Caruso gave up a home run and back-to-back singles with one out and the score at 10-7. He registered a strikeout on a perfectly placed high fastball, then got fortunate when centerfielder Daniel Ruiz made a difficult catch at the fence for the final out.
Crown City starter Bryan Richman, undersized in comparison to a lot of what you find on 13u rosters, got touched for the runs in the fifth, but he was next to flawless early as his team built a lead. Richman also drove in the team's first run on a bases-loaded bunt, and Caruso pushed the next run across on an infield single.
New Level (WA) made the day exciting at the very start by beating Crown City, 7-4, in Game 1 as Kailand Halstead had two hits and two RBI, with Tristan Ringrose and Stevyn Andrachick each scoring twice.
"They had to come in and beat us twice. We had some arms left, so it was a matter of who would score more runs," said Crown City coach Rolo Avila. "There are really good offensive teams at this tournament, and at the end of the day, that's what the score tells you.
"Bryan has been a go-to guy all year, one of the top three pitchers. He has a big heart, and for his size he takes advantage of his ability. He's a go-getter and wants the ball every time."
Thomas Lieb and Andrew Campana each had three hits and drove in two runs for Crown CIty in Game 2; the offense nearly put it away in the bottom of the sixth by loading the bases with one out. But a flyout and strikeout ended the threat.
In the top of the seventh, Ringrose blasted a long home run to centerfield, and there was no questioning New Level's energy as they rallied. It took all the composure Crown City could uncover to fight them off.
"We were kind of flat the first game; we knew we were the better team and that we needed to hit better," Lieb said. "I'm glad we could win a close game."
Richman worked out of trouble in the second inning, as the bases were loaded with one out before a runner was cut down between home and third. After a groundout, the shutout was intact, and he breezed through the third and fourth innings.
"The first two innings, my curveball, I couldn't throw it for a strike. I had to make some adjustments," Richman said. "My two-seam was good the whole game, and my change-up was a little iffy, but it all worked out. It's nice to know I can strike some of these 6-foot-1 kids out.
"I was getting a little nervous at the end, for sure. I was destroyed in that inning where they scored so many runs. When (Ruiz) made the catch, I was so happy. The other team thought it was a home run, and I was, like, nope."
"We did have those other few arms that were a bit alive and got us through a couple of innings. That's the name of the game, and just score more runs than them," Avila said. "I tell my kids, it's a mental thing, and we go into every tournament to win."
Ringrose had four RBI for New Level in Game 2; in Game 1, Crown City was paced by two-RBI efforts from David Mysza and Isaac Ton.
By Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Capturing a 13u Elite title was never going to be easy for Dallas Texans-Nalley. Facing the same Utah Marshalls squad twice in as many days, the Texans doubled up, finishing with a dramatic 6-5 victory to claim the 13u Elite Championship.
“To be able to go in and pull that off against a great team like that, you almost feel like you’re floating right now,” said Texans head coach Dillon Smith. “That’s a really good team but our kids played hard. Even when things didn’t go our way, they kept battling.”
Starting pitcher Braeden McCarroll was impressive early and often for Dallas. The righty breezed through the opening half inning to let the Texans powerful offense get to work.
“My command of curveball was helpful early,” explained McCarroll. “I honestly thought that they were hit over me today, but with the help of the defense behind me they didn’t.”
Kayden Bradshaw, Layton Nalley and Drew Smith each reached safely to begin the bottom half of the first inning, and with Zachary Pearrow’s two-RBI double, Texans owned an early 3-0 advantage.
“I noticed they were throwing a lot of curveballs,” Nalley said. “When they’re doing that, you have to stay back and try to drive it to the opposite field.”
A gutsy two-out rally in the top of the second let Utah back into the contest as the Marshalls pushed across three runs to even the score.
Despite the offensive outburst, McCarroll settled his nerves and found his rhythm. Not only did his effort keep Dallas in the game, the steady pitching paved way for Pearrow to dial up another RBI in the bottom of the third, edging the Texans in front the second time in the afternoon.
As the game wore on, runs started to become a premium. With Utah putting up zeros on its end, McCarroll equaled with shutout efforts in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Letting his stellar defense work behind him, McCarroll forced 12 fly outs and collected just one strikeout.
“Braeden has pitched a ton for us this year,” coach Smith said. “I gave him the start and he kind of looked at me with big eyes.
“After that, I just told him to go out there and play your game. He doesn’t get rattled and stays in the zone which was a really beneficial trait to have today.”
Layton Nalley took the reigns midway through the sixth inning. Tensions rose for the Texan faithful as runners stood on second and third with just one out. Dallas’ defense flexed its muscles once more, coming through with a fly out to center and gunning down the runner at home to end the threat.
Feeling momentum in hand, Samuel Maldonado began the bottom half with a double. Two batters later, Nalley helped himself out with an RBI groundout. The Texans banked further insurance when Smith drove home Bradshaw, giving Nalley a three-run cushion to finish the job.
“I got kind of nervous there,” Nalley said. “You just have to say calm and throw strikes.”
Turns out, Dallas needed all of that three-run cushion. A leadoff double followed by three straight Marshall batters reaching safely let Utah crawl within one, 6-5. Electing to keep Nalley in the game, the youngster persevered, dialing up a strikeout and two flyouts that had fans on both sides holding their breath.
“He’s been our most consistent and dominant pitcher since we were 10,” said Smith. “He’s the kid when the game is on the line, he’s the one we always go to.
“He started a big game against Lubbock yesterday and took care of them. He came in today and closed it out. He’s the one I know is going to get the job done almost every time.”
Finally able to exhale, Dallas can ultimately sit back and reflect on its perfect 7-0, 13u Elite title-winning display in its first trip to the Triple Crown World Series.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” McCarroll said. “It’s hard to explain.”
by Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Crown City American didn’t travel all the way from Southern California just to enjoy the magnificent views of the Colorado Mountains. Head coach Rolo Avila and company came to the 13u Triple Crown World Series to finish off its 2019 campaign in style and with an 11-6 win over Rattlers Black, the Pasadena-based crew is just one win away from doing just that.
“We’re here to win,” said Avila. “We’ve been working pretty much all year for this tournament. We’ve made improvements all the way through.
“Our pitching, defense and offense have gotten better each week. So we’re just ready to play. Whoever they want to throw on the mound, we’ll be ready for them.”
Both Crown City and Rattlers brought the intensity early and often. The two teams traded runs in the first inning. In the second, Jonah De Leon lifted his team to a 3-1 lead with a monstrous two-run home run over the centerfield fence.
The second inning was also the Rattlers’ first look at Bryan Richman, who kicked off his afternoon with a single and two stolen bases.
“They didn’t mix anything up with their curveballs or off-speed pitches,” Richman said. “I was seeing a lot of fastballs and looking for a lot of dead-red fastballs.”
Battling back in the top of the third inning, Rattlers retaliated for three runs to retake the lead, 4-3. Justin Heffler and Gabriel Sanz-Miller each recorded an RBI in the frame.
Undeterred, Crown City looked to even the score in the bottom half.
By the time Richman stepped back into the batter’s box, Crown City had done more than just draw level. Richman followed the RBI efforts of Sean Asperger and De Leon with one of his own. When the dust settled, five runs had crossed the plate.
“We have a solid 10 players on our team,” said Richman, who was a perfect 3-3 on the afternoon with an RBI and a run scored. “I feel like on any other team, I would be higher in the lineup, but this team is pretty good.”
The Rattlers pushed a run across in the top of the fourth inning to draw within four, 8-4. Staring at a shot in the 13u championship game, Avila turned from starting pitcher Andrew Campana to Asperger.
“Throughout the year, we’ve started throwing (Sean) little by little and he was starting to throw a lot of strikes,” explained Avila. “So we just had him mix in an off-speed pitch and he’s been pretty consistent with both.”
Despite surrendering a base hit, Asperger quickly quieted the Rattlers in the sixth, allowing his offense to look for insurance before the final inning.
Avila and Crown City dialed up exactly what it was looking for in the bottom end of the inning, pushing across three more runs in an effort highlighted by Daniel Ruiz’s RBI double.
“We had a good lead from everyone’s great hitting,” Asperger said. “In that final inning, I just wanted to pound the zone and see what happened.”
The only thorn in the side of Crown City all afternoon was Heffler, who rocketed a home run in the seventh to complete his 4-for-4 day with a home run, two doubles, three RBI and a stolen base.
With the miscue behind him, Asperger regrouped to finish his mission, forcing the final three outs and sending his team to Sunday’s championship contest.
Slated for 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Crown City could face Rattlers Black or a new challenger out of the 13u loser’s bracket. No matter which team it matches up against, the boys from Pasadena will be ready.
“We just have to keep the energy flowing,” Richman said. “We’ve been with this team for a year and it’s been a fun ride. It’d be amazing to finish it off.”
by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- In the high-altitude setting of the Triple Crown World Series, your offense better be up to the challenge of keeping up.
Huge innings with multiple runs scored were the norm Saturday at Adams Field as the 13u Elite semifinals played out, featuring top-seeded Dallas Texans-Nalley and the No. 2 seed Utah Marshalls. When the dust finally settled, the Texans secured a spot in Sunday championship game with a 21-13 victory, taking the lead with a seven-run burst in the fourth inning and closing it down with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to invoke the run rule.
Zach Pearrow and Drew Smith each had six RBI for the Texans, and Garret Hendricks pitched 3 2/3 of solid relief as they came back from behind twice to settle in as the team to beat -- in the double-elim format, the Texans just need one win Sunday to walk away with the title.
One of the toughest things in a wild game like this is to keep faith; sometimes, your two-run double or even home run will get lost in the shuffle. Amazingly, the first three batters in the Texans order (Kayden Bradshaw, Layton Nalley and Smith) came to bat in all six innings -- Bradshaw was 2-for-2 with four walks and five runs, and Nalley scored four times.
"We have to trust our pitching, and it dominated today, especially Garret," said Pearrow, who drilled a three-run homer in the first and doubled in two more in the fourth. "It felt really good to know we could respond in every situation. I just go up, try to relax and let it happen."
In the top of the first, the Marshalls scored four runs, anchored by a two-RBI double from Alex Martinez. The next big blow for the squad came in the third, when Grayson Brousseau mashed a grand slam on a full count, and when the Texans went scoreless in the frame, the score stood at 10-8 for Utah.
Nalley singled in the go-ahead run to make it 11-10 for the Texans. While Hendricks was cooling off the Marshalls, the hits kept coming for the home team, with Smith's two-run double in the fifth opening up some welcomed breathing room.
If there was a moment of concern for Dallas, it came in the third inning, when it loaded the bases with no outs but then hit into a 5-2-3 double play. The next batter flied out, and you had to wonder if missing out on an opportunity like that was going to be too much of a burden.
"That was a big play at the time, and I was pretty emotional about that, because it was the one play we couldn't afford," said Texans coach Dillon Smith. "For our boys to keep the right mindset after that, I'm proud of them. They've worked their butt off all week."
Many games have featured massive run totals, and coach Smith has spent a lot of time elevating the spirits of his pitchers, because ERA's have been elevating since the first game action on Wednesday.
"It's a hard tournament to pitch in, seems like, and there are a lot of runs going up. The good thing is, all of our pitchers are hitters, too," he said. "They forget about the four they gave up, and they go drive in two. You keep the mental balance -- you have to contribute, and if you don't on the mound then maybe you do it at the plate."
Looking to put an end to a long game, the Texans started the sixth with a walk to Caleb Watkins; he stole a base and scored in Kaden Wharton's single. Bradshaw walked and Nalley singled to load the bases, and Drew Smith emptied them with a ringing double to nail down the eight-run advantage.
"I was having a pretty good day letting the ball go deep. I knew we had the bases loaded, and I saw he was throwing me some knuckleballs," Drew Smith said. "I saw that pitch again, so I kept my hands back and went right up the middle. We want to keep it going, stay hot, keep energized. We were going crazy in the dugout, so we want to keep that going and trust our pitching."
"You don't get many 20-run games or 15-run games back in Dallas," coach Smith added. "We told the kids, there's no time limit in the semis or finals, so you have two and a half or three hours of baseball where you compete every single inning. There's a two-inning swing here, two-inning swing there, and the team that keeps its focus and plays one inning at a time seems to come out on top."
The Marshalls can get into the championship game if they beat Saddleback Cowboys Black early Sunday.
by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo . -- Some top-of-the-order punch and bottom-of-the-order production is a great way to keep a baseball team in balance and harmony.
The 10u West U Wranglers benefited by runs coming from all corners Saturday at the Triple Crown World Series and rode the strong arm of Lukas Metzen to a 12-3 victory over the Parker Jets to earn a spot in Sunday's championship game. The Wranglers (TX), who lost earlier in the tournament to the Jets (CO), 10-0, will play the winner of the Jets-Orioles game at 11:15 at Howelsen Hill and need just one win in two games to prevail in the double-elim format.
Metzen allowed just five hits; Cole Coffman, No. 2 in the order, had two hits and three RBI while the bottom four batters in the order went 4-for-6 with five walks, four RBI and six runs scored.
"We were very patient at the plate against a very good pitcher. We were able to get a few key walks, and for a team like us, that's very important," said Wrangler coach Kevin Coffman. "That was a big momentum boost that carried us through the game.
"Lukas was able to throw them off with some change-of-paces, moving the ball around. Credit to Lukas - it was fantastic to get a complete game there, a real gem. This was a complete baseball game; we did every phase of the game pretty well today."
Cole Coffman drove in two runs with a first-inning single, and the Jets countered with a single by Madden Kretzer and a sacrifice fly by Hunter Day to make it 2-1. Bases-loaded walks pushed the Wranglers up 4-2 after two innings, and a clever steal of home by Gavin LeMonds kept the Jets in range, 4-2, on a play where the Wranglers were not paying close enough attention to the runner.
That was about it for lapses, however. Jett McBride came across on a double steal to make it 5-2, and the Wranglers poured across seven runs in the sixth inning. Metzen and Coffman again drove in runs, while three other runs were secured off of wild pitches.
"I was focused," Metzen said. "That's pretty much it. I wasn't nervous at all. (The bottom of the order) fired us up."
"We had good hits and some big runs," Cole Coffman said. "My first at-bat, that was my first good hit of the tournament. Lukas had some good curveballs."
Kretzer smoked a long triple for the Jets in the bottom of the sixth and scored on another sacrifice fly by Day. But the threat ended on a line-out double play.
By Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – The Dallas Texans have won four games in the 2019 13u Elite Triple Crown World Series, but none have meant more than its 8-7 thrilling victory over rival Dallas Tigers on Friday. In a game that featured four lead changes and three ties, Drew Smith’s walk-off single was the difference.
“You just have to stay strong in a game like that,” said Brady Luff. “You have to continuously fight back and believe you can do it.”
Coming off a 15-7 win over the Colorado Elite, the Tigers’ offense picked up where it left off, striking for two early runs off four consecutive hits to open up the contest. Texans starting pitcher Kayden Bradshaw did well to right the ship, halting the damage and blanking the Tigers in the second.
So began the first of several comebacks for the Texans.
Zachary Pearrow’s RBI double scored Smith in the home half of the first inning. One full frame later, the Texans drew level when Garrett Hendricks’ grounder allowed Caleb Watkins to scamper home.
Even when the Tigers retook the lead in the third inning off a couple of Texan miscues, head coach Dillon Smith and company vaulted right back on top with RBI singles from Luff and Watkins.
“It’s what you try to teach them day after day,” coach Smith said. “I don’t think we played our best game today, and when that happens you have to fight and keep grinding. We work too hard all summer for us not to keep battling. It showed a lot of their character as a team.”
Momentum seemed to be in the Texans’ favor when Bradshaw scored to give his team its largest lead of the game through four innings, 5-3. However, the fifth would be a different story.
Despite recording the first two outs of the inning, the Tigers stayed alive with a single and walk, turning the lineup back over to leadoff hitter Aidan Viels. With tensions rising, Viels connected on a fastball, launching a three-run home run to recapture the lead for the Tigers, 6-5.
Smith and company waited until the bottom of the sixth inning to mount another charge. By the time Kuff stepped into the batter’s box, there were already two outs and two runners on base.
“The first few pitches I was pulling out, trying to go yard,” Luff said. “It was 0-2, so I was just looking for a fastball to take up the middle.”
Luff did a little more than he hoped. His clutch double scored two, giving the lead back to the Texans, 7-6.
The Tigers were just as eager to steal a win from its Lone Star State compatriots. Another two-out clutch performance tied the game at seven, sending the contest into a dramatic bottom of the seventh inning.
An error, a Bradshaw single and a Layton Nalley walk set the stage for Drew Smith. Missing on curveballs all week long, Smith would make no mistake this time, squeezing out a single and capturing the win in walk-off style.
“I was actually kind of nervous,” Smith said. “I was trying to hit one out the first time. I’m not going to lie. I just choked up, tried to put one in play and finally hit a curveball.”
“Drew is probably the most resilient kid we have. He’s always smiling,” said coach Smith. “He made a pretty bad play in the sixth inning when he got picked off. To be able to come back in the next inning with a smile on his face and come up with the big hit says a lot about who that kid is.”
The Texans will go toe-to-toe with another Texas-based squad when they face Lubbock Baseball Academy in the 13u Elite quarterfinals. The matchup is set for Saturday at 10:15 a.m.
“We’ve been rolling the whole tournament,” Luff said with a grin. “Why stop now?”
by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- The resume of the 13u Utah Marshalls would show the team commonly in the mix of every important tournament, and often one that wins games comfortably.
Teams with that history don't always play as loose when the margin tightens and the stress level rises, but the Marshalls showed no signs of duress Friday in bracket play at the 13u Elite Triple Crown World Series. Starting pitcher Jett Walker allowed just four hits, and the Marshalls scored nine runs in the final two innings to post a 12-2 run-rule victory over Mojo Baseball at Simillion Field.
The Marshalls, seeded No. 2 overall, will play No. 6 Saddleback Cowboys Black on Saturday, looking for a victory to propel them deeper through the winner's half of the bracket.
The score was a snug 3-2 in favor of the Marshalls going to the bottom of the fourth. Utah had an RBI single from Austin Ellis in the first inning, with Ace Reiser adding a solo home run to lead off the second and Corbin Gull earning a bases-loaded walk, also in the second. For Mojo (OK), they brought in runs on a bunt from Rhett Winchester in the second and a single by Weston Thomas in the fourth.
That half of the fourth was huge, as Walker faced a bases-loaded situation with one out. He secured a big strikeout, then fielded his position well on a ball to first base, covering in time for the third out.
"I was trying to focus in there and just throw strikes, look for the ground ball," said Walker, who contributed a two-run single in the fifth. "I felt pretty calm, really just tried to block it all out. We were pretty loose and had fun the whole game."
Dax Watts hit a two-run double in the six-run fourth inning, and Ellis came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 9-2. Walker's hit in the fifth made it 11-2, and the game-winning run came home on a balk.
"I just like seeing the pitches, and I go in and tell the dugout what I saw and what the pitches are like," said leadoff hitter Gull, who scored three runs. "We think a lot about winning this tournament, and doing damage. Jett did amazing, threw strikes, and the defense made plays."
Indeed, Ellis made a superior play at third base to notch the first out of the fifth, and Watts was equal to the challenge on a diving catch in right field for the next out.
"Our kids are hitting the ball well right now, so that always helps -- get some runs behind you and let the pitchers relax a little bit," said Marshalls coach Bill Reiser. "Jett did a great job today, hitting spots and keeping them off-balance. He's been playing these big games since he was 8 years old.
"The kids did a great job responding. There are always areas of improvement, but our kids are starting to peak at the right time. As we get closer, hopefully we will have everything sharpened up."
Easton Spitler and Thomas each had two hits for Mojo.
13u Open -- The top four seeds have advanced in the 13u Platinum Bracket -- in one semifinal Saturday, No. 1 El Monte Dukes will play No. 4 Crown City American, while No. 3 Rattlers Black will face No. 2 New Level Extreme-Ringrose.
By Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Lubbock Baseball Academy took little time to assert themselves Friday in the first round of bracket play in the 13u Elite Division at the Triple Crown World Series. Opening with five runs, Lubbock cruised into the quarterfinals with an 18-7 win over Inland Valley Venom.
“We’ve always swung the bat pretty well and we wanted to continue that momentum,” said LBA head coach Taylor Fortney. “The one benefit of being a lower seed is that you get your sticks first. We came out looking for pitches to hit, our boys were aggressive and we had good results.”
Fortney’s crew certainly look determined from the get-go. Eight of the first 10 Lubbock batters that stepped into the batter’s box all reached safely. In an inning that featured five runs on five hits, it was Nano Mendoza’s three-run bomb that stood out the most.
“First pitch, I was expecting a fastball right down the middle,” said Mendoza. “I jumped on top of it and it ended up clearing the fence.”
With a sizeable lead in hand, starting pitcher Landon Hutcheson had plenty of breathing room to work with.
“I had a lot of confidence walking out to the mound in that first inning,” Hutcheson said. “I had good command of my fastball early. My changeup and curveball began to come around as the game progressed.”
Timothy Haynes’ RBI single added a run in the second inning before Lubbock exploded for four more runs in the third. Eli Reeves, Ashton Lucio and Hudson Hutcheson each collected RBI doubles as the Lubbock lead stretched to double digits, 10-0.
Inland Valley managed to squeeze two runs across in the home half of the third and another in the fourth, but the persistent defense combined with Hutcheson’s command of the strike zone kept the Venom at arm’s length.
“We’ve struggled to throw strikes this first couple of days,” said Fortney. “Landon was able to go out there, take control and let our bats take care of it. We knew that if we kept their runs to a minimum, our hitting would take care of the rest.”
With both teams holding serve in the fifth inning, Lubbock looked to put the game on ice in the sixth. Eight more runs, including a three-run home run from Bryce Leblanc and a second three-run rocket from Mendoza skyrocketed Lubbock’s run to total to 18.
“Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused when you’re up big,” Mendoza said. “I kept seeing off-speed pitches after I hit my first home run. I waited patiently for another fastball. When I saw it in that last inning, I was ready.”
The Venom fought for four hard-earned runs in the bottom half of the sixth as the two-hour time limit expired, but the effort was too little, too late for the California Natives as Lubbock moved on to the 13u Elite quarterfinals.
“It’s been impressive to watch this team come together,” explained Fortney. “It’s the end of a long summer but their camaraderie is off the charts. It’s 10 guys coming together on and off the field. They’re off doing excursions when we don’t have games, they’re in each other’s condos at night.
“It’s been fun to watch them come together and then be able to turn around, get better as individuals and have a great run at a tournament like this.”
Lubbock will lock horns with the Dallas Texans in the quarterfinals in a matchup to be played at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. Facing the No. 1 overall seed and an intrastate rival, Lubbock will be fired up to continue its 2019 World Series run.
“Not many people get to come down here at the end of the season and play baseball,” said Hutcheson. “It’s a cool experience we’re looking to cap it off with a win.”
by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- Getting in the right position and escalating their presence were the big early concerns for the Saddleback Cowboys Black baseball team.
With bracket play beginning at the 13u Elite Triple Crown World Series on Friday, the Cowboys had already earned a favorable spot in the mix, while showing plenty of offensive pop along the way. As the stakes grew higher, the Cowboys rose to the moment as well, taking down Warhawks-Dodson by a score of 16-1 at Similliion Field.
The sixth-seeded Cowboys (CA) will face the No. 2-seeded Utah Marshalls on Saturday morning, hoping to press on in the winner's half of the 13u Elite championship chase.
Saddleback jumped ahead with six runs in the top of the first inning Friday, with the Warhawks (CO) minimizing some of the damage by turning an inning-ending double play. In the bottom of the frame, the Warhawks began with a double, walk and RBI single, looking to get right back in the fight. But on the single, two runners ran into outs on the bases, dousing the rally.
Saddleback pushed across four more runs in the top of the second, and starter Ethan Porter then pitched four peaceful innings to close with a three-hitter.
"We swing the bats; we get guys to throw us fastballs, and we like fastballs," said Saddleback coach Wade Jackson, whose team scored 38 runs in three pool play games. "Coming in, our goal was to be in the top six so we didn't have to play two games today, and that's what we did. We knew if we played our game we can beat anyone out here."
Logan de Groot had a double, triple and home run and drove in three runs; Lucas Sarantos homered in the second inning, and Joell Castro launched a home run to lead off the third as the Cowboys began to run away. Porter helped his cause with a bases-loaded double that cleared the bags in the third inning.
"Yesterday, we weren't doing that well, and today we put the bat on the ball. We just came in and didn't really care what seed we were," Porter said. "The double play really hyped me up there. My slider was really working well today; they weren't swinging at it because it started outside then went right over the plate."
"The biggest thing is minimizing (the opponents') runs. We put up six in the first, and if you give three back, it changes the momentum," Jackson added. "Turning the double play was a big moment, then coming back and scoring four more. Ethan Porter threw very well, three hits, attacked the strike zone which is what we expect him to do, especially when we have a lead."
Tyler Covington scored three runs from the leadoff spot and made a sensational catch in centerfield in the third inning. Cole Grey added two singles and two RBI; Jake Lavin also drove in two runs.
"I was just looking for a fastball in my zone, and I saw it," de Groot said about his home run, which lingered in the air before landing well past the leftfield fence. "We kept the energy up and kept swinging. Ethan was great, threw lots of strikes and kept the hitters off balance."
The No. 3-seeded Warhawks will now tackle the loser's half of the bracket, with an 8 a.m. game Saturday at Simillion Field.
By Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Despite hailing from Southern California, the El Monte Dukes didn’t need time to adjust to the thin mountain air of Colorado. Bats in hand, the Dukes put up double-digit run totals in two of its three pool play games, including a 25-8 victory over Building Champions-Olson.
“We’ve just been playing good all around,” said head coach Jorge Almeda. “Our pitching has been good all around, the defense has been on and our hitting is just starting to come around.”
It didn’t take long for El Monte to flex its power. The Dukes’ cleanup hitter Malaki Pelayo stepped to the plate in the top of the opening frame with two runners already aboard. Wasting little time, Pelayo rocketed a two-run shot over the fence, setting the tone early.
“I was trying to hit for power,” explained Pelayo. “I was just trying to work line drives. Their pitchers were hitting their spots inside. I just made a good swing on one.”
Two batters later, Ernesto Garcia matched Pelayo’s effort with a home run of his own, launching one over the right-field fence.
“I was honestly just trying to get on base,” Garcia said. “He threw one down the middle and I jumped on it.”
Watching six total cross the plate in the top half of the first, Building Champions were determined to mount a similar effort in the bottom half. Sending eight players to the batter’s box, Building Champions managed four runs to pull within two, 6-4.
However, El Monte kept the pedal to the metal offensively. The second inning saw 13 runs for the Dukes, highlighted by a second home run from Garcia and a three-run shot from Victor Morales.
“We always hit pretty well as a group,” Almeda said. “Of course, the thin air up here compared to California helps, too.”
Building Champions put up its second consecutive four-spot in the bottom of the second inning but despite all its offensive success, the Kansas City natives still trailed, 19-8.
For El Monte, remaining focused on the task at hand became the primary objective.
“It’s crucially important to stay focused, especially in pool play,” said Almeda. “Every run matters when you’re going for that top seed, and we really wanted that top seed.”
Relief pitcher Justin Cardenas made sure the 11-run advantage remained intact during the middle parts of the contest, allowing the offense to put up six more in the top of the fourth to stretch the El Monte margin, 25-8.
By the time the bottom end of the fourth inning came around, the Dukes needed just three outs to secure its win as the two-hour time limit passed by.
Almeda turned to Victor Morales to finish out an already successful afternoon for El Monte. The hard-throwing right-hander surrendered two walks but fanned three Building Champions batters to close out the game.
“Like I said, our pitching has been spot on,” Almeda said. “Everyone we’ve thrown out there has been able to do what we’ve asked them to do.”
The impressive victory earned El Monte exactly what it was looking for, the No. 1 overall seed in the 13u Platinum Bracket. The Dukes will begin bracket play on Friday afternoon as they await the winner between Ruachis and Bombers Baseball Club Blue.
“We came here to play hard and get the win,” said Pelayo. “We need to stay error-free and keep hitting those pitches over the plate and we’ll be just fine.”