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.