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.