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.”