As it turned out, Thursday’s game at the Triple Crown 13u World Series between the Nebraska Bison and the Nevada Golden Spikes Pirates would not send either squad into the upper 16-team bracket, where a double-elimination journey awaits to determine the event’s overall champion.
So it helps when there are entertaining and hard-fought battles along the way, moments to file away as memories if the goals of coming to Steamboat Springs have to be modified. For the Golden Spikes Pirates, they at least can say they played a lot of close games – so close, the team finished with three ties in three pool play games, the last one an 8-8 roller coaster ride versus the Nebraska Bison at Adams Field.
The Pirates climbed off the canvas in the last game, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Consecutive singles from Brenden Haney, Tyler Stott and Jake Oscarson set the table and brought one run in, with the final tally coming across on a sacrifice fly from Dallin Smith.
“It’s like, we know we can win and are about to win, because we had three ties. We’re right there, about to find that winning category, and we’re persistent and know how to work together,” said Oscarson, who had a big two-run triple in the fifth and was able to trot home on an error when the throw to third went into the dugout. “We’re still not satisfied, so we’ll work harder and try to get that win. I was at the plate (before the triple), imagining myself hitting the ball in the gap, crushing it and helping my teammates. I knew it was going to happen – I was so pumped.”
Trailing 7-6 in the sixth inning, the Pirates got the leadoff hitter on, and a bunt moved him to second base. Coach Garrett Smith waved the runner to third when the base was left undefended, but the Bison recovered just in time to ring up an unusual double play.
“We have battled every single game; in each of those ties, we’ve come back … the guys are resilient and fight, and I think they feel there is some magic in the air here in Steamboat Springs,” coach Smith said. “We’ve been together since 9u, and this is our last tournament together as a team. I think they are trying to do it for their teammates.
“We had that opportunity in the sixth there, got aggressive and took a chance, and it didn’t work out. That took the wind out of our sails a bit, but once we got to the last inning, we felt we had an opportunity to come back. That other team was really good, gave up just one walk, so we said don’t look for a walk. We were up on hits, and I said, keep that mentality of one base hit at a time, we’ll be good.”
Giving up that lead made the tie less pleasurable for the Bison, who had a 7-3 advantage after the top of the fifth inning. In that frame, after a leadoff flyout to right field, the Bison got hits from Jordan Smith, Maddux Fleck, Logan Shirk and Carson Baker – after a pitching change, two more hits came off the bats off Aiden Rupprecht and Landon Meyer. That all resulted in four runs, and the Bison scored one more in the seventh.
“It was really intense in the fifth; you could feel everybody’s emotions going up, and that was pretty great,” said Rupprecht, who hit a monstrous solo home run in the third and doubled in the fifth. “I was happy to get my team back in the game.”
“We didn’t get done what we wanted to accomplish, which was to get in the top bracket. We’ve got to get the kids to understand it’s a whole new tournament now,” said Bison coach Travis Meyer. “There will be some good teams in the middle bracket, so the goal is to go win it.
“We try to teach them, the numbers don’t lie and the deeper you get in the count, the harder it is to hit. We try to be aggressive on first-pitch fastballs, let the breaking balls go, and since they are 13, sometimes they’re good at it and sometimes they’re not.”
Meyer had two hits from the leadoff spot; Emerson Dolph had a double and a run, and Dalton Bargo also drove in a run.