The view is always nicer from the winner's bracket, and no one had to tell the Lone Tree Halos (CO) on Friday that their window of opportunity was closing.
Trailing 5-1 against the OBA Pistols (OK) in their 11u Elite World Series bracket game in Steamboat Springs, the Halos sprang to life in the bottom of the fifth inning by getting the first five batters to reach base. The rally became a six-run burst of productivity, and the Halos made it stand up for a 7-5 win to advance in the double-elim bracket.
The No. 4 seeded Halos will take on the top-seeded Santa Clarita Clutch on Saturday (8:30 a.m. at Howelsen Hill), looking to keep the rhythm that eluded them for a hefty portion of Friday's contest.
"We've been in situations like this before, and the kids are so resilient. They believe in themselves, and it just takes one inning for them to get their momentum going," said Halos head coach John Stranak. "And we had the guy out there who could throw strikes and keep (the Pistols) in check."
That would be pitcher Hayden Stranak, who came in relief in the third inning and doused a threat with two quick outs. He only allowed two hits the rest of the way and rang up five strikeouts for good measure.
"We really battled through that one. That was a team win, and we all made plays in the infield and the outfield," Hayden Stranak said. "I just wanted to throw strikes. If they put the ball in play, I have a good feeling that my teammates will make the plays. I felt really good."
The Pistols jumped ahead on a home run from Cash Williams in the top of the second; in the third inning, they got a two-run double from Cooper Auschwitz, who later scored on a wild pitch. A run-scoring groundout by Braden Pride pushed the Pistols up, 5-0.
Hayden Stranak drove in Trevor Gottsegen with a double in the fourth to breathe some early life for the Halos. With the bases loaded in the fifth, Ethan Adams took a pitch off the helmet to bring in a run, and Carter Landen followed with a two-run double. With Andrew Hover's single bringing in the go-ahead run, Hayden Stranak added one more hit for an insurance run, bringing the score to 7-5.
"I was just thinking get a double or a single ... we just need one more run for the lead. Even if I got an out there, I wanted that RBI," said Hover, who caught the game and made a tough basket-catch of a foul ball for the next-to-last out of the game. "As a team, we are good enough to come back anytime, and it's something we've done in the past. Hayden threw strikes; they hit the ball, but the defense was solid behind him."
"In the fifth, Jack (Wesolowski) led off with a hit; Braedan (Reichert) laid down a bunt that went foul, but we had confidence he could come back and get a hit," coach Stranak said. "Getting those two guys on, we knew the momentum had shifted."
In the 11u Elite Bracket, the top four seeds from pool play advanced in Friday's action.