By Kyle Koso
GYPSUM, CO – When it’s not a nauseating relentless stress-fest, baseball can sure be a lot of fun.
The last hour of Friday’s Triple Crown 13u World Series game between the New Mexico Blast Select and the Spiders Elite had nerves clanging like two drum sets dumped down a metal stairwell, with the Spiders escaping by the slimmest fashion with a 5-4 victory to advance in the 24-team double-elim championship bracket. The Spiders (Parker, CO), seeded 20th after pool play, will take on No. 12 Bombers Baseball Club on Saturday morning, looking to continue their charge to the title.
A 22-9 victory early Friday certainly lifted the Spiders’ spirits, as did jumping out to a 4-0 lead over the No. 4 Blast (Albuquerque, NM). But the bats went dry, and it was left to defense, pitching, and some last-second good fortune to send the team to victory – the game ended when a Blast baserunner lost track of the outs, and a flyball to centerfield was turned into a double play.
“Those 22 runs were amazing; the kids are capable of it, but they are kids so you never know when it’s going to happen. We knew we were facing one of the best teams here (in the Blast),” said Spiders coach Jon Loomer. “And we knew it would be hard to keep scoring and that they’d keep fighting. It was an awesome game to be part of.”
Grady Jacobs hit a two-strike, two-out three-run homer in the first; Aaron Crown bashed a solo home run in the third, and the Spiders had what looked to be a nice lead. Loomer thought Jacobs’ home run was the key moment in the game, where Jacobs had taken a very aggressive swing for strike two before getting it just right on the next offering.
“Running the bases, I was so pumped up, and everyone in the dugout after it was the same way,” Jacobs said. “We kept the momentum going the rest of the way. This was really fun, but nervous. It was scary trying to hold them.”
The Blast crawled back in the fight with two runs in the fourth off Spiders starter Jacob Osborne. Everett Burdett hit a solo homer, and Jeremiah Bustillos walked and scored on an error, and Spiders reliever Parker Klenovich took over in the fifth. He gave up two runs, with Sebastian Chavez doubling and scoring, and Noah Cardenas reaching on a single and coming across on a bases-loaded walk by Aaron Sanchez.
Klenovich got out of a bases-loaded jam in that inning with a popout. The sixth was relatively quiet, but in the seventh the leadoff batter reached for the Blast. A strikeout and that unexpected double play finally allowed the Spiders to breathe.
“I’m just trying to help out my team. I just have to tune everything out and play my heart out,” Klenovich said. “Our dugout was screaming the whole game, trying to rattle their pitcher. It’s hard to tell if (we were overlooked), hard to know what’s in other people’s minds, but they might have been overlooking us a bit.”
As one might expect, there was full-on appreciation for the pitching work done by Osborne and Klenovich, who had to keep punching the clock when the Spiders bats went quiet (three hits, a walk and a reach-by-error in the last five innings.
“I was glad for our pitchers – that was a god-hitting team,” Jacobs said.
“It makes me emotional, how they play. The thing is, they have lost and failed in situations like that before,” Loomer added. “You can’t succeed unless you experience situations like that many times. You build the emotional calluses to get through that … the other team is screaming, and you know how good they are. To keep standing up there and pumping in strikes, making plays in the field when the spotlight is on … I’m just proud of them.”
There were other early upsets in bracket play, as the top-seeded Colorado Twins were beaten by the Texas Bombers, 13-6, and the No. 2 Texas Bombers Sabatella squad was bounced by the Rangers.