by Kyle Koso
GYPSUM, CO – For two-plus decades, teams from Texas have journeyed to Colorado for the Triple Crown World Series, hunting for great competition and cooler weather.
But there was nothing chill about the Lone Star tone filtering through Friday’s game at the Eagles Sports Complex between the Dallas Tigers-Miller (Rockwall, TX) and Pride Baseball (College Station, TX), especially with the score tied at 7-all at the 13u World Series in Vail Valley. The Tigers squad ended up getting slam-dunk relief pitching and a cluster of great at-bats in the final innings to pull away to a 13-7 victory.
Seeded 10th out of 24 teams, the Tigers will now play Saturday morning against the No. 18 Rangers in the winner’s double-elim championship bracket.
A 17-2 win got the day started right for the Tigers, and they had a 6-2 lead entering the bottom of the third against Pride, which put up one quick run and came all the way back to tie it with a four-run fifth. Staying positive and focused despite losing their lead was the key for the Tigers.
“I always tell them, get ready to be punched in the mouth. It’s never too big of a lead, especially against a good-hitting team,” said Tigers coach Matt Miller. “You expect the unexpected. Out motto is relentless’ they lived by that, and it showed today.”
Braxton Gordon hit a three-run homer in the third for the Tigers, who regained the lead in the sixth on a sacrifice fly from Mick Randle and a run by Hezekiah Rodriguez, who scored on an error. They backed it up with four more in the top of the seventh; Rodriguez hit a two-out two-run double for the biggest blow, with Randle and Jordan Tamez also driving in runs to pad the lead.
“I was just going up thinking about my last at-bat, middle away, and I saw my pitch and took it,” Gordon said about his home run. “We never gave up, kept fighting, and there was no way we were going to lose. If we keep up the work, we should be top 5 easy.”
“We struggled about midway through the year with situational hitting, and the last month and a half all we’ve been talking about is, in these big events, when we get guys on we have to cash in. They do all the work,” Miller added.
Also playing a huge role in the Tigers’ win was relief pitcher Colton Laughtrey, who went 2 1/3 innings allowing two hits and notching three strikeouts. He got a break on a terrific stretching catch by Rolando Cantu on a low throw to first base to end the sixth, and Laughtrey closed the game by fielding his position nicely on a tapper to the mound.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and not give up any free bases,” he said. “Had to keep it down in the zone; if you go up, they are going to hit it. We never got down; if a bad play happens, keep your head up and keep going. This feels good, being the underdog and coming out on top in a close game.”
“Colton has been a dog since age 8 or 9; I’ve coached him for a long time, and he’s been in these moments,” Miler said. “He’s mature in these moments. He’s got my trust and the team’s trust, and I think that’s why he’s able to do what he does.”
Three players had two RBI for Pride – Colton McDaniel (also with two doubles), Jack Weibe (a clutch two-out single in the fifth) and Cutter Warren (two hits).
10u ROUNDUP – Three of the top four seeds advanced through the championship bracket on Friday in the 10u division of the TC World Series in Vail Valley.
Top-seeded Saddleback Vigilantes-Black got through safely and will face No. 5 Dallas Tigers-Ochoa on Saturday morning, with No. 2 Elite Baseball-Vais and No. 3 Saddleback Vigilantes Cardinal also looking to advance in the double-elim format.