by Thomas Hoffman
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Trailing twice in a game against BTL Hornets-Porta, Laguna Lightning responded valiantly, claiming its second straight win, 8-6, to open the 2019 13u Triple Crown World Series.
“That was a big win,” said head coach Dave Dopf. “We had to come from behind twice and we did. Our guys were just resilient. I can’t say enough about this team. Every single member of this team is important and it showed today.”
Laguna jumped on the board quickly in the opening frame of the contest. Leadoff hitter Dylan LaMaison climbed aboard with a single and scored two batters later on an error from the third baseman.
BTL responded quickly. Two runs from the home side in an inning highlighted by a solo home run from Dallas Keaton vaulted the Hornets to a 2-1 advantage.
In stepped Chase Sutton and the Lightning offense. With Brady Franzini already on first base, Sutton matched Keaton with a home run of his own, propelling Laguna on top, 3-2.
“I was seeing a lot of fastballs,” said Sutton. “At every point in the ballgame, I had faith that our offense was going to do its job and score runs. I was lucky enough to be a part of that today.”
The Lightning added a fourth run in the third inning and appeared to be on cruise control. In the fourth, however, BTL flipped the script.
As five of the first six batters reached safely, the Hornets managed to plate three runs, stunning Laguna and stealing back the lead, 5-4.
“We’re never going to quit,” said Lightning pitcher Wyatt Nichol. “Most teams in that situation are going to be a little down. Our energy was great all afternoon and I think it fueled us until the end.”
BTL and Laguna traded blows in the fifth inning, keeping the Lightning’s deficit at one. Earning the right to bat in the sixth frame, Dopf and company had one last chance to produce something special.
Back-to-back Hornet errors sparked a little life into the Lightning dugout, and a walk from Franzini had tensions on both sides at an all-time high with Sutton striding to the plate for Laguna.
“Coach told me I was going to get a fastball,” Sutton said. “Even though coach told me, I wasn’t really ready for that first one. When I saw the second one outside, though, I just swung.”
Rocketing his second-pitch fastball to the fence, Sutton unloaded the bases for a three-RBI triple.
“Chase is a very athletic kid,” said Dopf. “Every once in a while he’s capable of going out there and doing something special. He’s only 13 years old but played to his potential today.”
Leguna’s job wasn’t over yet. Despite its two-run advantage, the Lightning still needed to shut down BTL one last time to seal the victory. Taking over pitching duties in the fifth inning, Nicholson trotted back out to the mound in the sixth.
“In a moment like that, you really have to lean on your teammates,” Nicholson explained. “Hearing everyone cheering in the dugouts and the stands, I thought to myself, ‘Ok, I really have to get this done.”
A two-out double would be the only blemish on Nicholson’s final stat line Wednesday afternoon. The right-handed calmly collected the game’s final three outs, handing Laguna the 8-6 win.
“I think we just continued to put pressure on their defense all day,” Dopf said. “Even though it was an error that got us going, it was a hard-hit ball and I think it gave us a little spark. One thing led to another and our boys were able to pull off something tremendous.”
Its two wins leave Laguna atop pool D in the 13u Division. The Lightning will look to continue its winning ways against Rauchis on Thursday before the double-elimination bracket begins on Friday.
“Sometimes you have to be a little lucky to win,” said Nicholson. “We were a little lucky today but I think our energy and team chemistry will keep us going the rest of the way.”