by Kyle Koso
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- The resume of the 13u Utah Marshalls would show the team commonly in the mix of every important tournament, and often one that wins games comfortably.
Teams with that history don't always play as loose when the margin tightens and the stress level rises, but the Marshalls showed no signs of duress Friday in bracket play at the 13u Elite Triple Crown World Series. Starting pitcher Jett Walker allowed just four hits, and the Marshalls scored nine runs in the final two innings to post a 12-2 run-rule victory over Mojo Baseball at Simillion Field.
The Marshalls, seeded No. 2 overall, will play No. 6 Saddleback Cowboys Black on Saturday, looking for a victory to propel them deeper through the winner's half of the bracket.
The score was a snug 3-2 in favor of the Marshalls going to the bottom of the fourth. Utah had an RBI single from Austin Ellis in the first inning, with Ace Reiser adding a solo home run to lead off the second and Corbin Gull earning a bases-loaded walk, also in the second. For Mojo (OK), they brought in runs on a bunt from Rhett Winchester in the second and a single by Weston Thomas in the fourth.
That half of the fourth was huge, as Walker faced a bases-loaded situation with one out. He secured a big strikeout, then fielded his position well on a ball to first base, covering in time for the third out.
"I was trying to focus in there and just throw strikes, look for the ground ball," said Walker, who contributed a two-run single in the fifth. "I felt pretty calm, really just tried to block it all out. We were pretty loose and had fun the whole game."
Dax Watts hit a two-run double in the six-run fourth inning, and Ellis came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 9-2. Walker's hit in the fifth made it 11-2, and the game-winning run came home on a balk.
"I just like seeing the pitches, and I go in and tell the dugout what I saw and what the pitches are like," said leadoff hitter Gull, who scored three runs. "We think a lot about winning this tournament, and doing damage. Jett did amazing, threw strikes, and the defense made plays."
Indeed, Ellis made a superior play at third base to notch the first out of the fifth, and Watts was equal to the challenge on a diving catch in right field for the next out.
"Our kids are hitting the ball well right now, so that always helps -- get some runs behind you and let the pitchers relax a little bit," said Marshalls coach Bill Reiser. "Jett did a great job today, hitting spots and keeping them off-balance. He's been playing these big games since he was 8 years old.
"The kids did a great job responding. There are always areas of improvement, but our kids are starting to peak at the right time. As we get closer, hopefully we will have everything sharpened up."
Easton Spitler and Thomas each had two hits for Mojo.
13u Open -- The top four seeds have advanced in the 13u Platinum Bracket -- in one semifinal Saturday, No. 1 El Monte Dukes will play No. 4 Crown City American, while No. 3 Rattlers Black will face No. 2 New Level Extreme-Ringrose.