With the Saddleback Cowboys Black (CA) rumbling through the top of the bracket at the 13u Elite Triple Crown World Series, it was flat-out shocking to see them yanked to a stop.
But blessed with an offense capable of springing to life at any time, the Cowboys got right back to work Sunday in the championship game against the Utah Yard Dawgs, scoring seven runs in the second inning and eventually posting a 13-3 run-rule victory in five innings at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. Going 6-1 overall, the Cowboys prevailed as the Dawgs made an impressive run through the loser's bracket by winning one game Friday, two on Saturday and one more Sunday morning.
The Yard Dawgs scored two runs in the top of the first as Kaden Miller and Hunter Gatti reached to start the game and Evan Atkinson brought them in with a double. In the bottom of the frame, the Cowboys began with a double, a double and a single, but just got one run when Zach Fjelstad hit into a double play.
Utah brought another across in the top of the second when Miller singled in Daxton Maroney. The Cowboys immediately responded as the first five batters reached, and the next two also got on thanks to two errors. Dylan Werhas contributed a key two-run single, and Fjelstad added his own two-run, two-out hit after falling behind in the count 0-2.
"I took a deep breath and regrouped at 0-2, told myself this was a new at-bat that had nothing to do with the double play. I took one the other way on an outside pitch," Fjelstad said. "We all stayed pretty positive after (the first inning), got off the bench and were cheering our teammates. We started hitting again in the second and it all felt better."
"These guys have been good about putting up runs all tournament, and all summer. They usually find a way; they are a competitive group and don't shy away from anything," said Cowboys coach Richard Mercado, whose team came back from an 8-0 hole Saturday to win. "Zach grounded into that double play, and he's going to be down a little after that. He came up with a big hit, and that speaks to him and all our players, how they stay mentally prepared and move on to the next pitch."
Luke Spiridonoff launched a two-run homer for the Cowboys in the third inning to extend the lead, and the finishing blows came in the fifth. Werhas reached after being hit by a pitch; leadoff hitter Blake Wilson singled, Landyn McKeown also singled and Drew Rutter closed the afternoon with a two-run single to invoke the run rule.
"I like leadoff because usually the first pitch is a fastball and usually a strike, so it's pretty easy to hit. That perfect pitch, you can hit pretty far," said Wilson, who had three hits and three runs to go with an RBI. "We felt pretty good after the first, and maybe some were a little down after that double play. But we were all hyped and pumped up. We were always one game at a time, but all of us expected to go pretty far in the tournament."
Cowboys starter Luke Shulga also deserved some recognition after throwing 3 1/3 solid innings. Fjelstad came in to close the game, allowing one hit and two walks.
"(Shulga) didn't have his best command today, but that's a good team over there that was here for a reason," Mercado said. "They played a lot of games; we expected them to put up a fight. But we thought if we could get up and score some runs early, ideally we could wear them down."
In the 13u division that was also decided Sunday, Premier BBC Purple held off Bad Rock BBC, 15-3.