By Kyle Koso
GYPSUM, Colo. – From time to time, teams from the same club organization will face off in a tournament setting, which typically cools some of the emotions that can bubble when brackets start heating up.
But you don’t want to be too chill – that much was understood between Slammers Reign and Slammers Black on Saturday during the 14u Triple Crown World Series. With some solid early play and a quick response when the score got tight, the Reign closed out a 11-5 victory at Eagle Valley High School to earn a spot in Sunday’s championship game in the double-elimination format.
The Black will face the CC Bruins early Sunday, and the winner will take on the Reign, who just need one win over two games to claim the title.
Saturday, the Reign stitched together a 3-0 lead after two innings with extra-base hits from Luke Gaca Thiele and Liam Whalen moving things forward. In the top of the fourth, the Black responded with two runs on a double from Max Olson.
Offensively, the Reign countered with four runs in the bottom of the frame. Gaca Thiele and Whalen had hits again, as did Jude Schechter, Jake Fladabo and Damien Alvarez. Most significantly, Reign starter Heston Edens finished it off with calm, resolute work without ever seeming too troubled by baserunners of other stress points in the matchup between Denver metro area stablemates.
“I’ve worked on all that in bullpens and my workouts, on all these stressful situations. I get in them a lot, so I just try to keep my cool,” Edens said. “Keep my breathing down, keep my heart rate down and try my best to throw strikes. Try to force contact in those stressful situations.
“The (defense) was a big help. It’s good to have some of the better players in the state behind you. Just keep giving them ground balls and fly balls. It’s a great feeling to be out here, working hard, and hopefully get the championship.”
The Reign pulled ahead 10-2 after the fifth inning and only let their guard down a bit in the sixth with a couple defensive misplays. Edens drove in the final run in the bottom of the sixth, when the time limit for the game expired.
Schechter had three hits from the end of the batting order, with Fladabo registering three hits from the leadoff spot.
“I want to go (opposite field) and try to; if I get an inside pitch I’ll pull it. Mostly, keep the hands to the ground and try to hit the ball hard,” Schechter said. “Heston pitched really well, got a lot of strikes, got a lot of groundouts.”
“We played deeper in the outfield today. The ball was really carrying, and they have some good hitters with some power,” said Reign coach Frank Krembles. “We had a great mentality. There were some plays we should have probably made, but none of that bothered Heston at all.”