After an undefeated run to the cusp of a championship, the 13u Team Colorado-Altitude Baseball squad did just about everything it could to not look ready for the big moment Sunday, surrendering 18 runs to Millard Elite (NE) and facing a rematch in the double-elimination format at the Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Fully appreciating that their roster would not settle for consecutive losses on the big stage, Team Colorado played well when Game 2 was close and then broke it open, securing an 18-3 victory and leaving no doubt which team was built for the long haul in an event that can require teams to play 10 or more games.
Leading 5-3 after five innings, Team Colorado started the sixth with four straight hits and scored five runs; that was followed by an eight-run outburst in the top of the seventh and, eventually, a happy dogpile of players up the third-base line.
Game 1, where Millard prevailed 18-8, was affected in many ways by an incident where a Team Colorado baserunner intentionally ran over a fielder and was summarily ejected. Millard scored eight runs in the next inning, and the inevitability of a Game 2 was clear.
“Our guy made the wrong play running to first base; he made a judgment mistake, and that was a big mistake,” said Team Colorado coach Gene Macias. “Our kids felt bad, he felt bad, and that provided the momentum Millard needed to come out and kick our butts, and good for them.
“For (Game 2) … we value playing seven innings of baseball, and we don’t get too high or too low. If you want to beat us, you’ll have to do it for seven innings, and so will Millard. I have a lot of respect for that team; you have to beat them, because they won’t beat themselves. When it was 5-3, I told the boys, continue with that chip-away mentality. I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
The key moment, those five runs in the sixth, was fueled by a leadoff double from Reese Chapman and then singles from William Vasseur, Zander Reese and Owen Marsh. A sacrifice fly from Dorian Pacheco added to the party, and Carson Koenen came through with a nice two-run single.
Leadoff hitter Alex Cunningham was a beast, going 4-for-5 with a double and triple, three runs and two stolen bases. Chapman and March each drove in three runs; Cooper Catskee and Dallas Macias also drove in two runs.
“That first game, we just weren’t prepared for how well (Millard) was going to play. The second game, we realized we had to step it up and get it over with,” Cunningham said. “Hitting leadoff is one of the most important parts of a baseball team, and you have to start strong. It felt good.”
When the game was still in doubt, Dallas Macias was very stable and sturdy on the pitching mound, throwing five innings and working out of a bases-loaded moment in the fourth inning. Needing two innings of relief to wrap it up, Catskee allowed two hits and a walk and kept the scoreboard clean.
“I felt prepared, and we had very good hitting to start off the game,” said Dallas Macias, as his team got off to a great start by scoring four runs in the first inning. “That gave me a lot of confidence with my fastball and curveball; my fastball, when I can locate it like that, I can get on top and use my off-speed. That offense gives a pitcher a lot of confidence – that was really fun. Everybody was up there having a good time, hitting the ball around.”
“We earned the seed where we didn’t have to play as many games in the loser’s bracket,” coach Macias said, “so we spent some pitching early to make sure we didn’t do what we did two years ago and force us to win seven games to get to the championship. Pitching gives your team courage; Dallas was locating, hitting his spots … Cooper closed it down magnificently.”
Millard got a home run from Cole Goeser in Game 2; in Game 1, Camden Madsen had two hits and four RBI, Andrew Reiss had two hits and three RBI, and two RBI came off the bats of Kyan Lodice, J.C. Dermody and Connor Dixon.
In a nice moment of recognizing the efforts of their players, the Millard coaching staff had several players take their spot on the pitching mound in the final inning, helping to send off the athletes who were playing together for the final time as a group under the Millard banner. The team played four games on Sunday.