The Utah Yard Dawgs were looking for the reset button after the first day of the 13u Elite Division of the Triple Crown World Series. An opening 20-10 loss to the Saddleback Cowboys Black left a bad taste in the mouth of head coach Josh Atkinson.
It wouldn’t take long for Utah to find its groove on Thursday. The Yard Dawgs flew past the Omaha Pacesetters, 15-7, and closed out pool play with an impressive and gritty victory over West Coast Baseball, 13-12.
“The kids came out a little flat yesterday and weren’t really motivated,” said Atkinson. “After they lost, they definitely found some of the motivation they needed. The next two games they were upbeat, wanted to win and were positive the whole time.”
Utah didn’t show any signs of rust after the 30-minute break between its win over the Pacesetters and the start of the afternoon’s final contest at Howelsen Hill. The Yard Dawgs stacked together six consecutive hits in the opening inning as seven runs would cross home plate by the time the dust settled.
“They were throwing a lot of off-speed pitches,” said Preston Jacobson, who singled and scored in the breakout first inning. “We had to sit back and wait for the pitches to come to us. It took a lot of patience.”
West Coast Baseball had nearly 24 hours to think about its final pool play contest. After a rocky start on the defensive end, West Coast’s offense was in fine form. Down seven, they rallied to send all 10 batters to the dish and plated five runs to get back in the game.
Nalder kicked the top of the second inning off with a double, standing in scoring position as Jacobson walked into the batters box. Where Nalder rattled the centerfield wall, Jacobsen cleared everything for a two-run home run.
Now leading, 9-5, starting pitcher Stockton Mathis had a little bit of a cushion to deal with. Despite a troubled first inning, Mathis rebounded with a quick second frame that including a nifty 5-4-3 double play.
“I just wanted to get it over the plate,” Mathis said. “Overall, it was just about having each other’s backs out there.”
Mathis helped himself out in the third inning, leading off with a single. Nalder, three batters later, drove Mathis home as part of back-to-back RBI efforts for the Yard Dawgs. Utah secured a third run to cap off the inning, extending the lead, 12-5.
Again, West Coast would counter in the bottom half of the inning. Mirroring their efforts from the opening frame, West Coast capitalized on two Utah errors, plating five runs to creep within two, 12-10.
As the two-hour time limit approached, the Yard Dawgs added a much-needed insurance run in the fourth thanks to Mathis’ third single of the afternoon that scored Taylor Engh. With the game shifting to the bottom end of the fourth, Utah needed just three outs to end pool play on a high note.
Atkinson tabbed Kaden Miller to finish off the job. Even though West Coast earned two runs on a pair of hits and a balk, Miller confidently shrugged off the pressure and struck out the final batter, ending the game, 13-12.
“I have coached these kids for a lot of baseball games this year,” Atkinson explained. “I know how they are. I know how they are going to compete. I was confident that they were going to make the right plays. It was scary there at the end but they pulled through, making the plays they needed to win the game.”