by Adam Burns
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Sure, pitching is the name of the game in claiming a Triple Crown Sports Omaha Slumpbuster championship trophy. Quite simply, you just gotta have enough available – and productive – arms.
But it also helps when a team has a competent offense and defense to support a dangerous pitching staff. No, a relentless offense and a flawless defense.
Now that better describes the Bolt.
To say the Utah-based club displayed all of the above and more during the course of the 13U D1 Platinum field would be an understatement.
A massive understatement.
The top-seeded Bolt refused to even smell defeat on its way to a perfect 7-0 tournament, capped by a 15-2 championship game victory over No. 19-ranked Vipers Black Sunday afternoon at the Council Bluffs Sports Complex.
“This is a special group,” Bolt coach Dale Rex said while his players and parents enjoyed photo sessions with the Slumpbuster trophy and championship rings. “I thought we’d compete for the championship here because we do have a lot of arms and we usually swing it pretty well, but I didn’t know that we’d win it all necessarily.”
How good were the first-time Slumpbuster participants? The Bolt outscored its opponents 93-6. Yes, that’s right. They crossed home plate nearly 100 times and surrendered just six in seven games, averaging a little more than 13 runs per contest.
After not allowing a run in pool play and earning a fat target on its backs, Bolt starting pitcher Sammy Dart said his team’s confidence was high.
“It’s got to be at the top,” he said. “We were the No. 1 seed and had all the pitching in the world. Our bats were always hot and I just felt great about us and our ability to get the job done.”
The uniqueness of this particular Bolt squad starts on the mound, as all 12 rostered players have the ability to throw strikes and record outs, according to the man in charge.
“I don’t believe any one of our pitchers threw more than 75 pitches the entire weekend,” Rex said. “Our No. 1 and No. 2 pitcher actually only threw one inning this weekend.”
Not too shabby.
Through the first five innings of the title game, the Bolt held on to a 4-1 lead. However, they found a new gear with a 10-run sixth inning to put things well out of reach. Rocky Downs executed a bases clearing triple, Pratt Morley roped a two-run single and Dart, Jaxon Cloward, Ryder Huntsman and Ledger Holmes all had run-scoring base hits.
“These kids take pride in having good at bats and they don’t try to do too much. Especially when one or two get going; we do a good job of moving runners over and stringing things together,” Rex said. “They’re not selfish players and their goal is to win games and tournaments and they were able to do that here.”
Dart, who according to Rex swung a consistently strong bat all weekend, tossed four innings of one-run ball while striking out six and allowing six hits. At the dish, Dart was 2-for-2 with an RBI double.
“I felt great with it being my first start of the tournament,” Dart said of his championship effort on the mound. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to start, but I was told to put on my flats before the game and I ended up feeling great today.”
Rex was more than satisfied with Dart’s efforts. Enough to deem Dart the team’s MVP of the tournament.
“He hit really well all weekend and we know he’s pretty special on the mound,” Rex said. “He doesn’t blow you away but he throws it firmly and he hits his spots and picks people apart. He takes pride in being a really good pitcher.”
“It’s all about energy and momentum,” Dart said. “One guy can get a big hit and then you just let the next guy do the same thing. You just need that first big hit.”
And that’s what the Bolt received. All weekend long.
“This is probably one of my favorite tournaments I’ve come to,” Rex said. “I love how easy it is to get everywhere and then to be able to go to some of the College World Series games has been amazing and hopefully inspire these kids to be there one day, as well. We look forward to coming back next year; this was awesome.”
by Adam Burns
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Millard United Elite 14U defended its home turf on Saturday morning. The Omaha, Nebraska-based team, seeded No. 16, surprised the Slumpbuster D1 championship bracket field with a 4-1 upset of No. 1 Rawlings Prospects MD at the Council Bluffs Sports Complex.
Then, hours later, Millard United handled No. 9 Grey Sox 9-1 (South Carolina) to advance to the quarterfinals round. The locals will face the Minnesota Iceman at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at Zorinsky Complex Field 1.
Millard United coach Scott Semanisim and starting pitcher Jack Cosgrove were both not shocked that they were headed to Championship on Sunday.
“We had a lot of confidence. We just did our jobs,” said Cosgrove, who pitched two scoreless innings. “We plan to come back tomorrow and continue to dominate. If we do that, we have a good shot at winning this tournament.”
“They played well,” Semanisim said. “It was a rough start in pool play and we somehow snuck into a 16 seed. They were ready today and came out and played hard and played great baseball. They played with a next man up mentality and got the win.”
Semanisim added that he liked what he saw out of his starter.
“He did outstanding,” he said of Cosgrove. “He did exactly what he needed to do; he pounded the strike zone and got us through. We needed the innings and he gave it to us.”
After a 2-1 pool play effort, Millard United put the pieces together to make some noise and firmly implant themselves in the thick of things in bracket play. What did Semanisim tell his team before they faced the No. 1 overall seed?
“That we were going to beat them,” Semanisim said, acknowledging that pool play was not the team’s best effort. “They showed that they were better than (Rawlings).”
And what did the coach see in his squad on Saturday?
“Fire. They just came out and believed,” Semanisim said. “They were not happy with how they played in pool play. We just happened to scratch a couple runs across.”
Now, the goal is to bring that fire or, as Cosgrove stated, “dominate” on Championship Sunday.
“We love seeing the competition come from all over the country,” Semanisim said. “I tell everybody and Triple Crown. We’re the luckiest people in the world because we get to see all this fantastic competition and not leave home.”
by Adam Burns
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – The boys from the Beaver State are called Mound Time for a reason. Thanks to a bevy of strong arms and reliable defense, the 13-year-old squad from Hillsboro, Oregon, has enjoyed an undefeated start to the Triple Crown Sports Slumpbuster tournament.
After blanking its pool play opponents, second-seeded Mound Time defeated Colorado-based Salty Dawgs 6-4 to advance to Championship Sunday of Division I Platinum bracket play.
“We pride ourselves in developing a staff from top to bottom,” Mound Time coach Tyler Niles said of his pitchers.
Jack Burnham, Mound Time’s right-handed starting pitcher, allowed just two runs across five innings of work, converting 15 first pitch strikes and one strikeout. The two runs allowed came in the first inning.
“Today, in a big game like this against a good team, it’s easy to fold after that team puts up two in the first inning,” Niles said. “But we came right back and got a leadoff double. After that everyone just loosened up and evened it up.”
Indeed they did, which Burnham certainly appreciated. Kyle Goodwin was quick to compliment his pitcher, and was pleased with his squad's efforts.
“I thought we played great,” Goodwin said. “We’re hitting the ball well and throwing strikes on the mound. We played an all around good game.”
The Salty Dawgs didn’t go down without a fight, as Dylan Rubenstein launched a two-run home run to left center field to make it a 5-4 game in the top of the sixth. However, once again, Mound Time had a response, tallying a run in the bottom of the sixth prior to closing out the contest in the seventh.
“I was proud of how they responded,” Niles said. “Resilience is the name of the game. They’re showing that resilience a bit and it’s good to see. When this team, with the talent they have, has that mental aspect figured out, they’re a really good team.”
Mound Time turns its focus to a 9 a.m. Sunday quarterfinals date with Omaha Tigers Black at Council Bluffs Sports Complex Field 4. Of course, Mound Time feels quite confident in its ability to navigate a potential three-game day.
“I feel good,” Goodwin said. “We have a lot of pitching left so I think we can go far in this tournament.”
As they should. They’ve only handled their opponents 41-4 thus far.
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – The ball went from the shortstop to the second baseman to the first baseman. From the outside, it looked like a traditional 6-4-3 double play that has been seen and practiced countless times. But it was anything but. As the ball snapped off the leather of the first baseman’s glove, an outpouring of emotions came from the UT Grays sideline, as they had knocked off Beaver Valley Red, 6-3, to claim the 13u D1 Platinum Title.
“For us, some of our guys, this is their last tournament with us,” UT Grays Head Coach Mike Goff said fighting back tears. “So, it was going to be super emotional for us no matter what happened in this tournament, but for us to finish like this is just unbelievable. This group is amazing.”
Going up against a Beaver Valley Red team that had put up 93 runs in the six games leading up to the championship game and had fans of other teams sticking around just to get a glimpse of their prodigious hitting, it looked like the UT Grays found themselves in a David vs Goliath situation.
Beaver Valley Red looked locked in early on, as Will Swisher jumped on the first pitch of the game and hit it out to deep center field, bouncing off the top of the wall and staying just inside the park for a leadoff triple. Beaver Valley batted him in on the next batter and took a quick 1-0 lead, but UT Grays pitcher Mason Orchard settled down from there.
“Our team had been playing really solid defense all tournament,” Goff said. “We told our pitchers, ‘get the ball in play, we’ll make a play for you.’ I also told them that this team has been rolling over everyone and let’s see how they handle a team pushing back. We got two runs in the bottom of the first and that was huge for us to show that we weren’t just going to lay down.”
Orchard kept Beaver Valley out of rhythm, holding Beaver Valley to just that lone run through his three innings of work on the mound before turning the ball over to Titan Mozingo, who had already shined at the plate and behind the dish.
“We figured they had seen a lot of velocity before,” Goff said. “So we had our lefty on the mound who had a lot of good off-speed pitches and we went with him for as long as we could, and then we came in with the harder thrower in Titan (Mozingo). He hadn’t pitched the whole tournament, so he was ready to go, and he did awesome.”
Trailing 1-0, Mozingo got his team all squared in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI double that was laced into right-center field. Then in the third inning, Mozingo showcased his arm behind the plate, throwing out Beaver Valley’s leadoff hitter who was trying to steal second. In the bottom of the third, Mozingo once again came through with an RBI, and all of a sudden, UT Grays found themselves up 6-1 after putting up four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Now it was Mozingo’s turn on the mound. Mozingo stranded runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of the 4th inning, before surrendering two runs in the top of the 5th inning, but that was as much damage as Beaver Valley could muster. In the top of the 6th and for the final out in the 7th inning, Mozingo induced nearly identical ground ball double plays to get out of any danger.
“It’s a huge statement for us to finish like this,” Goff said. “To come out to the biggest tournament that we’ve ever played in and win it, it just says a lot. Our program back home is going to be super excited when we come home with this trophy and stick it on the shelves.”
By Kyle Koso
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – While temperatures spiked up and didn’t much relent at the 2022 SlumpBuster, you could have taken the pulse of the Canes Arizona 13u Gold squad and not found cooler customers out of the hundreds of other teams at the event.
First, the Canes (from Scottsdale) fought through various moments of stress and strain in the DI Gold semifinals, holding off Hawks 13’s by a 5-4 margin in extra innings. And as an encore, the Canes prevailed in a good, old-fashioned defensive nail-biter, moving past the Placentia (CA) Mustangs in the title game, 3-2.
Braden Harmon threw five standout innings for the Canes in the championship matchup, allowing one first-inning run and notching four strikeouts, with one huge K ending the third inning with the bases loaded. Reliever Hawk Licari gave up a run in the sixth to make it 3-2 and saw the Mustangs load the bases in the seventh on a hit and two walks.
But he got the Mustangs to hit an easy-to-handle grounder to shortstop; with the out made a second base, the Canes could celebrate even if the heat might have sapped a few inches off their vertical jumps.
“It’s a great one to win, and anytime you win your last game everything feels good, whatever bracket it is,” said Canes coach Greg Halvorson. “The kids played great. You control what you can – these kids really play hard and grind, and they’ve been together a long time. They know how to win at the end of the game, and that’s what they did here in these last two.
“The kids always make it interesting, but (late-inning drama) is part of the game. They played hard, we played hard, and we were able to get it done.”
Christian Rojas walked to lead off the game for the Mustangs; he scored on a groundout by Jaxson Lang. The Canes responded with singles by Harmon and Sean Campbell and a two-run double from Jacoby Noble. Campbell came through with a triple to lead off the third, and he came home on a groundout by Chris Sinacori.
Campbell added a double with one out in the fifth, but he was stranded when a line drive from Noble was tracked down by the Mustangs defense.
“I was very confident up at the plate and usually a pretty good hitter,” Campbell said. “I started the day off not that good, but it came around and we were able to win the championship. We were pretty positive – Hawk is a very good pitcher and did a great job in the end.”
Harmon allowed just four hits and moved through his assignment with confidence. The Canes defense only had a couple of errors, and the one that came in the fifth was solved when Harmon got the final out of the frame on a pop fly to first base.
“As soon as I got in my comfort zone, I started to feel a bit better about everything,” Harmon said. “I was able to settle down. This was exciting at the end and great to come out on top. We were hoping for some more runs, but we know we have good pitching, guys who will pump strikes and finish it strong.”