Just because the tint on their white uniforms were faded with dirt doesn’t mean the Lone Tree Halos didn’t play close to angelic on Friday in Council Bluffs.
Two runs in the opening frame gave the Halos their lead and the Colorado natives never looked back, toppling the Dirty South Venom, 9-5, and claiming a spot in the 10u TCSB Division I Baseball Championship semifinals.
“Initially, we were regretting having to play the 8 a.m. game instead of the 10 a.m. slot this morning,” said head coach Paul James. “But I think it ended up working in our favor because it was much cooler in the morning, and I think our guys were well rested and had good energy all day.”
The Halos’ energy gave them boosts early and often against the Dirty South Venom from Virginia. After giving up a run in the top of the opening frame, the Halos’ saving grace –Anthony De Angel — launched a two-RBI double, leapfrogging the Venom to put his team on top, 2-1.
“The other pitcher wasn’t throwing the ball extremely fast,” said De Angel. “I knew that if I could just slow down my feet and turn my hips, I’d be able to drive the ball.”
Driving the ball might’ve been an understatement for De Angel. The youngster connected like a pro at the dish all morning and into the afternoon in Iowa. On the day, De Angel finished with three hits in his three plate appearances and four RBI.
Lead in hand, starting pitcher Josh Sutrina fell into a rhythm that could not be unshaken. In the second and third innings, Sutrina tallied four strikeouts and twice stranded runners on third base to maintain the one-run advantage.
Lone Tree riled up its offense once again in the bottom of the third. Four straight singles and a defensive error from the Venom allowed the Halos to plate four runs. Even Sutrina helped himself out with an RBI of his own.
“Our team is one of those teams that gets better as the week progresses,” said coach James. “Pool play was what you might expect 10-year old baseball to be. Today they are starting to play a bit better, and I think you saw it in some big moments today.”
Though Sutrina and the Halos would give up a trio of runs in the fourth and fifth innings, their offense continued to provide insurance. Logan Manuello, Presley James and Trevor Gottsegen all eached base safely and crossed home plate in the bottom half of the fourth, keeping the Venom at arm’s length.
In the sixth, it was Gottsegen who took over Sutrina’s mound to cruise to the finish line. Gottsegen gave up only a single run and secured the victory, 9-5, with a fly out to center field.
“It’s been incredibly encouraging how we’re playing,” said De Angel. “If we keep hitting like we are, fielding like we are, pitching like we are and not making errors, I think we have a great chance to win this thing this weekend.”
Fourth-seeded Lone Tree now stands atop the prestigious TCSB Division I Baseball Championship 10u bracket. The Halos will return to Council Bluffs for a matchup against the Canes at 10 a.m Saturday morning.
“Winning the first two games of a long tournament is incredibly important,” said James. “I don’t mean to sound too politically correct by saying that we have to take it one game at a time but that’s kind of what you have to do.
“This is easily the best tournament of the year. From the setup, to the format, to the best competition in our age group. With everything considered, you have to just focus on the game right in front of you.”