After some diligent work in pool play, earning the No. 1 overall seed, KC Clutch of Overland Park, Kansas, entered Friday with the same mentality as the day before. Opening bracket play with a thrilling 5-4 win over the Dallas Raiders, the Clutch followed up with a workman-like 9-4 victory against Colorado Elite, vaulting the Clutch into the semifinals of the 12u TCSB Invite Only Division.
“It was good to get some wins under our belts in pool play and get some confidence going into bracket play,” said head coach Travis Huenfeld. “You never know how the kids are going to react when you come up here to an invite-only tournament. I’m proud of the way my team has battled thus far.”
Starting pitcher Blake O’Brien threw up a quick zero in the top of the first inning, recording two of his four total strikeouts.
When the offense came to bat, they were prepared to get their pitcher a little run support. The party started with Chris Coy’s RBI triple and then O’Brien himself matched Coy’s extra-base effort, vaulting the Clutch into the early lead.
“I got a fastball right where I wanted it,” Coy explained. “When I saw it leave the pitcher’s hand, I knew I could take advantage of it, and I did.”
O’Brien marched back to the mound and kept the KC mojo going through the second inning. Three Colorado Elite players stepped into the batter’s box, and all three returned to the dugout empty-handed.
“With both my fastball and knuckle curve, I was consistently hitting my spots,” said O’Brien. “It’s hard to get a hit when I’m getting the right spots like I was today.”
After scoring two more runs to stretch the lead, 7-0, the Clutch ran into a bit of trouble in the third inning. Dominic Gamueda and Matthew Casillas each came up with a RBI in a four-run frame that brought the Elite back within striking distance, 7-4.
Blake O’Brien, making a strong campaign for player of the game, delivered his fourth RBI of the contest and came around to score, giving the Clutch a little room to breathe with a 9-4 advantage.
“I was expecting fastball first pitch every time,” said O’Brien. “That mentality, combined with the way I was reading the ball today was probably the reason I was having success at the plate.”
Coy replaced O’Brien on the bump in the fourth inning. Like O’Brien, Coy was dominant early and often, closing out the game with two no-hit innings and three strikeouts.
“Unlike Blake, my off-speed pitches weren’t really working,” said Coy. “My fastball, though, seemed to be getting by them. Once I hit a couple of my spots in a row and gained a little confidence, I was able to find a rhythm.”
KC Clutch’s win advances the team into the semifinals of the winner’s bracket in the 12u Invite Only Division. The Clutch will face Stl Force with the winner claiming a spot in the championship game.
“I felt like we were a little lethargic today,” said Huenfeld. “We didn’t quite have the focus at the plate that I’m used to seeing. You have to win ugly sometimes, though, and we’re still set up with some of our better pitchers, which is a major key in these long tournaments.
“I think we’ll come out focused and energized tomorrow. We were here last year and I think we’ll be able to use our experience to propel us going forward.”