By Connor Wiggins
The Cangelosi Sparks and KC Siege probably didn’t know much about each other before playing in a semifinal game on Saturday, but they certainly do now after playing four times in fewer than two days.
“They’re a good team with good pitching, catching, and everything,” head coach of the Sparks, Benny Infelise, said of KC Siege. “We knew what to expect. We had to hit the ball and play good D, and we got it done today."
The two teams split the first two games of the 12s Slumpbuster Championship Series, but the Sparks came out on top by way of the run rule in a decisive third game by a score of 11-3 in five innings of play.
A pitchers’ duel was the story in the first game of the series, as the Sparks won 2-1 against the Siege. Enzo Infelise and Chris Daugherty combined to throw 11 strikeouts in the game for the Sparks.
Game 2 didn’t have much scoring, either. The teams combined to score five runs and each team had six hits, but the Siege came out on top 3-2 to force a true championship game.
Kaden Kopacz started on the hill for the Sparks in Game 3, and he and his team got off to a quick start defensively in a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning. Sparks’ shortstop Nolan Galla made an outstanding diving play and threw the runner out at first in the inning.
“I just waited for the ball to get hit and I was ready to get the ball and I threw him out,” Galla said.
Galla played an outstanding game at shortstop for the Sparks, but he also got the scoring started for his team in Game 3 with an RBI double in the bottom of the first inning. “I just waited back because (Kyle Pearcy) wasn’t throwing too hard, so I just took it right up the middle,” he said.
The Sparks struck two more times in the bottom of the first inning to come out to a quick 3-0 lead, but the Siege were able to level things up with three runs of their own in the top of the second inning.
Five more runs came to the plate in the second and third innings combined for the Sparks, and that was all they needed as they took an 8-3 lead.
The rest of the damage was done by the Sparks as they made it an 11-3 game. The game was called after the top of the fifth inning via run rule, and Cangelosi Sparks 2025 Black 11s were crowned champions of the 12u D1 Invite bracket at the Omaha Slumpbuster.
Daugherty led the Sparks in runs scored in the game and was proud of the way his team played in the decisive third game.
“We came here and executed,” he said. “We lost one, but that was just a bad game.”
KC Siege finishes as runners-up after showing a lot of heart and resilience in an effort to make the championship series from the losers bracket.
by Adam Burns
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Eli Small departed the batter’s box, began a trot and pointed to the sky to soak in the moment. The first person he shared the moment with was his father, first-base coach Jon Small. The son greeted his father with a high-five as he rounded first base and made his way to second.
Small had just directed a baseball well beyond the right-field fence for a three-run home run in the top of the seventh to give his Omaha Tigers a crucial five-run cushion on their way to a 9-4 victory over Patriots Baseball-QC Voodoo and a SlumpBuster 14u D1 title Sunday afternoon at the Council Bluffs Recreation Complex.
“Going around first and seeing my dad was definitely big for me,” Small said. “He said that all of my work paid off for moments like these.”
The homer occurred in the top of the seventh, a half inning after the Voodoo trimmed the deficit to 6-4. It was Small’s final at-bat of the SlumpBuster tourney, which the Tigers finished 8-0. It also served as his most significant homer, too, in recent memory with the blast coming on Father’s Day.
“I pointed to the sky because I play for God,” he said, “but I play for my dad, too. It felt good to put one out. It was huge.”
“In that moment I was more locked in and concerned more about that moment of the game,” Jon Small said, “but when he touched home plate and he looked at me and winked ... because he’s usually pretty serious and doesn’t really show a lot of emotion. So when he winked at me, that was special.”
There’s more to the story.
“It was a special moment for me and my dad, his grandpa, who was here, too,” Jon Small said. “I knew it was going to be his last at-bat of the day so I told him to have fun and enjoy it and then he hit the home run and then kind of winked … So it was just a fun moment and I’m just glad we got a five-run lead there.”
Small went 2-for-3 with three RBI to lead the Tigers, who claimed a SlumpBuster title for a second straight year in their own backyard. They won at the 13u level last year.
“Yeah, it was huge, showing people that Nebraska teams can hang with anyone around the country,” Small said. “It feels good to defend the home turf because we play here almost every weekend. It feels great.”
Tigers head coach Dave Vallinch agreed.
“We take a lot of pride in our baseball here in Omaha and there’s a lot of teams here that are really, really good,” he said. “Even the semifinal match with Millard Elite, they are very solid up and down the lineup and they compete.”
Outside of Small’s big fly, the Tigers’ offense produced three combined runs in the first two innings for a 3-0 lead. They added two runs in the fourth and a single tally in the fifth before Small drove in a trio of runs with one swing of the bat in the seventh.
Starter Johnny Vallinch notched the pitching victory and had one strikeout. Relief man Brady Tate recorded three punchouts.
The Voodoo mustered two runs prior to the sixth inning, where it made things interesting with a two-run frame. Jackson Rovig led Voodoo’s offense with two hits and three RBI. It was Small, who had a sacrifice fly in the second, though that changed everything with his homer.
“It was huge, obviously, knowing how they were trying to pitch him,” Vallinch said. “But he was looking for a pitch and got it in his area and he got it out for us. Three-run home runs always help, especially late.”
Yes, three-run homers never hurt, but not many can make this much of an impact. Especially on Father’s Day. On the SlumpBuster stage, too.
“He’s at the point where he doesn’t keep his home run balls because he’s hit a lot of them,” Jon Small said. “But he wanted that one. He said ‘I want that one — a Father’s Day home run. It was a cool moment, one that we’ll remember for a long time.”
by Kyle Koso
When it's time to get the offense going for the 11u Kangaroo Court Roos, the team is perfectly happy going with a station-to-station approach.
Because in the end, a trainload of runs is usually the result.
Based out of Oldsmar, FL., the Roos sped around the basepaths at every opportunity Sunday in the 11u TCSB Invite Championship series at the Omaha SlumpBuster, turning walks and singles into scoring chances at will and winning two of three games to claim the title against the NW Rankin Rippers (MS). The Rippers won Game 1 on Sunday, 3-2, with the Roos responding with two straight victories, 6-2 and 8-1.
Game 3 saw the Roos flex serious muscle at the bottom half of the batting order. Starting pitcher Landon Serrano tripled in the game's first run in the bottom of the second inning, and Ricky Stegbauer (batting 11th) drove in two more with a timely single to make it 3-0.
Stolen bases helped fuel the burst. The team swiped eight in the game; Stegbauer stole second and third, then worked a delayed-steal play that had the Rippers looking the wrong way when he stole home as well.
"Sometimes I'm a little early on my swing, and my dad (head coach Rick Stegbauer) told me to wait and look to left-center," Ricky said. "We use that play where when the pitcher sets, the runner on first breaks and gets in a rundown. You have to wait until they have full attention on that runner, then you go."
"Being the dad, it can be tough coaching your kid ... but he's a very heady player," coach Stegbauer said. "We've got a large group, 12 boys, and we are proud of each and every one."
Serrano threw all six innings of the finale, allowing seven hits and striking out eight batters. One of his main accomplishments was muzzling the effect of the Rippers' first two batters, brothers Brian and Garrison Davis. The brothers were 6-for-6 in Game 2 with six stolen bases, but in Game 3 the combo was 1-for-5 with a run scored.
"In the fifth and sixth innings, I was feeling a little anxious, but you have to find a way to push through it for your team. You can't think about yourself," Serrano said. "I was working the curveball down the middle and the outside fastball."
The Roos ended the contest with a double play, and no one had a bigger smile on his face after that highlight moment than Serrano.
"I was very proud of my team; they're always there, and they're my best friends and brothers," he added. "I was really happy how they came through there."
"He is a big-game pitcher, one of the best in his age group in the country," said coach Stegbauer. "He didn't pitch a whole lot; when we needed him this weekend, he delivered."
The Roos did a nice job at the start of the must-win Game 2 on Sunday, scoring four runs in the first two innings and working the count to get five walks in that span.
"One of the things we pride ourselves on is applying pressure. No matter the score, we try to put that on whoever we are playing," coach Stegbauer added. "The bats woke up late for us in the tournament. We had to battle back (in the loser's bracket) and beat a very good Chandler Stars team to get back in, so I couldn't be more proud."
Taylor Latham had three hits in Game 3 for the Rippers; Will Bizot added two hits.
by Connor Wiggins
Patriots Baseball-Voodoo came into the Slumpbuster with just 10 players, but that was more than enough for them to knock off Kansas Crush on Saturday afternoon in 14u D1 action by a score of 10-2.
It would be unfair to blame the 8-run loss the Crush suffered to Voodoo on a lack of hitting. The Crush outhit Voodoo 13-7 in the game, but the athletic defense of Voodoo allowed minimal impact from those swings.
Curry Sutherland started on the mound for Voodoo. Sutherland gave up a quick leadoff single in the top of the first inning to Chase Cottam, but retired the next three to move to the bottom of the inning.
Voodoo struck first in this game in the bottom of the first inning as they scored three runs on only one hit. A leadoff double from Walker Smith was the only hit; Isaac Page walked five batters in the opening inning, and it proved to be costly as Voodoo took a quick 3-0 lead.
Sutherland gave up three hits in the top of the second inning, but his defense was behind him and the Crush weren’t allowed in the scoring column. Sutherland got his second strikeout of the game in the second inning.
The second inning was a big one for Voodoo at the plate as they tallied five more runs to make the score 8-0. Smith tripled, and Sutherland, Gavyn Beckner, and Brock Mooneyham all singled for Voodoo.
Page was taken out of the game with two outs in the bottom of the second inning, and Ty Williams replaced him on the mound. Williams got a pop out to end the damaging inning for the Crush.
The Crush got into the hits column three more times in the third inning with a double from Xavier Alexander and singles from Cottam and Page, but it wasn’t enough as Sutherland earned his third strikeout of the game and the Voodoo defense did not allow a run to come to the plate.
Nothing was going for Voodoo at the plate in the bottom of the third inning. Williams walked two batters in the inning, but the Crush defense stepped up and did not allow Voodoo to build onto their lead any more.
Down 8-0 in the top of the fourth inning, the Crush needed some offense to avoid being run-ruled in the next inning. They got into the hits column three more times in the inning with singles from Jayden Fletcher, Brayden Uphaus, and Williams, but Voodoo only surrendered one run in the inning as Sutherland showed toughness on the mound.
“My two-seam fastball was working for me today,” Sutherland said.
He used that pitch to get out of what could have been a disastrous inning for Voodoo, and retired the last three batters of the inning. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Voodoo scored two more runs on two hits to make it a 10-1 runaway game.
Klayton Kiser stepped onto the mound in the top of the fifth inning in relief for Sutherland, who pitched four full innings for Voodoo. Kiser gave up one run in the inning on three more hits for the Crush, and the game was all but over.
Fletcher didn’t allow another hit as Voodoo came to the plate one last time in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Voodoo had done enough damage to reach the run rule and the game was at its time limit.
After the game, Patriots head coach and former Springfield Cardinals pitcher, Anthony Ferrara, spoke highly of Sutherland’s ability to get out of the fourth inning jam. “He showed a lot of courage,” Ferrara said. “He made the pitches he needed to and competed and got outs.”
Patriots Baseball-QC Voodoo will face VCBA on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. for a chance to play in the 14u Slumpbuster championship game against the winner of Millard United Elite and Omaha Tigers Black.
By Connor Wiggins
The Cangelosi Sparks defense shined against KC Siege on Saturday morning, lighting the path toward a championship run at the 12u D1 Invite portion of the Omaha SlumpBuster.
In a 5-0 victory for the Sparks, the Siege only got two runners on base the entire game on two hits, anchored by an outstanding performance from Sparks starting pitcher Nate O’Donnell.
Surprisingly, O’Donnell did not strike a batter out over the course of the five innings he pitched, but he only gave up one hit and walked none in the game as he faced 16 batters on 56 pitches thrown. The only strikeout of the game for the Sparks came on the last out of the game from their closer, Chris Daugherty.
The Sparks’ runs came in waves in this game. They scored their first two runs in the first inning on a wild pitch from Siege starting pitcher Rex Holcomb and a sacrifice fly from Enzo Infelise.
O’Donnell retired the first eight batters he faced, but the Siege landed their first hit of the game, and the only one O’Donnell gave up, with two outs in the top of the third inning on a triple from Kyle Pearcy.
The Sparks got another run to the plate in the bottom of the third inning on the second sacrifice fly of the game from Infelise. Infelise had no hits, but led his team in RBI in the game.
Two more runs came to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning for the Sparks on RBI singles from Wyatt Wawro and Nolan Galla to extend the lead to five.
The Sparks had all the insurance they needed in the game because of the stellar pitching from O’Donnell and their perfect defensive effort. After giving up the triple to Pearcy, O’Donnell retired the last seven batters he saw.
“My curveball was really well and I was pounding the strike zone,” O’Donnell said.
The Sparks turned to Daugherty to close the game out, and on the first batter he faced, he gave up the second hit of the game, a single from Tyler Coffin. Daugherty bounced back and his defense was behind him though, as they turned a double play on the next batter he faced.
Daugherty struck Pearcy out to end the game and move his Sparks into the championship game.
Head coach of the Cangelosi Sparks, Benny Infelise, praised O’Donnell after the game.
“He has ice in his veins,” Infelise said.
“Same deal tomorrow,” Infelise added about Sunday’s championship game. “We’re going to hit the baseball. We’re a big hitting team and we’ve got all kinds of pitching left,” he said.
The Cangelosi Sparks will play a best-of-3 series starting Sunday at 9 a.m. against the same KC Siege team, which reached the final through the loser's bracket.