Council Bluffs, IA - While the 2023 NCAA Men’s College World Series championship series was being decided just 10 minutes away, there was another title game brewing on Sunday afternoon at Council Bluffs Recreation Complex for Triple Crown’s Omaha SlumpBuster.
The Las Vegas Misfits FT Select 13u overcame adversity, as memories were made and some rekindled, defeating UBA Gladiators Platinum 7-5 for the 13uD1 championship.
Daren Guzman got things going early for the Misfits, with a lead off double to start the bottom half of the first. Gabe McDowell delivered shortly after to drive in Guzman & a 1-0 lead. The Gladiators, based in Omaha, immediately responded, capitalizing on a wild pitch in the top of the second, tying the game, 1-1.
The Misfits tacked on two more runs to extend their lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the third, capitalizing on a throwing error off a McDowell single, that brought home Logan Pena. Gavln delivered an RBI single the following at-bat.
Guzman, the eventual winning pitcher, came on to pitch four innings in relief after Vegas’ starter departed after two innings. The righty thoughT he has escaped the UBA threat in the fifth inning, but a catcher’s interference call kept the inning alive for Hank Vosik. Vosik’s ground ball scored Cal Brown & Jaden Lamontia to even the game at 3-3.
LV Misfits shook off the tribulations of the previous inning, guided by a clutch pinch hit RBI double off the bat of Derek Wenzel, who just one batter later, came around to score thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Galvin, putting Vegas back ahead 5-3 after five.
Bryson Lee added insurance in the sixth, driving across two more, after the Henderson, NV based team took advantage of an error at second base, making it 7-3.
UBA would not go quietly, mounting a formidable rally in the top of the seventh inning, narrowing the lead to 7-5. With the tying runs in scoring position, Pena earned the save despite the best efforts the Gladiators, securing Vegas the 2023 13uD1 SlumpBuster Championship.
Memories Made, Memories Rekindled
Triple Crown tournaments are designed for teams to combine a quality tournament experience with a family vacation, devoted to creating memorable experiences.
Sunday was yet another reminder of that, fans filled the stands for cheer on the 13uD1 SlumpBuster championship game. One of those was the grandfather of LV Misfits centerfielder Jack Berbenich. Tim Berbenich, the self proclaimed “George Steinbrenner” and super fan of the Misfits, returned to Omaha for the first time in 44 years to see his grandson play.
“I have never seen something like this before,” said Berbenich, who hails from Long Island, NY. “I went to school at Creighton forever ago and never would have imagined seeing what this has become,” he said of the SlumpBuster and atmosphere in the Omaha area.
“I will be back every year now!”
2024 Omaha Slumpbuster Information
The 2024 Omaha SlumpBuster dates are set for three sessions, beginning June 13 and running through June 24. You can view those details here. A new addition for 2024 will feature the option for 14u teams to play in Pathway Omaha set for June 13-17. The all-inclusive experience allows players and coaches stay in suites on campus at Iowa Western Community College, while working with IWCC staff and competing in a 5-Game Guarantee tournament. View those details here.
By Adam Burns
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — The 14-year-old Dallas Tigers have been teaming up on the diamond for much of the last decade.
Since they were five years old, in fact, a solid portion of the Tigers from Highland Village, Texas, has gone to battle together, including participating in three different Triple Crown Sports Omaha SlumpBuster competitions.
But they had yet to claim a SlumpBuster title.
The Dallas Tigers went 7-0 on their way to claiming the 14U D1 Platinum championship with an 11-5 victory over the Delmarva Aces Sunday afternoon at the Council Bluffs Sports Complex.
“It’s fun and I’m just proud of how well they played and how they’ve grown together,” Tigers coach Mike Killian said.
They’ve grown quite a bit considering most of coach Killian’s group has played together quite a bit over the years. Mentoring a group of 13 players who live within 20 minutes from each other, you could say the third time's a charm.
After a runner-up showing at the 10U level and a quarterfinal appearance last year, the Tigers made sure they left Omaha with hardware this time around.
“We always love coming to this tournament,” Killian said. “We love the city and the atmosphere with the College World Series going on. A lot of these kids will go to the same high school and the others will go to rival high schools within the city.”
So, yeah, some chemistry doesn’t hurt in claiming victory in a tournament such as the SlumpBuster.
“As a coach you want them to learn how to compete. Our biggest goal is to give you the opportunity to play at whatever level they can,” Killian said. “Whether that’s high school, college, or even beyond that, our goal is to give them that chance and try to help them along the way. Baseball is a game of failure, as well all know, and learning how to deal with that and play the game the right way is a big part of that.”
As for the tourney win, left fielder Michael Killian was quite pleased to finally break through.
“It feels great,” said Killian, the team’s leadoff hitter and left fielder. “We came out here and did our best, pitching and playing great defense. We did really well.”
The Aces, based out of the Delmarva Peninsula of Maryland and Deleware, held a 3-1 lead with single tallies coming in each of the first three innings.
But the Tigers’ bats came alive in the bottom of the fourth. Anchored by a two-run double by Jameson Mayfield, an RBI single from Major Jennings and a sac fly from Jack Schnakenberg, the Tigers plated five runs to take a 6-3 lead.
“We strung a few base hits together in the fourth,” coach Killian said, “and our guys did a good job with runners in scoring positions and particularly getting runners at second base with less than two outs. And then we scored some runs that way.”
For good measure, the Tigers continued to put the pressure on, plating two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. The Aces came within three runs at 8-5 with a two-run top of the sixth, but the Tigers continued to swing away and keep the Aces at bay with a goose egg in the top of the seventh.
“We had a lot of timely hits. We really did,” coach Killian said. “When you can get guys in scoring position and get some base hits, that’s what you want to do. Not going to always do it, but you can get in that groove. It can run down through the lineup and we batted all 13 guys in the tournament. We wanted to get those guys some experience. I’m very proud of the way we did that.”
By Craig Buchanan
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA – Facing the pressures of Championship Sunday and finding yourself in an early deficit, it would be easy for any team to cave in the moment. For MASH baseball out of Eagan, Minnesota, it was an opportunity to double down on who they were.
After falling behind 4-0 in the top of the second inning of the 14u D2 Championship game against So Cal Catch, MASH doubled down on who they are. They carried themselves with immense positivity. Cheers of encouragement filled any potential silence that you could find at the ballpark. And behind all this, MASH scored eight-consecutive runs to win the championship game, 8-4.
“When we started our tournament down here, we wanted to be sure of a couple of things” Head Coach Matt Nelson said. “We wanted to make sure that we were playing together and bringing a lot of energy to the dugout. When we do that together, rally behind each other, when the ups and downs happen, we can stay together and withstand a lot of other teams.”
So Cal Catch got off to a hot start, scoring four runs in the top of the second inning on several bloop singles, but MASH was not deterred. In the bottom of the second inning, MASH hit a lead-off triple to put the pressure back on So Cal Catch. MASH ended the inning getting three runs back and found itself right back in the ball game at 4-3 heading into the third inning.
After a scoreless third inning, MASH once again found its opportunity to attack the pitching depth of So Cal Catch, scoring five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to make it the final score of 8-4.
“We preach positivity and keeping things really light at MASH,” Nelson said of his teams resiliency. “We have a little saying of ‘be where your feet are.’ Be present in whatever you are doing. You can’t look too far back, and you can’t look too far forward. If you are positive in those moments and you keep moving forward, it’s going to be a long-term play instead of being stuck in the short-term.”
By Kyle Koso
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA – When a pitching staff can tackle championship day with its best stuff, it’s a stiff challenge for the opposition.
The NINES Baseball Academy 13u squad (CA) kept it simple Sunday in the D1 Platinum title game at the 2023 SlumpBuster, letting pitchers Sebastian Joseph and Ramon Hinojosa control the action against the 5 Star 2028 Scout Team (FL) as the NINES secured a 7-5 victory at the Council Bluffs Rec Complex. Amazingly, Joseph and Hinojosa combined to ring up 20 strikeouts in the contest, a number boosted by a couple dropped third strikes that extended some innings for 5 Star but also a number that showed how hard it was to make progress.
And to the Florida team’s credit, it used every productive at-bat to its maximum, coming back to tie the game at 3-all in the second inning and trailing just 6-5 after the fourth inning. But Hinojosa proved to be an overwhelming force in his four innings of relief, allowing three hits and three walks but just one run, to go with 12 strikeouts.
On the way to the Sunday championship game, the No. 4-seeded NINES beat No. 1 Golden Spikes Shockers in the semis, and the pitching staff had all options open thanks to complete-game efforts from Nico Adames, Preston Hillis and Robert Jurado.
“This is just the way we like it. Great for the kids and a great experience,” said NINES coach Duke Zielinski.
Joseph and Brody Abbott scored in the top of the first for NINES; three unearned run in the next two innings allowed the California squad to boost the lead, but a double from Justin Waite and a single from Tony Familia kept 5 Star in the fight.
Offensively, NINES rode the hot bat of Roco Gonzalez, who doubled twice while hitting ninth in the order to bring in critical runs in the third and sixth innings.
“I was looking to hit a fastball, just drive it and take it the other way,” Gonzalez said. “It was team (from Florida), but it’s just another team – we want to play and win. We knew we had Ramon ready to come out of the bullpen, and we’d be able to hit whoever they threw. Our goal coming here was to win this tournament.”
“Roco saw a lot of fastballs, that’s why we put him in that place,” Zielinski said. “He’s a great fastball hitter, and he had a lot of success.”
But the lingering memory from this 13u D1 title showdown will be Hinojosa’s work out of the bullpen. Able to spot his searing fastball and change speeds when necessary, he tore through the 5 State batting order.
“When I go in there, I just pitch. Some days I’m on, some days I’m not,” Hinojosa said. “When I’m on, I stay locked in and try not to think too much. We stayed at the same hotel as (5 Star), hanging out with them, and we both knew we’d make it to the finals. I’m sure both sides were hoping to win it. Sebastian pitched really good today, and also yesterday.”
“Ramon is Ramon – he’s electric in everything he does,” Zielinski added. “He’s the nicest, quietest kid, but he is electric when you get him on the baseball field.”
For the NINES, Andres Roberts had three hits, a run and an RBI, and Cole Bargagliotti added a hit and an RBI.
By Adam Burns
OMAHA, Neb. — When the DS3 Dawgs arrive, most expect — dare we call it — a dogfight.
So once the brackets were released Friday afternoon, there the Dawgs were as the 33rd-overall seed. That made the hometown Dawgs from Omaha the top dogs of the 13U D2 Platinum Championship Bracket.
Once known as Millard Elite, the Dawgs showed up to the Kelley Fields on Saturday with a firm target on their backs.
But it didn’t faze them.
The Dawgs rolled with a pair of victories, topping the Illinois Valley Predators 15-0 and the HD Drillers 9-4 — the latter in the quarterfinals.
What’s their secret? For starters, experience and determination.
“We go into most tournaments that we compete in as a favorite or a top team,” Dawgs coach JJ Bond said. “Each and every one of these kids work hard all offseason, so they’re always ready for the limelight.”
That statement holds water with the players. Just ask third baseman Cade Anderson — the team’s 3-hole hitter. It’s the little things that matter to Anderson and his teammates.
“It’s all about a good warmup,” Anderson said. “If we do that, we know we’ll play well.”
After a comfortable victory in Saturday’s first game — which included an eight-run first and six more in the second, plus a two-run blast by Anderson — the Dawgs settled in for a battle with the Drillers of California in the quarterfinals.
“These guys are always prepared for any battle. They’ll be dialed in,” coach Bond said. “We’ve got pitching and we’re fired up to compete.”
Courtesy of a four-run second and single tallies in the first and third, the Dawgs held a favorable 7-1 lead after five innings.
The Drillers showed signs of life with a three-run sixth to cut the lead to 7-4. But, of course, the Dawgs responded in the bottom half of the inning when Adam Marsh doubled in a run and Iker Elvir had an RBI single to provide two insurance runs before the Dawgs held the Drillers scoreless in the final frame.
“It was really important (to respond),” Anderson said, “because that’s a team that you can tell that they like to put pressure on their opponents. But we like that pressure.”
Brooks Bond went 2-for-2 with two RBI and a walk, while Luke Valasek also collected a pair of hits with two RBI. Three other Dawgs had two hits apiece, including Marsh, Krey Eikmeier and Keaton Melcher.
“It was a good day of baseball for us,” Anderson said. “We hit the ball really well and did well in the field and pitched well, so it was nice.”
“Our defense was outstanding,” coach Bond said. “We made a lot of plays and we didn’t kick it around much and our pitchers threw strikes. And we had timely hitting when they put a little pressure on us, we got the runs back.”
The Dawgs will face Lightning Gold in the semifinals at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at the Council Bluffs Sports Complex.
In other 13U D2 Platinum action, second-seeded MASH Black went 2-0 Saturday and will take on Bomb Squad in a semifinal game at 9 a.m. Sunday.
The two semifinal winners will play for the D2 Platinum title at approximately 1:30 p.m. Sunday.