Not much separated Millard United Elite and Armour Baseball throughout the 14u TCSB Invite-Only Division. Both teams emerged from pool play with 2-1 records, and Armour Baseball’s only loss before the best-of-3 Championship Series came at the hands of Millard Elite.
Sunday afternoon at Council Bluffs, two games were not enough to separate the two clubs after Millard took Game 1, 6-3, and Armour took Game 2, 9-4. When Millard tied the game at three-all in the third inning of the final contest, Mother Nature stepped in, and with rain and lightning surrounding the complex, the two were declared co-champions when the game was stopped.
“It feels good to be rewarded like this,” said Millard’s Andrew Reiss, who came up with three RBI in the Championship Series and pitched in the final game. “This team fights for everything. No matter if we are ahead or if we’re down, we always go out there and compete. This feels like a great reward for all that effort.”
After Millard’s Game 1 victory, Armour needed a spark to regain a little momentum in Game 2. That spark came at the hands of lead-off hitter Trevor Moore, whose walk to start the game began what would become a five-run first inning.
“We knew that we were going to face great competition all week long,” said Moore. “I think we all brought an extra ounce of focus to the field and it paid off this week.”
Down early, 5-0, Millard began the tough task of climbing back into the ballgame. Ben Weindel kicked things off with a double in the bottom of the first and would come around to score off an RBI from Cole Goeser.
Armour and Millard traded blows in the fourth inning as both Jacob Burney and Cole Goeser began to find their grooves on the mound for their respective sides.
It wasn’t until the fifth inning when some offense resurfaced, as Cody Treblehorn scored on an Ethan Lewis single that ignited another big frame for Armour as three runs crossed the plate.
In the sixth and seventh innings, Eric Shields came to the mound and shut down Millard, finding three big strikeouts to secure the victory, 9-4.
“We knew we were playing well,” said Armour head coach Tyler Wood. “We just wanted to keep the momentum, stick to the plan and going after that second game.”
Designated as the visiting team for the second straight time, Armour was quick to jump back into the scoring column, receiving help once again from Moore. Though Armour was looking for the same big inning they had in Game 2, in the final verse of the three-game series, Millard kept Armour at bay as Andrew Reiss closed out the frame with a strikeout to avoid further damage.
“Even though we had just lost against them, I felt like we still had a chance,” said Reiss. “In that first inning, I wanted to get our offense to the plate as quick as I could to get us back in the game.”
Fresh off closing out Game 2, Eric Shields rode his momentum into the finale, shutting down Millard despite facing three baserunners in scoring position in two innings. Shields delivered four strikeouts, hit three batters and walked one, but most importantly, kept a clean sheet.
“Everyone really stepped up,” said Moore. “You have to credit everyone on this team and the coaching staff. We wouldn’t have had the same performance if we didn’t get a little something out of everyone.”
As the rain began in to fall in the bottom of the third inning, Millard Elite’s offense began to rise. Reiss kicked things off with a single and then Kyan Lodice’s two-RBI double brought Millard within one, 3-2. A batter and a passed ball later, Lodice crossed home and evened the score after three full innings.
Continued rain brought the game to a screeching halt. While fans, players and coaches on either side would have certainly preferred to duke it out until an official winner had presented itself, based on player safety it was decided the two well-deserving teams would be co-champions.
“We’re the first official Nebraska-based team to win this,” said coach Sanders. “It means a lot to these boys to defend their home turf and go out as champions.”
While Millard now sets a precedent for Cornhusker teams in the TCSB Invite-Only Division. Armour Baseball matched the effort of fellow Coloradans 3n2 Warriors, who captured the 13u title.
“It was a very long week but we couldn’t be more proud to ride home as champions,” said Wood. “It was an incredibly run tournament and was a fantastic experience for the boys to play such great competition from around the country.
“It’s a great reward for the team’s hard work and a nice Father’s Day gift as well.”