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.”