By Adam Burns
LA VISTA, Neb. -- For the first two innings, Elite Baseball and the Scottsdale Sandstorms were heading in the direction of a quick, defensive heavy ballgame.
But the third inning changed everything. A combined 11 runs crossed home plate in the frame, and this 13u SlumpBuster D2 Platinum Championship bracket play contest was off and running on Saturday morning at the La Vista Sports Complex.
After Elite (Arvada, Colorado) struck first with five runs in the top of the third, the Sandstorms responded with a six-spot. But Elite kept the pedal to the medal and eventually hung on for a 10-6 victory.
“Baseball is about who can capture and keep momentum,” Elite coach Danny Vais said. “I’m super proud of my kids. Pitchers battled and our guys kept pressing and good things happened for us.”
It was Elite’s second win on the day, as they opened bracket play with a 1-0 victory over the So Cal Birds. The 2-0 day advanced the squad to the quarterfinals on the way to championship Sunday. They’ll face Hawks Baseball, 17-0 winners over the TSBA Patriots, at 9 a.m.
“We just have to keep our minds in it. If we play like we did today, we can win it,” said Aidan Nesheim, who hit a crucial two-run homer in the fifth inning to give Elite a 9-6 lead.
Elite's bats first came alive in the third to break the scoreless deadlock, tallying six singles to take a 5-0 lead. Cooper Vais got the scoring started with a sharp run-scoring line drive to right. Kellen Conley followed with an RBI single to left, and Kevyn Feldon drove in a pair of runs with a single to right. Ricardo Martinez had the final RBI in the frame.
The Sandstorms, however, didn't panic. Highlighted by Jake Girard’s three-run blast, Scottsdale took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the third. Girard’s blast, which was sent over the left-center field fence, was set up by an RBI single from Hayden Nguyen, who singled, and Joey Varela, who crossed home via an error. Bryce Luther gave them a 6-5 lead with an RBI single up the middle.
“It was just another Sandstorms moment,” coach Paul Luther said of Girard’s homer, which sent the Sandstorms into a frenzy. “That’s what we do. Six errors don’t help though.”
Elite held on defensively and Nesheim lifted his homer deep to left center to provide the necessary insurance. He knew it was gone, too.
“It gave us the go-ahead and I knew it right off the bat,” he said with a smirk.
“We kind of knew it was coming,” coach Vais said of Nesheim’s home run. “He’s been hitting the ball well for us all year, and Aidan got a pitch down in the zone where he liked it. He just turned and burned.”
The Sandstorms finished 2-2 on the weekend but enjoyed their first appearance in the SlumpBuster tourney.
“It was a great experience. We enjoyed it,” coach Luther said. “We enjoyed the (College) World Series games and everyone was great. We had a tough set-up but we’re excited to see you guys in Colorado.”