LA VISTA, Neb. – It’s a rare thing to hear a raucous cheer from the stands, see parents and players fist pumping and giving high fives and pure elation for a game that ends in a tie. But for PPBA Lumberjacks 12u and its fans, the tie sure felt like a win.
The Lumberjacks, hailing from Monument, Colo. took on Beaver Valley Red (Beaver Falls, Penn.) in its first game, which ended in a 13-1 loss.
“We drew a team that was just amazing,” Head Coach Caleb Provencio said. “It’s good for us to play that level of baseball where you literally don’t get away with anything.”
Early on in this game against Loveland Generals, it looked like PPBA could be headed towards a similar fate. After the Lumberjacks got two on base in the top of the first inning, a passed ball ended in a runner being thrown out at second base to end the inning.
Loveland Generals wasted no time finding its offensive rhythm, jumping out to a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The Generals continued to look dominant for much of the afternoon, displaying a nice mix of both offensive and defensive team baseball.
Every time the Lumberjacks looked close to getting a rally together, Loveland’s defensive acumen was on full display, twice throwing out a runner at the plate from the outfield. Offensively, Loveland was steady, adding to its lead and taking a 6-0 advantage into the 5th inning.
PPBA scored one run in the top of the 5th inning, but still faced a daunting 6-1 deficit heading into the final frame and hadn’t looked like threatening. In the 6th inning though, with their backs against the wall and down to their final outs, everything changed. PPBA started finding its rhythm, and all of a sudden, the hitting was contagious. Each player stepped up to the plate and made solid contact, sending the ball out to left field or center field and advancing the runner, one base at a time. With the bases loaded and two outs, PPBA brought one runner home. And then another. And then another. Until it was eventually 6-4, and Loveland Generals was forced to bring in a new pitcher.
Enter Evan Dann. A moment that kids dream about, but few are able to have the chance to come through in a moment like that. Facing the new pitcher, Dann found the pitch he was looking for and laced one into left field, scoring two runs and tying the game. Cheers erupted from the stands as the 6-0 deficit was erased in the blink of an eye.
“I was just thinking ‘don’t get out,” Dann said. “I didn’t want to lose the game.”
“For us, I just remind our kids that we always give 100 percent for all six innings,” Provencio said. “We aren’t afraid of making mistakes and we are always encouraging each other. They are 12, so they aren’t going to always do it and we have to remind them, but this is who we are. When you aren’t afraid to make mistakes, good things are going to happen.”
Next up, the Lumberjacks will look to continue the momentum from the last couple of innings into bracket play which begins on Saturday. Then the team will enjoy one of the main draws that brings teams to Omaha for the SlumpBuster… The College World Series.
“It’s good to see baseball at that level,” Provencio said of the College World Series. “I think for most of these kids, it (college) seems like a long way off, but when you are coaches and parents you realize it goes by in an instant and if they want to be at that level, it’s great to see. Mostly it’s all about bonding for these boys. It’s great to get them out and just watch them go.”