COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – The old saying goes that basketball is a game of runs. But on Saturday afternoon, the 14u D1 Championship Bracket game between the Omaha Pacesetters and MASH 14u Black took center stage as a roller coaster wave of emotions as both teams battled the heat and huge runs made by the other team.
With a spot in the semifinals on the line, MASH 14u couldn’t have asked for a better start, taking a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the 2nd. But Omaha Pacesetters would respond to the early deficit, and then some. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Omaha answered with three runs of its own to tie it, and then after holding MASH scoreless in the top of the third, poured on six runs in the bottom of the 3rd to take a commanding 9-3 lead. The inning was capped off by a two-RBI triple from Cal Anthony.
If MASH seemed down after the avalanche that hit them in the 3rd inning, they didn’t stay down for long. In the top of the 4th inning, MASH got right to work and quickly loaded the bases. Displaying both aggressive hitting and timely patience, MASH answered back with five runs in the top of the 4th to make it a game once again at 9-8.
The Pacesetters added another run in the bottom of the 4th to take a two run lead into the 5th inning, but once again, MASH showed its resiliency. Two hitters in a row MASH was down to its last strike of the inning, and both times the hitters were able to bounce back from a 1-2 count to draw walks and keep the inning alive. Ultimately MASH ended up scoring the two runs it needed to tie the game at 10-10.
“It was a back-and-forth battle all day,” Pacesetters Head Coach Zane Hinkel said. “We got a big lead, gave it up. Got another lead, gave it up. We just told them throughout the whole game to keep playing and grinding it out. If you keep playing hard, good things will happen.”
Heading into the latter part of the game, both teams found some much-needed performances from their relief pitchers. For the Pacesetters, it was Braden Caito who answered the call, producing scoreless innings in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings.
“He threw the ball well today” Hinkel said of Caito. “He had been kind of struggling on the mound, but he was in the zone, throwing a lot of strikes. He throws hard, and it was great for him to have a good, productive outing against a very talented offensive group.
Offensively, however, the Pacesetters struggled to take advantage. With the game in extra innings in the 7th inning, the Pacesetters managed to load the bases with nobody out, needing just one run to win the game. A quick strikeout followed by a laced line drive which was caught and turned into a double play, ended the inning in the blink of an eye, just once again adding to the roller coaster of emotions that this game provided.
But Omaha would respond in the bottom of the eighth inning with another chance, once again loading the bases, and this time coming through with a line drive into right field to bring in the winning run.
Now the Pacesetters will take on another team from Omaha, the Omaha Tigers Black, at 11:15 am on Sunday for a chance to play in the 14u D1 Championship game.
“It’s a big deal. We look forward to this tournament every year,” Hinkel said