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
By Kyle Koso
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – For the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs, one great trip to the Omaha SlumpBuster might just deserve another.
Eight years ago, head coach Andy Sutter brought his team up from Florida and won the 14u D1 championship with his son a key player on the roster. After a run in college baseball, his son is now on the current Diamond Dawgs coaching staff, and the team is trying to repeat their title run in 2022 – it’s looking more than reasonable, as the squad advanced to the final four Saturday with a 10-5 victory over Midwest Clutch (Lincoln, NE).
Seeded 10th out of pool play, the Dawgs will face No. 3 US Elite Mid-Atlantic on Sunday at 9 a.m. for a spot in the championship game.
The Dawgs scored six runs in the first inning to grab immediate control and kept the pressure coming with two runs in the third and fourth as well. Seven different players drove in runs, and the batting order from top to bottom was a handful for the Clutch.
“When you can have the bottom of the lineup be productive, the opportunity to win a big game will tip in your favor,” said Sutter. “That’s what happened today; they produced, and then the top of the lineup felt more positive.
“My son is coaching with me now, and it’s kind of cool. We’re in the final four, and it would be great to repeat again.”
Miles Gotlib started on the mound for Winter Park and executed a great game plan over his four-plus innings, getting into trouble only in the second inning when Clutch plated four runs. Gotlib registered five strikeouts and retired the Clutch in order in the third, dousing the spirit of the rally and allowing his side to score twice on the bottom of the frame to rebuild the lead.
“I missed a pitch, had a ball get lost in the sun, and there were some other mishaps there, but eventually you have to find a way to throw through it all with confidence,” Gotlib said. “I was thinking about just starting new, and forgetting about what had happened. It makes my job a lot easier with everybody hitting. It takes a lot of stress off. The goal is not to give up anything, but giving up only five is not that significant.”
Layton Hall pitched two solid innings of relief to close the game, with one hit and two strikeouts, and he was determined to let his very capable defense make the plays behind him to hold off any other Clutch aspirations.
“I came in and started throwing a few balls, and I realized I had to let my defense work, and let (the opposition) hit it,” said Hall, who added two hits and two RBI as well. “I put fastballs on the plate, and it turned into outs. Towards the end, I was more comfortable with my fastball and started working the corners.
“Hitting at the end of the order is an opportunity usually with runners on base; the guys ahead of me can get on, and I just want to see that and get RBI’s and drive them in. We came here to win it; we just need to keep playing as a team and get the hits in key situations.”
The Clutch were paced by Noah Curtis, who had three hits and two runs. Landon Moser had a two-run double and arguably the day’s top play in the Clutch’s 8-6 win over CBC Marucci. At catcher, after being perforated by pitches in the dirt in a long inning, Moser made a diving grab on a popped-up bunt attempt and then sprung to his feet and firing a throw to double the runner off at second base. The double play helped douse the CBC rally, allowing the Clutch to post a victory over the bracket’s No. 2 seed.
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Much like students who gets their homework done early so they can go have fun, the 13u Utah Grays understood the point behind getting a good start Saturday at the Triple Crown SlumpBuster.
Playing in the 13u Division I championship bracket, the Grays (Salt Lake City) scored 10 runs in the first inning against the Encompass Expos (MN) and didn’t do much else until the fifth inning. By taking advantage of those early situations, however, the Grays never surrendered control in what became a 12-2 run-rule victory to advance to the final eight. Seeded third overall after pool play, the Grays will face No. 11 6-4-3 DP Jaguars at 9 a.m. on Sunday for a berth into the final four – the title game is set for 1:30 p.m.
Cooper Goff threw four standout innings for the Grays, allowing two runs on two hits with nine strikeouts, with Kruz Anderson pitching the fifth and ringing up two K’s as well. Goff struck out the side in the first and had the Expos looking uncomfortable on a regular basis.
“I try to keep it out of the zone with (two strikes) and see if they’ll chase, and if they don’t still try to stick to the edge,” said Goff, who added a hit, walk, run and RBI with the bat. “I just tried to pick it up on the mound (during the middle innings) and just keep them from scoring. We just talk about, go play the game, do your job hitting and pitching, see what happens.”
Six batters had at least one RBI for the Grays, and all but two players scored runs. Getting that span of production as the team pushes for a deep run in the bracket is just about the best thing one can ask for from the coaching box.
“We jumped out early; seems like we hit their lefties well, and once they went with the righty, he had a good slider and we struggled a bit,” said Grays coach Mike Goff. “We’ve been together three years; we hang our hat on hitting, play solid defense and we have a lot of good arms. We’ve got all our arms ready to go, and we’ve got the guys who can do the job.”
Carter Bell did excellent work in the leadoff spot, getting two hits, two runs and two RBI in that potent first inning. Anderson also had two RBI with a well-timed hit in the first. The last two runs came in the fifth, hitting the run-rule margin with an RBI single from Schafer Dixon and a bases-loaded walk.
“The 10 runs were awesome that first inning, but a lot can change. You can’t score 10 every time, but a few more here and there is always nice,” Bell said. “Build the lead, keep the pressure up. I feel like a lot of teams underestimate us, say we’re just from Utah, but we’ve proven we can play.
“I love the leadoff spot. I like being the first guy they see, telling my teammates what he’s like, and coming up with a hard line drive. Honestly, I’d rather hit a line drive in the gap more than a homer.”
The 13u D1 final eight includes two teams from the Indiana Bulls program, with the Bulls Black team earning the No. 1 seed overall after pool play. The No. 2 seed is still alive as well in the Utah Kings, with the Grays obviously in the mix as the No. 3 seed. The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds meet early Sunday for a shot at the final four, with the Beaver Valley Red taking on the Dallas Tigers-Killian.
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – If Head Coach Brian Smith was looking to script a perfect start to his team’s first round game in the 13u D1 Platinum Championship Bracket, he couldn’t have come up with something much better than what transpired on Saturday morning.
Playing as the home team, Beaver Valley Red starting pitcher Daniel McIntosh struck out the first hitter of the game, and then quickly retired the next two for a one-two-three inning. From there, the offense took over as Layne Rider busted the game open with a 3-run homerun in the bottom of the 1st to give Beaver Valley Red a 4-0 lead over San Diego Hustle. Beaver Valley ended up scoring five runs in the bottom half of the inning and looked to be in complete control.
After San Diego rallied to score one in the top of the second, Beaver Valley’s offense again wasted no time, pouring on four more runs to give the squad a 9-1 lead. The team was disciplined at the plate and was getting key contributions from everyone down the lineup.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Will Swisher added a solo shot to give Beaver Valley a 10-1 run, and made sure that the game was never in doubt. Beaver Valley ended up scoring 14 runs en route to its 14-4 victory and has now scored 76 runs in four games while out in Omaha. It is showcasing its prolific offense which has helped carry the team to a 36-1 record so far across all competitions this season.
“We have a good team and we’ve got a lot of guys who like to spray the ball all over the yard,” Smith said. “We like to pride ourselves on our approach, sitting fastball away. That last guy (pitcher) was throwing 75 or 76 mph, and we aren’t phased by those things. We see good competition.”
The SlumpBuster has provided that good competition, squaring up teams from other ends of the country which normally wouldn’t get the chance to play each other.
“It’s good baseball out there, anytime you are going against kids from California,” Smith said, who’s team hails from Pennsylvania. “That last kid on the mound, you saw it, he brought some cheese. That San Diego Team has good players. Their shortstop was a good player, they had a big first baseman. We saw San Diego and said, ‘let’s play our best baseball.’ That’s why we come out here. We come to Omaha to see new faces and play these kinds of teams.”
Through four games, Beaver Valley Red looks every bit of a title contender out here in the 13u division for the SlumpBuster, but they will be tested. If the team wants to make a championship run, they will have to win three games against stiff competition, while battling the heat.
“That’s something we aren’t used to,” Smith said of the heat. “The heat is a little bit of a different game. We’re going to take it day by day. I told these boys to get some rest because we have to play at 9, 11, and 1, there is no break in there. We have the arms, and we feel like we are well rested. We have a good group of guys, and we are ready to play some good baseball. We expect to be champions, that’s why we come out here. That’s what the program is about.”
By Kyle Koso
LA VISTA, Neb. – As the Sticks Red 12u team tackled its assignment Friday afternoon at the SlumpBuster, there was a touch of anxiousness and tension at the plate, wanting to do as much as possible, as soon as possible.
A very useful lesson emerged from that challenge when the Sticks (West Des Moines, IA) scored a few runs by just taking advantage of openings offered by the Colorado Lightning (South Denver). Once they settled in, the Stick took off, posting a 12-2 run-rule victory in four innings to close the day with a 2-0 record including a 13-0 victory over MASH 12u.
The Lightning jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning on a two-out, two-run single from Jaxson Trail. The Sticks made early progress by getting runners on via errors, hit batters and walks, and coming home on other plays that really had nothing to do with hard hits. When the moment was right, Vinnie Edwards jumped in with a two-run double on a full count in the third to push the lead to 5-2.
Edwards, the team’s starting pitcher as well, was the true guiding light on a sultry day at the ballpark.
“I’m usually trying to pump the ball right by them, and if they do get a hold of it, I’ve got a good team behind me that will figure out a way to make a play,” Edwards said. “The hit felt real good. I had a feeling a fastball was coming because he threw me two curve balls in a row. I got inside it and took it opposite field. I love the defense; it shows we are a complete team.”
Defense was a critical asset for the Sticks – Nick Wigton made a diving catch for the final out in the top of the third inning, and the Lightning was retired in the fourth on a line-drive double play.
“The reality of this game was we started off a bit slow. They threw a guy who had good off-speed stuff, and we were just trying to yank everything down the line,” said Sticks coach Aaron Abram. “Once we made the adjustment, took the ball up the middle and the other way, we started to drive the baseball.
“Vinny has done a really good job. He throws strikes, and if he misses, he usually misses low. That’s a good combination. He’s the one who got us started offensively as well, going to the opposite field gap. When that happened, everybody said, that’s a good idea.”
Pete Craig had two hits, two runs and two RBI for the Sticks; Wigton drove in two runs with a hit, and Brady Abram had a home run in the third inning when his team batted around and scored eight runs in the frame. He also had the game’s last tally, a run-scoring single to plate the 12th run.
“We like to take advantage where we can, especially if the pitcher is trying to keep it down. If he’s giving up walks, we try to get on the plate and take the walks,” Brady Abram said. “I knew the guy was throwing junk; I thought he would thrown junk or a fastball. The first pitch was a fastball at my head, so I knew he’d throw fastball again. He threw it belt-high, so I tried to go hands-first and hit a line drive.
“I think we have a really good shot at winning.”