COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – The ball went from the shortstop to the second baseman to the first baseman. From the outside, it looked like a traditional 6-4-3 double play that has been seen and practiced countless times. But it was anything but. As the ball snapped off the leather of the first baseman’s glove, an outpouring of emotions came from the UT Grays sideline, as they had knocked off Beaver Valley Red, 6-3, to claim the 13u D1 Platinum Title.
“For us, some of our guys, this is their last tournament with us,” UT Grays Head Coach Mike Goff said fighting back tears. “So, it was going to be super emotional for us no matter what happened in this tournament, but for us to finish like this is just unbelievable. This group is amazing.”
Going up against a Beaver Valley Red team that had put up 93 runs in the six games leading up to the championship game and had fans of other teams sticking around just to get a glimpse of their prodigious hitting, it looked like the UT Grays found themselves in a David vs Goliath situation.
Beaver Valley Red looked locked in early on, as Will Swisher jumped on the first pitch of the game and hit it out to deep center field, bouncing off the top of the wall and staying just inside the park for a leadoff triple. Beaver Valley batted him in on the next batter and took a quick 1-0 lead, but UT Grays pitcher Mason Orchard settled down from there.
“Our team had been playing really solid defense all tournament,” Goff said. “We told our pitchers, ‘get the ball in play, we’ll make a play for you.’ I also told them that this team has been rolling over everyone and let’s see how they handle a team pushing back. We got two runs in the bottom of the first and that was huge for us to show that we weren’t just going to lay down.”
Orchard kept Beaver Valley out of rhythm, holding Beaver Valley to just that lone run through his three innings of work on the mound before turning the ball over to Titan Mozingo, who had already shined at the plate and behind the dish.
“We figured they had seen a lot of velocity before,” Goff said. “So we had our lefty on the mound who had a lot of good off-speed pitches and we went with him for as long as we could, and then we came in with the harder thrower in Titan (Mozingo). He hadn’t pitched the whole tournament, so he was ready to go, and he did awesome.”
Trailing 1-0, Mozingo got his team all squared in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI double that was laced into right-center field. Then in the third inning, Mozingo showcased his arm behind the plate, throwing out Beaver Valley’s leadoff hitter who was trying to steal second. In the bottom of the third, Mozingo once again came through with an RBI, and all of a sudden, UT Grays found themselves up 6-1 after putting up four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Now it was Mozingo’s turn on the mound. Mozingo stranded runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of the 4th inning, before surrendering two runs in the top of the 5th inning, but that was as much damage as Beaver Valley could muster. In the top of the 6th and for the final out in the 7th inning, Mozingo induced nearly identical ground ball double plays to get out of any danger.
“It’s a huge statement for us to finish like this,” Goff said. “To come out to the biggest tournament that we’ve ever played in and win it, it just says a lot. Our program back home is going to be super excited when we come home with this trophy and stick it on the shelves.”