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.