by Adam Burns
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — The Vegas Vipers rallied for three wins on Saturday to earn a trip to Sunday’s Omaha Slumpbuster 13u Division I Invite Championship series.
And none of those wins were more difficult than the final one, as the Vipers scored four runs in the eighth inning to defeat Fastball Elite in a semifinal contest on Saturday afternoon on Field 9 at the Council Bluffs Recreation Complex.
“They just grinded it out,” Vipers coach Brian Dallimore said. “It was tough, but their desire to win was stronger than their desire to get beat.”
That desire may have something to do with the Vipers’ lone loss on their SlumpBuster resume. Fastball Elite topped the Vipers 5-3 in the opening game of pool play on Wednesday.
“It’s definitely a good feeling because we lost our first game of the tournament so it was just crazy to come back and beat them,” Vipers’ Colton Boardman said.
“That’s a good team,” Dallimore said. “We had a good game with them on the first day. It was 3-3 in the last inning and then they scored two and we couldn’t match that.”
This time around, the Vipers started strong, scoring three runs apiece in the first two innings for a 6-0 lead. But the Vipers didn’t score again until the eighth.
Fastball Elite’s offense woke up in the third with a run before a five-run fourth knotted the score at 6-all. Both squads failed to cross home plate in the following three innings, which forced extra innings.
The Vipers broke through in the eighth, as Boardman put a ball in play that was ultimately misplayed at first base, scoring Konner Brown from second. Later in the inning, Brady Dallimore drew a bases-loaded walk before Alex Rhynes delivered a two-run double to right field to cap the scoring.
The Vipers’ resilience stuck out to coach Dallimore.
“To show up today and play three straight with like 10 minutes in between each game, and playing teams that had fresh guys, we just competed. We just flat competed,” he said.
The Vipers now set their sights on Championship Sunday, where they’ll see the top-seeded St. Louis Force, who beat Fastball Elite 8-0 Saturday morning.
Regardless of the outcome, the Vipers are just happy to be in position to do more.
“We still play tomorrow, but I’ll tell you what, our championship was won today,” Dallimore said. “We’re all wiped out of pitching, but our main focus now is to get over to TD Ameritrade and try and get into a game. No, it’s special for these kids to compete like that.”
Dallimore had an extra incentive to get his squad to Omaha this week.
“I’m an old college baseball guy,” said Dallimore, who played for the Stanford Cardinal in the 1995 College World Series. “This place is like hallowed grounds for me. That’s why we came here. I wanted these guys to have an interest in college baseball and show them what it’s all about and kind of striving to be at that level. This has been such a cool trip for me and then be able to win these games and make it memorable.”