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.