by Thomas Hoffman
The 2018 US Club Nationals marks the first appearance for the North Carolina-based Dirtbags. With wins over 6-4-3 DP and Central Alabama Nationals, the 10u Dirtbags squad was looking for a perfect 3-0 start against the Georgia Bombers.
Behind stellar pitching and a spotless defense, the Dirtbags prevailed, 8-0, to finish pool play a perfect 3-0.
“We talked about that if we play the way that we’re capable of, we can beat anyone in the tournament,” said head coach Everett Hancock. “We try not to focus too much on other teams and what they’re doing, we try to just worry about our performance one game at a time.”
After Wednesday’s 2-0 splash into the tournament, the Dirtbags didn’t waste any time jumping out to an early lead against the Bombers. Hudson Tuttle led the game off with a hit-by-pitch, scampered to second base on a passed ball all before Amos Rich drove him home with an RBI-single. Two batters later, Cam Sharpe added a second run with an RBI-double.
“I wasn’t swinging it very well all season long,” said Sharpe. “When I came to this tournament, I was really focused on just making good swings, getting on base and helping out my team.”
Sharpe’s laser focus would result in a 3-3 day at the plate with two runs scored and a double.
On the mound, the attention turned toward Gavin Washburn. Washburn gave up a hit to the second batter he faced, but relying heavily on his defense behind him, pumped strikes down the middle to force a pop out and ground out to end the inning.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t force a lot of strikeouts but throws a lot of strikes,” said Hancock. “There’s a lot to be said about a kid, especially at 10 years old, who can put so much trust that the guys behind him will make plays.”
Inning after inning, Washburn teased Bomber batters, allowing them to put the ball in play, only to be fooled by the playmakers in the field. Notably, in the fifth inning, Hudson Tuttle made a highlight-worthy play in short, diving to his right to keep Georgia from sniffing any momentum.
“My team is really good,” Washburn said. “They have my back at all times. I really wanted to win this game and pitch well. I knew I couldn’t do it without relying on guys like Hudson to make plays.”
The Dirtbags added a third run in the top of the second inning on a CJ AuBuchon double but broke the game open in the top of the third. Loading the bases on three consecutive base hits, Washburn, Jacob Fortson and Luke Strittmatter all came through with an RBI to take a commanding 6-0 lead.
“We have that confidence really rolling,” said Washburn. “We had already won two games and when we got up by a couple of runs, we weren’t about to let a third slip past us.”
Washburn’s single in the fifth pushed the eighth run across for the Dirtbags, and then he promptly set down the Bombers in the bottom half to close out the contest, 8-0.
“We’re in a great spot after today,” said Sharpe. “Going forward, we have to have the same mentality as these last couple of games. When a bad play happens, take 30 seconds and flush it, and move forward.”
A 3-0 record and a high run differential will guarantee the Dirtbags a place in the 10u Championship bracket. Squaring off against teams and organizations that are far more familiar with the US Club Nationals format, the opening two days for the Dirtbags have been all that more impressive.
“I just want to them to believe that they can do it,” Hancock said. “Sometimes they act like typical 10 year olds, but hopefully they know that they’re in the top six and they can see the goal right there ahead of them.”