by Kyle Koso
MARIETTA, Ga. -- When the 10u Slammers Altitude finally lost a game at the US Club Nationals, they had just four hits in the contest.
Next time around, and needing a win against Colorado stablemates 10u Slammers Nolte to claim the 10u title, the Altitude had four hits in the first inning and scored four runs.
The quick start and a determined effort through to the final inning sent Altitude to a resounding 17-7 victory Saturday at the East Cobb Complex, as the winners plated 11 runs in the final two innings to put the game away. Alex Wells had four hits, three runs and three RBI, Easton Haas added three runs and two RBI, and Ben Knutson had three RBI for the Altitude, who fell to the Nolte squad 5-2 to force the "if" game in the double-elim format.
In the first inning, Knutson drove in two runs with a single, and a double from Dalton Marsh made it 3-0. Landon Holmes added an RBI groundout, and that let starting pitcher Mikey Kroll go to work with a huge mental advantage.
His biggest moment came in the third inning after Slammers Nolte scored three runs to draw within 6-3. With a high fastball, he struck out a power hitter, and the frame ended when a baserunner was thrown out at first despite lashing the ball to right field.
"He kept fouling it off and fouling it off, so I just tried to throw a plus (fastball) harder, and it worked out," said Kroll, who pitched 4 1/3 solid innings. "It feels good (to pitch) in a big situation, and I really didn't want to screw up. I tried to relax between games, drink a lot of water and get my head on straight."
Wells agreed that it took a few moments to get in the right mood after losing to the Nolte squad, and those early runs proved essential to the cause.
"The hot start gave us a ton of momentum; we wasted a lot of things in the first game, but this time we got the bats going," Wells said. "We were all down, but we said, we have one more in us. Mikey was just throwing strikes, which is all he needs to do when he's throwing gas."
The Nolte team got three hits, two runs and two RBI from Gaige Cook, and Juan Pablo added two hits and two RBI. The game ended on a nearly disastrous note, on a fly ball from Pablo that went to right-center field. Gavin Marsh made the catch but collided with Brayden Lashier, and both fielders were laid out on the field. As it turned out, the ball was thrown back to first in time to double-up a baserunner, and the game was over.
"It's exactly what we talked about in between games. We hit the reset button, got some food and shade, and all year these boys have never given up," said Altitude head coach Brad Marsh. "When you're in a stressful situation (Kroll's big strikeout moment), the heart of their lineup, when you can elevate a fastball and get that strikeout swinging, it really pumps the guys up. Mike has done that all season; we put him out there for the biggest game of the year for us.
"Last week we won the Colorado State Championships and have been riding that high ever since. We played some good clubs this week ... quality defense, hit the ball, and never stopped pushing. This shows you the quality of baseball in Colorado."
by Jason Hanes
MARIETTA, Ga. -- A complete-game effort on the mound by Chance Turner capped an emotional day as Canes – Barbour won the 14u championship at the Triple Crown US Club Nationals with an 8-2 victory over Lonestar Elite on Saturday afternoon at the East Cobb Complex.
“There’s a big range of emotions,” said head coach Kevin Barbour. “A lot of these kids have been together since they were six or seven years old. We’ve all been with the Canes organization for the past four or five years. Just to see them, even from the beginning of this year, to where they are now is special.”
In the championship game, it was two teams with small rosters that met up. Lonestar Elite only had 12 players on their roster, and due to injury, Canes – Barbour had just 12 players and one pinch hitter available.
“Lonestar had great athletes. All the teams had good athletes,” Barbour said. “Our team specifically, everybody pitched. That’s tough on arms. Plus, we have to protect the kids’ arms and keep them under a pitch limit. They pulled together. Everybody threw strikes, which was key, and our defense made the plays they needed to make.”
Lonestar Elite took the lead in the top of the third. With two men in scoring position and one out, DJ Pinkerton hit a ground ball towards short that was bobbled, allowing everyone to move up 90 feet, giving Lonestar Elite a 1-0 lead. One batter later, Miles Wallace lifted a sacrifice fly to deep left-center, plating the second run of the inning.
The Canes would get a run back in the bottom of the frame. Jake Barbour would walk, then steal second. A ground out to second put Barbour 90 feet away for Brett Fuller, who ripped a deep drive along the line in left for an RBI single to cut the lead in half.
A cacophony of miscues, combined with timely hitting, allowed the Canes to take the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. Luke Brown struck out on a dropped third strike, and the throw to retire him at first would end up bouncing down the line in right, allowing the strikeout victim to reach second. During the next at bat, a pair of wild pitches would bring Brown home to make it 2-2.
Later in the inning, the Canes loaded the bases with two men out. A passed ball would let courtesy runner Andrew Schneider score to give the Canes the lead. A walk would then re-load the bases for Barbour. He would proceed to turn on a pitch and send it over the second baseman’s head into right center for a two-run single to make it 5-2. During the next at bat, Chance Turner would score on a wild pitch to complete the five-run inning and put the Canes up 6-2.
The Canes added two more in the fifth inning thanks to a balk-scoring run and an RBI hit by Tyler White. The 8-2 cushion would be more than enough for Turner, who would go the distance to pick up the win in the championship game.
Turner knew the expectations would be high pitching in the title game, but he knew it was something he could handle.
"They’re high. Definitely. But it’s nothing that I haven’t done before,” Turner said. “It’s nothing I can’t handle. I knew I could work low in the zone, let them hit it. I didn’t have to worry about striking people out. I could give up a deep fly ball and let my (outfielders) run get it, or I could get a ground ball and let my infielders get it.”
“This is a great tournament,” coach Barbour said. “We’ve had a great host. Triple Crown is a great organization. We’ve played eight or nine games in four days, but our kids stuck with the game plan. I was just really proud to watch it pay off.”
by Thomas Hoffman
MARIETTA, Ga. -- GA Power Baseball might’ve been new to the US Club Nationals, but the 12u team played like veterans in its championship matchup against hometown 643 DP on Saturday at East Cobb. Capturing the lead in the third inning and never looking back, GA Power secured its title with a 6-1 victory.
“We hit really well up and down the order, especially in the latter part of our season,” said head coach Adam Fussell. “I feel like that was a major part of our success. We threw the leather at them, played good defense and we’ve had outstanding pitching. It’s really paid off for us.”
Needing to topple GA Power twice in the double-elim format, 643 raced out to the start it was looking for, scoring a run on two hits in the top of the first inning.
While opposing early success would’ve rattled the cages of many, starting pitcher Reid Worley only got better as the game wore on. Consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the second and third allowed his team to go to work offensively.
“Reid is not going to blow it by you by any means, but he had some good action on his fastball today,” Fussell said. “He’s probably got one of the best breaking balls of a 12-year old I’ve ever seen. He did a heck of a job keeping the hitters off balance.”
Leading off the bottom of the second inning, Worley helped himself out reaching safely on a single. Three batters later, Ethan Weidner brought Worley home to tie the game at one.
Though Power’s second-inning scoring halted with Worley, coach Fussell’s squad would pick up where they left off in the next frame. With two on and two out, Samuel Ericson kickstarted a rally with an RBI double, scoring Alex Lepinski. Power would tally a second run in the frame to make it 3-1.
“They threw me a lot of fastballs down the middle,” said Ericson who finished 2-3 with two doubles and an RBI on the afternoon. “For me, I was just trying to stay positive all week long.”
In the fourth, Fussell handed the keys over to Jackson Bradfield. Equaling the effort of Worley, Bradfield set down 643 in order in the game’s quickest inning.
“I was mixing it up well,” said Bradfield. “Most of the time I was hitting my spots with my fastball. From there, I was able to mix it up inside and outside.”
“Jack is a gunslinger,” Fussell said. “He can throw it by you if you’re not ready for it. Overall, both Jack and Reid did an excellent job pitching to contact and didn’t try to do too much.”
Another two-out rally in the fifth inning produced three more GA Power runs as Vinny Pacini, Alex Lepinski and Seth Pettett all crossed the plate.
“That was a big moment for me,” said Bradfield. “I already had a lead when I came into the game but we got three more in the fifth inning, and that allowed me to go out and do my thing in the final inning.”
Bradfield did just that. Despite giving up his first hit, Bradfield shut the door on 643 with two strikeouts. Through three innings of work, the young right-hander gave up just one hit, one walk and struck out six.
At the end of a long week and through seven games in the Georgia heat, GA Power Baseball could finally call themselves 12u US Club Nationals champions.
“It feels great,” said Ericson. “It’s nice to share this with my team.”
“It’s only my second tournament with this team,” Bradfield said. “It feels great to know that I can be a part of something special. I think it’s great.”
By Thomas Hoffman
EAST COBB, Ga. -- Baseball is a pretty simple game, or at least it was for Canes – Barbour on Friday evening at East Cobb. Going toe-to-toe with hometown East Cobb Baseball 14u, Canes utilized a lethal combination of stellar pitching and timely hitting, solidifying a spot in the US Club Nationals semifinals with a 9-1 win.
“We have a core group that’s been together for several years,” said head coach Kevin Barbour. “It’s all about teamwork for us. We have some great talent on this team, some great pitching and some great hitters. But the biggest thing we do is play together.”
East Cobb looked comfortable on its home field early. With two outs in the top half of the opening frame, Davis Newman launched a solo shot to the opposite field in right.
It wouldn’t take long for Canes to respond, though, opening the bottom end of the inning with a leadoff hit from Jake Barbour who would come around to score two batters later on an RBI groundout from Brett Fuller.
“We’ve had our share of bad innings,” coach Barbour said. “But we always had a way of fighting back and staying in games.”
When Tyler White stepped to the plate in the second inning, the game was still knotted at one. Flexing power of his own, White smashed a home run, handing the lead to Canes for the first time in the contest.
“I got behind in the count early,” explained White. “I was sitting on a curveball and he threw it. I was looking to put something in play but I got enough of it to get it out.”
By the third inning, starting pitcher Garrett Roark began to find his rhythm. After surrendering the home run and shutting down the second inning with a runner in scoring position, Roark allowed just one hit the rest of the way through.
“I was trying to slow the game down to my tempo,” Roark said. “Then I would pick up the pace when I pitched. I was able to use my fastball and slider really effectively.”
White’s confidence ignited Canes’ bats in the bottom of the third. Sending all 10 batters to the plate, Canes pushed across five runs, highlighted by RBI doubles from Colby Wallace and Tyler White.
“East Cobb threw a really good pitcher,” said Barbour. “We told them going into the game to battle up there and make him throw strikes. That’s what we did and it worked.”
Lead in hand, Roark flew through the fourth and fifth innings. Pitching five complete frames, Roark gave up just one run, two walks, and struck out six.
“He’s been solid for us all year,” Barbour said. “Garrett has another gear and you saw it tonight. He had great command and great control. He did everything we could ask of him.”
Back at the plate, White’s red-hot day wasn’t over. Tacking on insurance in the bottom of the fifth, White tallied his third hit and third RBI, ending the game a triple short of the cycle.
“I think that third inning really boosted everyone’s confidence,” said White. “We really picked it up after that and kept staying confident throughout the game.”
As time expired after the fifth inning, Canes assured themselves a spot in the 13/14u semifinals. Facing Lonestar Elite, coach Barbour and company are just a win away from the US Club Nationals title match slated for 1:40 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll be ready,” Barbour said. “We’re going to get us a good team dinner. That’s what we’ve been doing all week. Our group is pretty laid back. We challenge them to flip a switch when game time comes and so far they’ve been doing it.”
by Jason Hanes
MARIETTA, Ga. -- A wild winner’s bracket contest in the 13u/14u division of the Triple Crown US Club Nationals went to extra innings before Lonestar Elite pulled out a 9-8 win over 6-4-3 DP in eight innings Friday night.
Lonestar Elite led 8-1 going to the top of the seventh, but 6-4-3 DP would take advantage of errors to score seven runs and send the game into extra innings. From there, the game became a tale of two pickoff plays; one would work, the other would not.
In the top of the eighth with the International Tiebreaker Rule in effect, 6-4-3 had a runner on second with no one out. Mason Ramm, on in relief on the mound, would notice the runner trying to get a big lead off the bag.
“Coach tells us don’t let the runners keep moving their feet at second base,” Ramm said. “He kept creeping, and kept creeping. I tried a back pick. I didn’t think he was going to run, but he did. (Ty Maldanado) made a nice effort to tag him, and he got him.”
Ramm would strike the next two batters out to end the frame and put Lonestar Elite in the driver’s seat going to the bottom half.
In the home half of the inning, Joe Betz started the inning on second base. 6-4-3 DP had devised a great play to get the runner out, but a mistake ended up costing the side. The 6-4-3 DP pitcher faked a throw to second, and the shortstop and second baseman both dove, acting like the ball went into center field. Betz started to run to third, but the pitcher still had the ball. As he went to make the tag, however, the ball popped out of his glove, allowing Betz to take third.
The next batters would be intentionally walked, loading the bases with no one out. Hank Benny would lift a fly ball to right. The strong throw to the plate stopped Betz in his tracks; however, the ball would one-hop the catcher and get to the backstop. Betz came home to score, giving his team the wild win.
“This is a great group of guys,” said Lonestar Elite head coach Eddie Villarreal. “One of the biggest parts of our tournament was the rain delay. We were able to stay in the dugout, have a lot of fun together, play some games, and do some bonding. This is a team that we’ve pieced together from (different parts of Texas) in the Lonestar organization.”
Both teams got on the board in the opening inning. Andrew Avitabile singled through the right side with runners on the corners and two out to give 6-4-3 DP the lead. In the home half of the inning, Ramm singled, stole second, then came home when Ayden Dennis singled off the pitcher’s thigh and the lunging throw from the hurler went into shallow right.
Ramm continued is solid day at the plate when he came through with a one-out RBI single to give his side a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second. With two out in the inning, a double by DJ Pinkerton scored two to make it 4-1.
Lonestar Elite would stretch out the lead to seven in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four times to seemingly put the game out of reach. With the bases loaded and one out, a wild pitch allowed Betz to score to make it 5-1. A two-run single from Benny made it 7-1, with an error by 6-4-3 DP bringing home the final run of the inning one batter later.
It looked like that would be enough for Lonestar Elite, but 6-4-3 DP came up with seven big runs to tie the game. After the first four runs of the inning had scored, 6-4-3 DP was down to its final out. Kameron Douglas could have let the game end with his grounder to second, but bhe hustled out of the box to beat the throw to first to extend the game. Douglas then stole second, and when the throw went into center field, Carson Felton scored from third to make it 8-6.
Carson Kerce would reach thanks to an error at first, and after he stole second, the tying runs were in scoring position. A wild pitch scored Douglas to make it 8-7, then Zeke Kimbrell singled to bring home the game-tying run, sending the game to extras.
With only 12 players on the roster, Lonestar Elite was desperate for a win to avoid the loser’s bracket. “We only have 12 guys,” Ramm said. “You see some teams out here with 15 or 20 guys. We’re short on arms, but we’ve just got to keep scoring a lot of runs to keep the pitching down.”
“We’ve got some guys left that we still have some innings in,” said coach Villarreal. “They’ve got some good arms, so it’s huge to be able to get off the field and be able to come back tomorrow with our big guys and not have to try to piece together a game down the stretch.”
by Kyle Koso
MARIETTA, Ga. -- Having already done some good work at the plate Friday, Ewan Pantier had reason to feel confident when handed the ball to pitch in relief for his 10u Slammers-Nolte squad Friday at the US Club Nationals.
But when Pantier walked the first two batters he faced, the positives in the past were on the verge of disappearing, because the Lonestar Elite 10u were approaching fast in the rearview mirror.
Pantier muscled up and got three infield outs, then got through the final inning in tolerable shape as the Slammers slipped past Lonestar, 9-7, to advance in the 9u/10u championship bracket. With a win Saturday morning, Slammers-Nolte will be in the final and need just one more victory to leave Georgia with the US Club Nationals title.
Pantier had two doubles and two RBI; Gaige Cook had two hits, two runs and two RBI, and Travis Varela tripled in two runs as the Slammers took a 9-2 lead and held on as Lonestar nearly scratched its way back.
"I was looking to get on base, and help the team out because I really wanted to win this game. When I was pitching, I just had to breathe," Pantier said. "I had to find my center and throw strikes."
Lonestar jumped ahead 1-0 on a double from Gus Navejas that brought in Gatlin Wren, and Slammers came back with doubles from Juan Pablo Altamirano to tie it in the second inning, In the third, Slammers brought across six runs, with Cook punching a double on the first pitch thrown from Lonestar reliever Jaiden Fields.
No "take one to get a feel," no "work the reliever for a walk," just straight-up swinging by Cook.
"He kept on throwing strikes (in his warmup) every single time. I knew he was coming with a strike on the first pitch," Cook said. "I kept my mind in the game and kept hitting the ball. We've been in the winner's bracket here a couple times, so I'm not surprised."
Cade Wilson drove in a run for Lonestar in the fourth inning, the last in a four-run burst that tightened the game. In the bottom of the fifth, Wren reached after being hit by a pitch, and while he came around to score on a single from Navejas, the inning was kept under control on two great defensive plays from the Slammers. Easton Urban made a diving catch in right field for the first out, and catcher Kaden Hopkins (who drove in two runs on infield groundouts) tracked down a tricky foul popup to end the game.
"We work day in and day out to hit strikes; we don't go after first-pitch curveballs, we hit fastballs," said Slammers coach Mike Nolte. "They did a great job hitting fastballs. The crucial thing with 10u baseball is to stay calm, stay collected and not put any pressure on the boys. They did great, played as a team and had some hunger."