by Kyle Koso
When the action began to boil up against Parker Thomas, he knew just how to flip the switch and get things to simmer down.
Pitching for the 12u Dallas Raiders on Thursday at the U.S. Club Nationals, Thomas kept his composure when the East Cobb Colt .45s Navy squad looked ready to break out. A steady hand from Thomas and a very urgent approach on the bases allowed the Raiders to earn a little daylight on the scoreboard, eventually posting a 7-4 victory.
That put the Raiders at 2-1 overall, enough to clinch a top-four seed in the championship bracket, which begins Friday. After scoring just three runs in two games Wednesday, the Raiders decided to be more selective at bat, while also piling up eight stolen bases.
"After yesterday, we talked to the boys about their approach; they had better mental focus at the plate this time," said Raiders coach Trent Kelley, whose defense picked a couple runners off to help the effort. "Parker is a super composed kid and stays within himself, and that's what you like about him. He puts the ball in play and trusts his defense to make the plays, and that defense made the plays when he needed them."
"I just try to not worry about them getting hits -- I just go right back at them. (The pickoffs) definitely help; they can't score runs if they are not on base, and it builds momentum because it's a good play," Thomas said. "Instead of just scoring a run or two, we battled offensively and did what we needed to do."
The Raiders took a 1-0 lead in the second; pinch runner Kobi Newton stole two bases and scored on a sacrifice fly from Luke Bajaj. East Cobb countered with two runs in the top of the third as Aiden Bible scored on a passed ball and Gavin Savage came across on a sacrifice fly by Justin Schooler.
Weston Ballard doubled and scored for the Raiders as they plated two in the third; he also scored on the end of a double steal in the fourth as his team kept up the pressure. Two more runs came across in the fifth, with Brent Lee's grounder bringing in one run and Dasan Hill scoring on a wild pitch.
"Yesterday, we were just backing off the plate, couldn't hit the outside pitch. We had to get to that outside pitch today, and we did that in most of our at-bats," Ballard said. "I got one change-up today and smoked it down third base, and stealing-wise ... I had to turn on the burners because I knew I wasn't the fastest. If I can get there, I'll do it."
In the sixth, Raiders reliever Bajaj gave up a hit and a walk, and runners were on second and third with two outs. He made the pitch he needed and got a fly ball to right field to end the game.