by Jason Hanes
Thanks to clutch hitting and timely plays in the field, Dirtbags 13u stayed in the winner's bracket of the Triple Crown U.S. Club Nationals with a 10-5 win over Canes on a sweltering Thursday afternoon in Marietta, Ga.
"The guys brought it," said Dirtbags head coach Greg Holt. "They brought the energy, they brought the enthusiasm. That's one of the things we've been preaching is to show up every inning. We want to make sure we jump on people and get on top of them. Once [Canes] came back a little bit, we were able to put together a big inning and take control from there."
After a scoreless first inning, Ethan Gibson's sacrifice fly started the scoring to put the Dirtbags on top. With two men out in the inning, Shawn Kitchens would drive a two-run single into right to give his side a 3-0 lead.
The Canes would come right back to make it a contest. Down 3-1 in the bottom half of the inning, Jackson McDonald would take a full-count pitch with the bases loaded and two out back into center field for a game-tying single.
In the fourth, the Dirtbags would forge another lead. Capping a lengthy at-bat, Shelton Bocook ripped a ball past the Canes' third baseman to drive home the go-ahead run. "Honestly, I was just trying to stay down on the ball, stay through it, and drive it into the gap," Bocook said of his approach at the plate.
After keeping the Canes off the board in the bottom of the fourth, the Dirtbags surged farther ahead with a six-run fifth to put the game out of reach. The big blow of the inning came off the bat of catcher Colton Wombles. Wombles would rip an offering just inside the bag at third for a double to plate two runs and make it 8-4. "The first game today, I wasn't hitting as well as I wanted," Wombles said. "I spent some time with my coaches in the cage before the second game and worked on keeping my weight back."
After an error extended the lead, Bocook found the gap in left-center to plate the final run of the game for the Dirtbags and make it 10-3. "He's one of the leaders on this team," said Coach Holt. "He brings the energy. He holds the team accountable, and most importantly, he's a good person and a great teammate. I think, down the road, he's got a bright future."
In the bottom of the inning, with time expiring on the game, the Canes pressed hard to get runs on the board. With two men out, Callan Henderson ripped a double over the center fielder's head to plate a pair and make it 10-5. After a Canes batter was plunked, it seemed like momentum might be on the side wearing black and gold; however, a fielder's choice between the shortstop and the second baseman would wrap the game one batter later and the Dirtbags would prevail.
The win gives the Dirtbags a match-up against Five Star Tigers Friday at 11:20 a.m. "We're going to get another good program tomorrow," said Coach Holt. "We've just got to be consistent. We need to throw strikes and play defense, and obviously, we need timely hitting. Those are our keys to success."