by Kyle Koso
When their lead was chipped away Saturday, the Five Star Tigers 13u team made sure their day wouldn't turn out to be a bust.
Jumping ahead by five runs in their U. S. Club Nationals championship game against the Dallas Patriots wasn't quite enough for the Tigers, but their offense caught fire in short order to rebuild the lead and guide them to a 12-6 victory at East Cobb Park. The Tigers (who closed a perfect 7-0 in the event) rung up four runs in the fifth to regain control, and strong relief pitching work from Roberto Rodrigues closed the door.
"From Day 1, these guys have been battlers. We were down 12-0 and came back to win (earlier in the tournament), and they just don't get down regardless of who's pitching, or whatever," said Tigers coach Andy Burress. "Anytime you can put pressure on someone by the way you swing the bat, that turns around and helps the defensive side."
The Patriots pulled ahead 2-0 as Ethan Mendoza doubled and scored in the first and Barrett Kent doubled and scored in the second. J.D. Coleman came through with the first crucial at-bat of the game for the Tigers, tripling in two runs in the bottom of the third and getting his squad up on the scoreboard, 3-2. Coleman went on to notch two more hits and two more runs, along with two stolen bases.
He was right in the middle of the action in that four-run fifth inning; he also had three teammates hit doubles in Drew Burress, Hayden Freese and Conner Crisp.
"J.D. is one of our original guys, and he went through a spell there a while ago where he just didn't grow," coach Burress said. "He was a little behind and kept working; he put in the work and it showed all summer."
"On the triple, I got behind in the count but I fought my way back," Coleman said. "That was fun. We felt confident we could swing the bats; that was a good team we played, and youjust had to compete with them."
Drew Burress had two doubles and drove in two runs from the leadoff spot; he agreed that a summer's worth of potent offense was enough to keep the team confident when the Patriots closed the margin to 7-6.
"We've been swinging the bats well all week, so we knew we didn't have to press. If we just did what we've done the whole time, we knew we'd be all right," said Drew, who actually started the game off with a strikeout. "After that, I tried to make sure I didn't try too much to pull the ball as I did the first time. I tried to really hit a home run there, which is the kind of thing you do when you're on TV, I guess."
Brooks Bannon had two hits, a run and two RBI for the Tigers, while Crisp had a double and a triple. Mendoza closed with three hits and two runs for the Patriots; Lazaro Alvarado added two hits and an RBI.