by Thomas Hoffman
The 12u Five Star Tigers returned to East Cobb, GA, as defending US Club Nationals champions after an 11u title run in 2017. Not only did the Tigers defend their championship, Josh Baker’s crew did so in undefeated fashion, including the 7-2 victory over Dirtbags to claim the second of back-to-back trophies.
“It was an unbelievable gritty performance this week,” said Baker. “We had tough pool games against two of the teams that ended up in the championship bracket.
“We used a little bit more pitching than we expected in pool play but we just grinded through it. It wasn’t just the star players, the role players also played a huge part in our success this week.”
Facing the same Dirtbags team that Five Star matched up against in a dramatic, 8-7, semifinal, the Tigers were looking at a tough championship battle. Of six games Five Star played in, the Dirtbags were the only team that managed to climb within three runs.
Baker tabbed Parker McCoy to start on the hill for Five Star. After walking the first two batters and giving up the opening run, McCoy rallied back to close off the inning with a strikeout.
“He’s been the best player on the planet this week,” Baker said. “He was just off the plate a little bit to start the game. He settled down quickly, dialed in and was phenomenal.”
The Tigers were threatening to strike back in the bottom of the first with runners on second and third and just one out. Isaac Newman, who had reached safely in all but two plate appearances the entire week, stepped to the plate. Despite Newman’s powerful shot to left field, Brantley Truitt caught the rocket in left field and doubled off Five Star at second base to end the inning.
McCoy, down a run, trotted out to the field but remained confident.
“I was feeling good since the moment I woke up,” said McCoy. “We had already beat the Dirtbags yesterday. Seeing their lineup before, I knew what I was going to have to face today.”
In four innings of work, McCoy gave up just the initial run in the first inning, struck out three and walked only four batters.
Five Star’s offense kicked into high gear in the bottom of the second inning. McCoy lead the frame off with a walk and didn’t have to wait long to make it home as Jace Glisson drove him across the plate with a fielder’s choice. Glisson, Aidan Lynch and Jackson Roper all delivered RBI as part of a four-run inning.
While McCoy was busy helping the team on the mound, he helped himself in the bottom of the third. With two outs and the bases empty, McCoy caught all of a 2-2 pitch, sending it to opposite field in right, well over the 250-foot fence.
“It was a fastball right down the middle,” said McCoy. “I was locked in and made a good swing on it.”
After adding a run to extend the margin, 6-1, in the fourth, Baker and boys looked to put the game out of reach in the fifth. As Sean Benjamin climbed aboard with a hit-by-pitch, Isaac Newman could almost taste an RBI as he stepped to the plate. Newman’s hot streak in the tournament continued as he clamored a double to score Benjamin and give his team a 7-1 lead.
“This was going to be the last tournament with this team,” said Newman. “I wanted to help them out as much as I could and really make a difference in our last go around.”
Needing just three outs, Baker turned the keys over Dawson Shelton to close things out. Dirtbags didn’t just pack it in during the final frame, though. Cameron Bagwell and Sam Hucko plated runs to draw within four, 7-3.
Ultimately, Shelton forced back-to-back pop outs, ending the game and sealing another championship for Baker and the Five Star Tigers.
“This tournament is as close to a high school or college tournament as you’ll find on the travel ball circuit,” said Baker. “You’re not just playing for your team, you’re playing for your entire organization.
“To be able to contribute for two years in a row as champions is a great feeling. You feel like you’ve accomplished something as a team for the greater good of the organization.”
The 12u US Club Nationals title didn’t just have significant impact on the coaches but on this special group of players as well.
“I’ve played with these guys for six years,” Newman said. “It means a lot to be able to leave this group as champions. These are my brothers.”
by Kyle Koso
Championship Day has arrived at the U.S. Club Nationals, with a couple of organizations dialing in on the coveted Club Champion trophy awaiting its destination when the dust clears Saturday.
The 13u and 14u title games will be broadcasted on ESPN3, with the 13u going at noon and the 14u game slated for 3 p.m. at East Cobb Park. The Five Star Tigers (FL) have gone 6-0 overall and thus secured a berth in the 13u final game; they will face a well-known program out of the Texas Metroplex, either the Dallas Patriots or the Dallas Tigers-Leonard/Nicholson. The Patriots won a tense, taut 15-12 extra-inning thriller over the Dirtbags (NC) to advance through the loser's bracket late Friday.
The 14u title game has another Five Star Tigers team locked into position; they will face either 6-4-3 DP Athletics or whoever emerges from early Saturday action in the loser's bracket -- Slammers-Asnicar (CO) or the Georgia Bombers.
Championship games for the 9u, 10u, 11u and 12u age groups will all start at 1:40 p.m. Saturday at East Cobb.
It's the Five Star Tigers again perched at the top of the winner's bracket in the 12u; they are 5-0 but had to survive a tough 9-8 game against the Dirtbags in the semis. The Dirtbags are still in the fight in the loser's bracket, as are the Dallas Raiders and the SBA Canes (SC).
The 11u championship game has the East Cobb Astros already in the mix, and they will face either the SBA Canes, Five Star Tigers and Canes in the final. The 10u title game looks very similar in makeup, with East Cobb Astros already in and Five Star Tigers, Canes and Dirtbags all looking to grab the other berth.
Finally, in 9u, the SBA Canes and SBA Dodgers are in the top of the bracket, with the winner early Saturday set for the final. The loser of that game has one more chance in the bottom of the bracket, as do the East Cobb Astros.
by Thomas Hoffman
Following two dramatic walk-off victories, the 13u Five Star Tigers were looking for something with a little less tension in the semifinal matchup against the Dallas Tigers. Amassing 21 runs in four innings, Five Star cruised to the championship game, 21-6.
“This team has had the same approach for a while now,” said head coach Andy Burress. “They’ve played together for a long time. We attack the baseball, and that’s an organizational thing that we’ve had for 15 years.”
After giving up a run in the top of the first inning, Five Star erupted for seven runs in the bottom half. In total, 12 batters came to the plate for the Tigers. The inning was highlighted by back-to-back two-RBI doubles from Hayden Freese and Robert Lane.
“I was looking for fastballs,” said Lane. “If I didn’t get a fastball, I wasn’t going to swing. When I did get the fastball, I smashed it.”
Dallas retaliated well after giving up a crooked number. The Tigers batted a round of their own, sending nine players to the plat. Jhett Creel, Aidan Esquivel and Jason Miller all deliver RBI for a four-run answer, closing the gap, 7-5.
“When the game got close, we tried to keep the energy level up,” said Freese. “We didn’t want them to get any more runs back and we wanted to put the pedal to the metal.”
Every Five Star batter saw at least one plate appearance for the second straight inning. Matching the effort in the opening frame, the Tigers combined for another seven runs. Drew Burress’ three-run bomb was a small part of the big inning that stretched the Five Sta lead, 14-5.
“In the game of baseball, you have to have different guys step up,” said coach Burress. “Our best starter didn’t have it today, but we made it up with hits like Drew’s.”
As Dallas went quiet on the offensive end, Five Star looked to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the third inning. Brooks Brannon and Hayden Freese remained hot as they plated three more runs, extending the margin, 17-5.
In the bottom of the fourth, Five Star need four runs to officially close out the contest. Drew Burress’ second extra-base effort of the afternoon signaled the start of another big inning. Three batters later, Ethan Garner knocked in Riley Jackson to make the run-rule official, 21-6.
“We’ve been good all week long,” said Freese. “At this point in the week, it’s just about remaining true to what we’ve done, keep up the intensity and bring the defense.”
Five Star will await the winner of the all Dallas semifinal as the Patriots take on the Tigers Saturday morning.
“There’s a lot of good teams here,” said Burress. “As an organization, we’ve had success in the lower age groups.
“We were determined to make a good showing in the 13’s and 14’s this year. I’m proud of this group of kids and what they’ve proved they can do so far. I have no doubt they’ll come out tomorrow with the same intensity.”
by Jason Hanes
Seeing a knuckleball specialist isn't as common in baseball as it used to be. Needing to stay alive at the Triple Crown U.S. Club Nationals, the Dallas Patriots called on their specialist to stay alive.
In a game that seemed like the team with the last swings would win, a solid relief pitching performance by Dayton Tockey lifted Patriots 13u squad to a 15-12 (7) win over the Dirtbags to stay alive in bracket play at the Triple Crown U.S. Club Nationals.
"I throw that pitch pretty frequently," said Tockey after securing his side's come-from-behind victory. "It usually works for me."
With the game tied going into extra innings, the International Tiebreaker Rule went into effect. As the visiting team the Patriots started the inning with a runner on second. The Patriots would get a run to take a 13-12 lead, but the big blow of the inning would come off the bat of Alex Cruz. Facing a new pitcher, Cruz would line a single back up the middle to plate a pair of runs and give his side a 15-12 lead.
"I was down in the count 1-2," Cruz said. "I knew [the pitcher] was going to come with something offspeed, so I just stayed back on it and drove it up the middle."
After an uneventful top of the first, the Dirtbags struck for a pair in the bottom of the inning. After a two-out single put a runner on, Colton Wombles ripped a two-run homer well out to left field to give his side a 2-0 advantage.
The Patriots answered right back to start the second. Cruz, who entered in relief on the mound late in the first inning, jumped on a 1-1 offering and sent it out to left-center field to help his own cause and cut the lead in half.
The Dirtbags got the run back in the bottom of the inning as Shelton Bocook led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on an RBI ground out by Lucas Slagle. Again, the Patriots would rally back. Ryan Butler led off the top of the third with a homer to right, and the Patriots would get two men on with two out. This time, though, Cruz would pop out to second to end the threat and keep the lead with the Dirtbags.
In the bottom of the inning, the Dirtbags manufactured a pair of runs to stretch the lead to three. After a double and two walks loaded the bases, Bocook lifted a sacrifice fly to score the first run of the frame. Then, with the runners in motion, Ethan Gibson poked a hit-and-run single through the left side of the infield to score a run and make it 5-2.
The Patriots came right back again in the top of the fourth, as three straight singles loaded the bases with no one out. After a pair of strikeouts, a grand slam by Aidan Smith to left-center on a 1-1 count gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, 6-5. Later in the inning, a single back up the middle by Lazaro Alvarado tacked on another run to make it 7-5.
The Dirtbags would answer back to get two more on the board to knot the score. With two men on, Walker Jenkins laced a double into right-center. One run scored, but a strong relay throw nailed the would-be tying run at the plate for the second out of the inning. Two batters later the Dirtbags would get that tying run as Wombles singled just inside the bag at third to make it 7-all.
The lead shifted back to the Patriots in the fifth. With a runner on, a full-count offering to Bralen Lopez was served back over the wall in left-center to give the Patriots a 9-7 lead.
With time running out, the Dirtbags came back to make things interesting. A two-out double to right center by Jaden Marvin made it 9-8 , and then a single to center by Jaxon Milam tied the game again, 9-9. Jenkins then drilled a 3-run home run to right to make it a 12-9 contest. Time nearly expired on the game and ended the tournament for the Patriots, but a fly out on the next Dirtbags batter meant that the sixth inning would start with only a minute left on the time limit clock, giving the Patriots life.
The Patriots would answer yet again in the sixth, putting two runs on the board and the tying and go-ahead runs on base with only one out. After a pop-out, a single loaded the bases with two men out for the Patriots. With the tournament on the line, a hit batter tied the game 12-all. A fly-out would end the inning, though, as the Patriots left the bases loaded. This time, facing Tockey, the Dirtbags wouldn't be able to answer and the game would go to extra innings.
In extras, Cruz's big hit provided the three-run lead, and Tockey would retire the side, not allowing any runs to cross the plate to give his team the 15-12 win.
"It felt good to shut them down, because I love pressure situations," Tockey said. "I love coming up big for my team, and I love just playing with these guys."
"It was a crazy game," Cruz said. "It was back and forth. Each team had their moments. I just knew when I hit that ball back up the middle that it broke it open. It was a very fun experience."
"They've been doing this all year, so this doesn't shock me," said Patriots head coach Brandon Sherard. "We stay under control really well. We know any game, we're not out of it. We swing the bats well, we throw strikes, and we play defense well. What impressed me the most today was their heart and grittiness."
The win keeps the Dallas Patriots alive for a contest against cross-town rival Dallas Tigers Leonard/Nicholson Saturday morning at 9 a.m. to determine who moves on to face the Five-Star Tigers in the 13u Championship game at 12 p.m. on ESPN3.
by Thomas Hoffman
Since the inception of US Club Nationals in 2016, the Dallas Tigers have represented well each and every year. Last year, Dallas Tigers-Polk went the distance, capturing the 13u crown. The Leonard-Nicholson version of the Tigers has set out to equal what their counterparts did just 365 days ago.
As the No. 5 seed out of pool play, the Tigers have rung up back-to-back wins. An opening round 5-3 win over Slammers left the Tigers to face Lonestar Elite for a spot in the semifinals. Methodical, precision-like baseball led Dallas to a 10-3 route and one game closer to the 13u title match.
“We have a great group of guys that we believe can do awesome things,” said head coach Nathan Leonard. “We’ve put each and every one of these guys in positions to challenge themselves and make a play for the team. We believe in them and they believe in themselves and have been able to come through in key moments.”
It was Lonestar that struck the first blow in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal matchup. Aidan Perry’s RBI-single gave his team a quick 1-0 start.
Dallas’ nerves seemed unrattled, though. Lead-off hitter Jhett Creel returned serve with a single of his own and by the time Aiden Esquivel came to the plate, he had two runners in scoring position. Esquivel launched a powerful shot to left-center field, scoring two runs, leapfrogging Lonestar with a triple.
“I’ve been very focused on doing the fundamentals right,” Esquivel said. “I wanted to just hit through the ball and not try to do anything fancy. I was really happy I was able to accomplish what I wanted to do.”
Esquivel, the Tigers’ pitcher, kept Lonestar at bay until the top of the order came around for the second time in the third inning. Perry reached first safely again with a walk and two consecutive hits from Hank Benny and Aiden Perry pushed a pair of runs home, bringing Lonestar within one, 4-3.
“Today was like a Sunday championship game,” said Jason Miller. “It was win or go home. Things got close there, but I knew as long as I did my job, my teammates would do the same and we would get the job done.”
Miller didn’t flash an all-star caliber stat line, however, when it came time for a sacrifice, Miller was eager to accept the task at hand. His sac-fly in the bottom of the third inning gave Dallas a two-run cushion, 5-3, affording Esquivel and the pitching staff a little more breathing room.
“I don’t care about get hits or smashing home runs,” explained Miller. “It’s about doing your job and getting runs in.”
The Tiger’s go-to sacrifice fly hitter reared his head again in the fifth inning, driving in the second of his three RBI on the day.
Dallas broke the game wide open in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ten batters came to the plate in the half-inning as the Tigers drove in four runs on just one hit, while earning six walks. Suddenly, the lead stretched from three to seven, 10-3.
Nathan Leonard tabbed Miller to finish off the contest in the top of the final frame. Miller walked one but circled back with a strikeout and a line-drive to himself to seal the win and vault Dallas into the 13u semifinals.
The Tigers earn the right to face a Five Star program coming off back-to-back walk-off finishes, with the winner advancing the Saturday’s championship game.
“We believe we have the tools to make it to the next game,” Leonard said. “Our job right now is to play some Tiger baseball like we’ve done in the past, and who wouldn’t want to do it with this group of men. I’ve seen them break any challenge that comes their way.”
by Jason Hanes
Ethan Garner's walk-off three-run homer with two out in the bottom of the sixth capped a incredible rally as Five-Star Tigers 13u came back from a 12-0 deficit to defeat Dirtbags 14-13 on Friday afternoon to move on in the winner's bracket at the Triple Crown U.S. Club Nationals.
Down 1-2 in the count, Garner battled back to fill the count for a payoff pitch. "With it 3-2, I was looking for a fastball to hit. He threw it down, so I swung and hit it," Garner said. "It hit really good."
The Tigers trailed 12-0 after the top of the third, but momentum started to swing the other way in the bottom of the inning. With one out and two men on, Drew Burress connected on a three-run blast to left to get Five-Star on the board. "We were down by a lot," Burress said. "I just knew somebody was going to have to do something if we were going to come back and have any chance of winning. I went up there, just trying to keep it down the middle, and it went out."
"That helped to keep the motivation very high to keep playing," Garner added.
The inning wasn't over, though, as four more runs crossed the plate to trim the lead to 12-7. Robert Lane and Brooks Bannon each had two-RBI hits to slice the lead down to five.
"That inning was huge," Garner said. "That really gave us some motivation to finish this game out."
In the fourth, Burress broke out the magic stick again as his second home run to left of the game was a two-run blast to make it 12-9. "[The pitch] was low, and I hit it right in the sweet spot of my bat," Burress said. "I knew right when I hit it, we were going to have a chance to come back. I've probably hit a couple of balls farther, but I've never hit a more important one."
The Dirtbags weren't done scoring yet, as Walker Jenkins cranked a solo home run in the fifth to push the lead back to four 13-9. Five-Star scored a pair in the bottom of the inning, and it looked for a moment that Burress might have given his side the lead with another homer, but his swing turned into a lazy fly to left to end the inning.
The Dirtbags left an insurance run on in the top of the sixth that it would prove to seriously need. The visiting team on the scoreboard nearly got out of the inning after a leadoff walk was followed by two quick outs; however, a single to left would set the stage for the heroics of Garner.
The Dirtbags raced out to an early lead as Shelton Bocook cleared the bases with a grand slam in the first inning. An inning later, Shawn Kitchens ripped a two-run blast to start the scoring in what would prove to be a six-run second. Tyler Parks, Colton Wombles, Ethan Gibson, and Connor Chapman each drove in runs in the frame. Two walks, a balk, and a sacrifice fly helped the Dirtbags score a pair in the third to build what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. Just four innings later, the tide had turned.
While the Dirtbags had to turn around and play again immediately, the Five-Star Tigers now moves on to the winner's bracket final against the Dallas Tigers later this afternoon.
"We've got plenty of pitching left," Burress said of Five-Star's chances. "We've just got to keep the bats going.
by Kyle Koso
You can learn quite a bit about yourself in terms of baseball, trying to fight back through the bottom end of a double-elim bracket.
With a win-or-go-home verdict looming over their heads Friday, the Colorado Slammers-Asnicar 14u team didn't execute everything they wanted, but the good news was good enough as they posted a 9-7 victory over Lonestar Elite to stay alive in the chase for the U. S. Club Nationals title at East Cobb Park. The Slammers will keep on pushing through the loser's bracket at 9 a.m. Saturday and will have to win again at 11:20 to reach the final -- all daunting but within reason for a team that can swing the bat as well as trot out strong starting pitching.
Friday, the biggest moment came in the top of the fifth, right after Lonestar scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 3-all. Run-scoring hits from Camden Ross and Derrick Geist were timely, and baserunners were aggressive on two Lonestar errors.
"That inning boosted our confidence; they tied it, so we needed to bounce back. Everybody was doing their job," said Ross, who had two hits and two RBI, including a nice long sacrifice fly in the first as the Slammers took a 2-0 lead. "Just trying to get the first runs on the board with the sac fly, and the next one, I said let's get them in with a hit. We left a runner or two stranded, and you don't want to do that, but that's the game. You're not going to be perfect."
In the sixth, the Slammers did leave a runner on third with no outs, but they had put across two runs before that on a triple from Ben Greenberg. A couple of fielding miscues behind Slammers reliever Ezekiel Dokes made him work a bit harder, as well, but he was nail-tough in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win.
"At this age, you've got to focus more on the good than the bad. We have things to improve on, but they battled through against a good team. They found a way through it," said Slammers head coach Bryant Asnicar. "We had a bunt there in the fifth, a bang-bang play that jumpstarted us. It's crazy how a bunt will jumpstart an inning. Obviously, coming back through the loser's bracket is huge for them; they want to push, and it's a journey for them.
Aiden Billingsley did stellar work at the leadoff spot, reaching base four times, scoring three runs and earning the team's MVP of the game honor.
"We worked hard, and I liked how we picked each other up in the dugout. We didn't get down on each other, even though it might have been hard to with some errors in the first two innings," Billingsley said. "I feel really good right now, and I feel I played my kind of baseball. It's just a matter of bresthing and slowing the game down (when under pressure) and thinking through my plays. We all do that in the outfield."
For Lonestar, Zack Zavala hit a monster two-run homer off the scoreboard in left field in the sixth inning; Cade Urbanski also drove in two runs with a double and a single.
by Kyle Koso
Chris Rodriguez may have given up about 1000 feet worth of hits late Thursday, but he certainly earned his mile-wide smile at the finish.
The pitcher for the 13u Lonestar Elite-Dunn squad threw a stellar game to kick off bracket play at the U.S. Club Nationals, going all five innings in humid conditions as the eighth-seeded Elite toppled No. 1 seed 6-4-3 DP at East Cobb Park, 14-6. The final frame was no cakewalk for Rodriguez as he gave up two long home runs (and another shot halfway up the leftfield wall), but by then the Lonestar offense had provided a substantial cushion.
Rodriguez bent in a curveball to get a strikeout in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.
"We learned from the mistakes of the previous games, and we used that as motivation to come back. We knew we needed to win this first game in bracket play, and we crushed the No. 1 seed and set the tone to let all the other teams know we are here," said Rodriguez, who had muzzled 6-4-3 to just two runs before tiring late. "They caught up to my fastballs there late, so I knew I had to do something different. I gave them some offspeeds here and there and hoped they wouldn't hit another bomb."
Lonestar may have been the eighth seed coming in, but they had scored 30 runs in pool play and certainly didn't flinch at their challenge. The key frame was the third inning as Lonestar sent 13 batters up and poured across eight runs. Hank Benny came through with a two-out three-run double to break the game open.
"I was just trying to hit the line drive, especially after talking to my coach and him telling me to keep it down instead of elevating, and it worked out," Benny said. "We were pretty high with confidence, especially after winning our (previous) game, and we felt like we were going to win this game. Chris did a good job leading the team, getting us through the game."
Lonestar wrapped up its offensive highlights in the top of the fifth, with Brady Wilson hitting a triple and Ethan Lancaster bringing him in with a single. Travis Starkey added a double to score Mason Wagstaff, and Jackson Baker had his second RBI of the day with a single to score Starkey. Adrian Ramirez added three hits and two RBI.
"We lost our first pool game, made a mess of it with errors, and it got away from us. We are a real confident team that has played 14 Majors all year, so we're not going to be intimidated," said Lonestar head coach Robert Dunn. "There are good teams here; if we play well, we can play with anybody. We were having good at-bats, good approaches ... when we try to do too much, that's when we get in trouble.
"Chris gave us the game we needed. He kept it in the zone, limited the walks ... the pitch count got a little high in the end, but he got us a lot of ground balls. They all have to play together, because no one person is going to carry it."
Lonestar Elite will play at 11:20 a.m. on Friday at Aviation Park to continue in the winner's bracket; 6-4-3 DP begins its potentially long journey in the loser's bracket at 9 a.m.
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."
by Thomas Hoffman
The Five Star Tigers had yet to trail in a game throughout its journey in the 13u Division of the 2018 US Club Nationals. Down 3-0 early, the Tigers chipped away at the Patriots’ lead, ultimately winning in walk-off fashion, 7-6, to remain undefeated and advance to the quarterfinals.
“We’ve won a lot of ballgames this year,” said head coach Andy Burress. “One thing that we do well is swing the bats. We were down early but I knew we’d come around.”
Dallas was riding a two-game win streak into the matchup and jumped on top early with three consecutive two-out doubles to drive in three runs. Justin Blancaflor, Barrett Kent and Lazaro Alvarado all came across home plate in the opening frame.
A quiet bottom half of the first let Dallas seek another run in the second. Kyler Proctor made the trip around the bases thanks to a duo of throwing errors from Five Star.
“We were up and ready to make a comeback,” said Garrett Mackowiak. “None of us lost confidence, we just were looking for pitches to hit to get on base and start a rally.”
Trailing 4-0, Riley Jackson heeded the optimism from Mackowiak and kicked the inning off with a walk. That would start a string of three consecutive hitters climbing aboard safely. Ethan Garner, Brooks Brannon and Hayden Freese each delivered RBI to bring the Tigers within one, 4-3.
In the fourth inning, Proctor tallied the second of his two base hits on the afternoon, and scored for a second time on another mistake from Five Star.
Dallas kept the lead, 5-3, until the game’s scheduled penultimate inning.
Mackowiak, who was previously 0-2 at the dish, came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with Connor Crisp already on second. The hard-hitting right-hander muscled a double to the gap in left-center field, scoring crisp and climbing back within one.
“He’s been a big hitter for us all year long,” said Burress. “He’s a solid kid who comes up in big moments, time and time again.”
Three batters late, Garner flipped the advantage to Five Star with a crushing 2-RBI double. Suddenly, the Tigers were just three outs away from stealing a victory.
The Patriots had other ideas, however. Charles Hayden Smith trotted to first following a hit-by-pitch, and amazingly found himself scampering home on a passed ball a batter later to tie the game at six.
Five Star and Dallas had played six and one half thrilling innings and it only seemed inevitable an inning-ending double play would signal a decisive eighth inning.
With the international tie-breaker in place, Burress tagged Roberto Rodriguez to give Five Star a chance for a walk-off.
“I was waiting for my chance to do something special for my team,” Rodriguez said. “I went in there with a lot of confidence and wanted to get those guys out as fast as I could.”
A towering right-hand pitcher with big-league power, Rodriguez was more than up to the task, giving up just one walk before slamming the door shut on Dallas with a strikeout.
Sensing a little breathing room, Drew Burress moved the placed runner on second to third with a grounder to short, setting the stage for Mackowiak. Not to be denied a walk-off win, Mackowiak hammered a curveball to right field, sealing the victory, 7-6.
“I was expecting fastball,” said Mackowiak. “I was able to make an adjustment on a curveball and hit it just hard enough to make it count.”
Five Star moves into the quarterfinals where the No. 2 seed will face the No. 6 seeded Dirtbags.
“We’re prepared to go deep,” said Burress. “As we proved today, if we need to go another couple of innings to get the job done, we’re prepared to do so.”