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.