by Kyle Koso
As far as gems go, it's probably fair to say Wyatt Strahl's pitching performance had an occasional flaw.
But his 6-4-3 DP 14u team knows when something beautiful is displayed, and you'd have to grant the point that Strahl did everything required Saturday, throwing a complete-game two-hitter as 6-4-3 eased past the Five Star Tigers 2-0 in the U. S. Club Nationals championship game.
Dawson Campbell brought in the game-winning run with a two-out single in the fourth, and 6-4-3 got a nice insurance run in the fifth as 24 singled and 25 doubled with two outs. Strahl wobbled at times, allowing five walks and a hit batter in the first three innings, but he settled down nicely and allowed just one baserunner in the last four innings. That runner was wiped out on, appropriately, a 6-4-3 double play.
"I was kind of nervous at the start, especially being on national television (ESPN3). My teammates were helping me, and I finally found the perfect spot and started rolling," Strahl said. "When I was in the dugout I was all mad because of the walks, but they kept high-fiving me, and I did what I could for my team. I was very happy when we scored, and we were all screaming and having fun. I finally got to feel a bit more comfortable, pitching with a lead."
Casual Kay slapped a double in the fourth for the 6-4-3 squad and took third on a wild pitch. After a popout, Dawson came up and put a solid swing on the ball to drive in the first run.
"I went up and tried to barrel the baseball, what I try to do every time. Casual got on second base, and that helped me out," Dawson said. "Before that, we were all amped up, knowing we are on TV and very excited. We had some jitters ... coming through the loser's bracket was a little scary, but we knew we had a baseball game to win, and we did that then, and here.
"Wyatt ... he shoved, he balled out there. He didn't have his best stuff, but he figured it out."
Strahl wrapped up his shutout in the seventh with a fly ball to left, a strikeout, and a groundout to third base.
"I knew his pitch count was getting high, but we executed our pickoffs so well, and that must have saved us 20 or 30 or 40 pitches. That allowed him to settler in and finish the fifth, sixth and seventh," said 6-4-3 head coach Jamaal Hawkins. "He threw really well then. Dawson has been hitting balls hard all year, and he hit a lot of balls at people in this tournament. I knew when he hit one hard, one had to drop, and when it did, it was awesome.
"This team believes in each other. They know on any given day they can lose, but if they play well they have a chance to beat anybody."
Despite the loss, the Five Star Tigers still put up important points on the board in the race for the Organizational Championship, and the Tigers ended up winning that trophy, breaking the two-year streak of the teams with East Cobb.