by Matt Antonic
RICHARDSON, TX -- The sunny afternoon skies had given way to darkness, the field lights at Huffhines Park providing all the necessary illumination. With the game in the bottom of the sixth and the West Texas Thunder and Aledo Warstic all tied at 12 runs apiece, Thunder infielder Beto Navarte was just looking to get the winning run home from third any way he could.
Navarte made contact and lofted a fly ball to center field. Rylan Castillo waited for the catch and bolted down the line. The throw was strong but was offline as Castillo slid home with the winning run. The 12uD2 Thunder mobbed him at home to celebrate winning the Triple Crown Texas Season Opener tournament, defeating Warstic 13-12 in a thriller.
“I was just trying to get a base hit,” a smiling Navarte said after the game, “but I’m glad I made a good play.” Play could be used in the plural form if he was being fair to himself. The Thunder infielder logged a game high four RBIs on two hits and a walk.
He wasn’t the only one in the lineup putting in work. Every single player on the Odessa-based Thunder that came to the plate Sunday against Warstic reached base or drove in a run at least once. The team scored 52 runs in five games, giving the traveling parents and family members from West Texas plenty to cheer.
The Thunder sprayed balls all over the field, including some impressively timed hits as well. Shortstop Mason Vasquez launched a three run triple in the second inning that initially broke the game open. Castillo and Navarte smacked back-to-back doubles in the third after Warstic had responded. It’s a dynamic lineup that will inspire confidence all season long.
After nearly three hours of championship game play and five total games on the weekend, it was the Thunder that found themselves being presented with the winning plaque in the postgame ceremony. Jubilant parents held cameras and directed photography poses like orchestra conductors.
Despite the Thunder surrendering a five-run lead and allowing the tying run to score in the fifth inning on a passed ball, Thunder coach David Graham found far more positives to take away from the victory than negatives. “We work on bunt situations, baserunning, awareness and tagging up,” he said.
Baserunning and awareness came in crucial for the Thunder after Castillo legged out an infield single. An errant pickoff throw to first saw the ball roll down the first base line, allowing Castillo to advance to third as the winning run. “We work on bunt situations, baserunning, awareness and tagging up,” he said. “It ended up being a sacrifice fly to win the game. We just did a lot of those little things right.”
Graham wasn’t exaggerating the back-and-forth nature of the game. The Thunder bats were ringing all day long and powered the team to an 11-6 lead. Warstic smacked five hits in the top of the fifth inning and put five runs across the plate to tie the game. Warstic tied the game again in the top of the sixth. Despite the adversity, Thunder pitcher Caiden Orozco said his team’s belief never wavered. “I really thought we were going to win either way,” he said.
Orozco finished his day 3-for-4 at the plate while logging two innings of work on the mound. He certainly wasn’t the only one to pitch during the weekend. In the postgame ceremony, Thunder coaches called out each player’s name and positions for a brief moment of individual recognition, and proclaimed “pitcher” for the seven different players who threw over the span of just two days.
As parents snapped pictures with the winning players and victory banner, an excited Graham pointed out that his team had played five games during the weekend and still had enough to finish the job Sunday evening. “We would get a lead, they would get a lead,” he said. “We would come back and they would come back but they boys just never quit."
By Lary Bump
RICHARDSON, TX – The Oklahoma Flamingos don’t often travel to Texas, but as a result of winning the Texas Season Opener at Breckinridge Park on Sunday they’ll be going to another tournament more in their territory.
The 13u D2 OTB Flamingos United – based in Owasso, Okla., near Tulsa – rallied to reach the championship game, where they held off the Texas Oilers’ rally in the final game to win 7-5. Oklahoma’s prize was entry into the Slumpbuster, June 14-18, in Omaha, Nebraska.
In the championship game, the Flamingos never trailed Texas Oilers NTH 13UMcGruder, breaking a 1-1 tie with two runs in the second inning. Oklahoma added three runs in the third, which was highlighted by right fielder Alexis Monesterio Jr.’s home run to left-center field that clanked off the scoreboard behind the fence.
“I didn’t see it,” he said. “I just kept running.” Monesterio said he didn’t hear the ball hit the scoreboard but spectators some 300 feet away certainly did.
Monesterio had driven in the game’s first run with a first-inning double. “I told myself to not be nervous but to make contact. The pitch was right down the middle.”
The Flamingos led 6-1 after three innings. Two walks and a single gave Texas a run in the fourth, but to that point in the game they had left four runners in scoring position. It appeared to be more of the same in the fifth when the first two batters reached base but remained there through two out. Then two singles, including a two-run hit by Noah Sullivan, produced three runs. With the tying run on second base, a fly ball ended the inning at 6-5.
Oklahoma’s Kuba Berman led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. The Oilers then walked Monasterio intentionally, but they allowed one insurance run. Bryson Francis retired all three Texas batters in the sixth to end the game.
The Flamingos almost didn’t make the final game. The Arkansas Patriots took an early lead, but Colt Fiveash’s three-run double highlighted a rally that tied the game. True Dedmon sparked another rally by running out a ground ball in foul territory that took a right turn and rolled over third base.
During the comeback, Berman’s pitching held the Patriots in check. After Arkansas scored a run and loaded the bases, Kannon Shelton relieved Berman and struck out the final batter for a 14-8 win.
“A couple of players just kind of stepped up,” Oklahoma coach Drew Shelton said. “The pitching came through when we made the change to Kuba."
Kannon Shelton started the second game but left after walking the first two Oilers in the fourth inning. Francis pitched the final three innings. Drew Shelton said most of his team was in the second full year together. “A lot of them had played on other teams."
Last fall, Monasterio joined the team. He said he had played with two of his new teammates. Monasterio’s family had emigrated to Oklahoma from Venezuela six years ago.
Drew Shelton said, "We've scheduled probably 15 tournaments. They're mostly in Oklahoma, Kansas City and Arkansas." And one in Omaha.
The game’s final inning began with a not-very-tall popup to the left of home plate. Flamingos catcher Cade Bartmier hustled from his position, made a dive and caught the ball in the webbing of his mitt inches off the ground. Did he know how close he was to the concrete base of the screen? “I didn’t care. It was fun.”
by Cody Thorn
GRAPEVINE, TX — Aulds Garvin wasn’t worried about the clock on the right-field scoreboard. However, the game went from minutes left to seconds left when the left-handed hitter from the Twin City Bombers delivered the key hit.
In the championship game of the 12uD1 Omaha Bracket, Gravin laced a hit down the left field line and that brought home the tying and winning run. That gave the West Monroe, La., team a 7-5 win over 5 Star Performance DFW Ingram on Sunday at Oak Grove Baseball Complex.
By the time, Garvin crossed first base and turned toward second base, he threw his arms out in celebration. It was only his second-ever walk-off hit.
The clock read 25 seconds remaining in the championship game.
“Sometimes you can’t watch the clock,” Garvin said. “It was really teamwork. Our coach gave us a speech at end of the top of the sixth (inning) and he said get to the tying run to the plate and anything can happen.”
The victory gives the top-seeded Bombers a chance to go to Omaha later this season to play in Slumpbuster Tournament – which runs at the same time as the Division I College World Series.
To have a chance to win the title, the Louisianans had to overcome a four-run deficit coming to bat with only three outs left.
The first three batters reached safely in the bottom of the sixth. In between hit batsmen, the second and third batters of the frame, the DFW team changed pitchers. Levi DeMoss hit a sac fly to center field to make it 6-3.
Up next was Abram Bennett, who hit a single to score two, making it 6-5. The left-handed hitters single up the middle put runners on first and second.
Garvin stepped to the plate with two minutes left on the clock. The Bombers pulled off a double steal but that left less than a minute on the scoreboard. DeMoss took third base, where the throw went toward.
“We knew it was a crunch time and this was it,” Bombers coach Jarred Frost said. “Our coaches do a great job of talking and conversing and knowing what we have and what we have to execute. They do a great job of knowing the game and knowing where we’re at in the game.
"We knew we had to make something happen and our third base coach said we got to make something happen and let’s do it. We executed it well. Our kids trusted us, that is the big part.”
5 Star Performance DFW twice held 4-run leads in the title game. After a scoreless first three innings, the local team went up 4-0 in the top of the fourth inning.
Three walks loaded the bases and set up a two-run single by Mackinnon Minota. Brody Needham added a sac fly to make it 3-0 and Anthony Hernandez’s single through the left side of the infield pushed the fourth run across.
Twin City added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Hudson Spillers had an inside-the-park home run for the first run and Gulds’ first RBI, on a single, made it 4-2 in the fifth.
5 Star Performance tacked on what was then insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning on a two-run single from Hernandez.
DeMoss threw three innings of relief to pick up the win for Twin City, fanning four. Aulds went three innings and didn’t get up a hit but was tagged for three earned runs as the starter for the Bombers.
LAST WORD – Frost on the Texas Season Opener: “We came here to compete. We had no expectations to be here on championship Sunday in the championship bracket in the championship game. We do know we are good enough to be in the game and in this bracket. But being here (in Dallas) was a blessing for us, I can tell you that. Getting to go Omaha will be a big discussion now. Being in Omaha is a dream for everybody.”
By Cody Thorn
FLOWER MOUND, TX — Five pitchers combined for a three-hit shutout to lead Dallas Tigers (14uD1) Killian a 1-0 victory over GPS Legends-Puffer during the second game for both teams at the Triple Crown Texas Season Opener on Saturday at Bakersfield Park.
Winning both games gave the Tigers the No. 2 seed in Sunday's nine-team championship bracket. The contest featured a lot of scoring chances but only a run was pushed across the plate. Pitchers for both sides came up with timely outs when needed to keep the game moving along.
“I think our pitchers did a good job of battling with runners in scoring position,” Tigers coach Ben Sampson said. “To me, early in the season, I want to get everyone out there for one inning on Saturday and still be fresh for Sunday. Anytime you come out of pool play and win those close games it is a huge confidence booster for us.”
Jameson Mayfield started for the Tigers and was then followed on the mound by Jack Snakenberg in the second and Bear Sampson entered in the third. Mayfield worked around a two-out triple by Dylan Krupnik in the first.
The next bit of trouble came after having a 1-0 lead. Michael Killian, who was the only hurler to go more than an inning for the Tigers, entered in the top of the fourth and then tossed the fifth.
In the fourth, he gave up a single to Colt Norman and walked Rhett Peterson. The southpaw got a flyout, strikeout and fielder’s choice to escape the scoring threat. In the next inning, Reed Cox had a one-out double, but a strikeout and a fly ball kept it 1-0.
“Just have confidence in yourself and trust your mechanics,” said the left-handed thrower from nearby Highland Village of working in high-pressure situations. “My fastball was on point and my curveball was good. I just take a deep breath and have a lot of confidence in yourself.”
Killian finished with three strikeouts and picked up the win.
Added Coach Sampson: “Trusting that plus fastball got him out of trouble.”
Colton Nussmeier struck out one in the bottom of the sixth to lock up the save, though the Round Rock team challenged again.
Brodie Leal drew a one-out walk and Norman got back on base after getting hit by a pitch for 14U Puffer — coached by former Astros pitcher Brandon Puffer. Nussmeier ended the game with a pair of fly balls to right fielder Cooper Grote.
The Tigers had a first-and-third situation in the top third inning but GPS right-hander Dylan Glenn got out of the jam with a strikeout looking on a 1-2 count. The lone run was scored in the top of the fourth inning.
Jake Mayor had a one-out single and with two outs, Mayfield walked, which led to a pitching change. Tyler DiMasi walked to load the bases before a wild pitch brought home the first and only run of the contest with two outs on a 2-2 count.
Earlier in the day, the Tigers beat Duran Baseball 14u, 3-1 with DiMasi accounting for two RBI. GPS Legends picked up a 14-4 win over the Fort Worth Cats Wisdom 14U\u in its pool opener with Riggs Gordon driving in three runs, while Brandon Washburn, Cox, and Brock Woytek had two RBI each. Those bottom four batters in the lineup were 4-for-8 with nine RBI.
by Lary Bump
RICHARDSON, TX – Kade Poole did it all for the Arkansas Patriots in the Triple Crown Baseball 13uD2 Texas Season Opener at Breckinridge Park on Saturday.
The Patriots from the Northwest Arkansas cities of Springdale, Bentonville and Fayetteville built a big early lead in a 9-2 win over the Aledo (TX) Black Sox. After that, Poole took over as Arkansas defeated the Odessa Red Woodpeckers 5-3 -- with the 2-0 start, the Patriots earned the No. 5 seed for Sunday's eight-team championship bracket
Poole, a right-handed pitcher, allowed the Woodpeckers only one unearned run. After that run scored for a 1-1 tie, he struck out two batters with runners at second and third. He struck out six in his three innings.
The Patriots’ first run had come in the top of the second. Poole, a right-handed batter, jumped on the first pitch and sent a no-doubter home run to left field. The 1-1 tie lasted only until the fourth inning. Parker Blackburn worked a walk and scored on a double by Quinn Birdsong. On the next pitch, Poole blasted another homer a bit closer to left-center.
Two pitches, two home runs, three RBIs for Poole. He batted just twice because the Patriots had 10 batters in their lineup and because the game ended after five innings because of a time limit.
“I was looking for high fastballs and I got them,” Poole said.
Three Arkansas pitchers held Odessa to two hits and only one earned. Another Patriots left-hander, Carson Meaders, shut the door in the final inning, striking out the final two Woodpeckers batters.
“He’s got a real good curve,” Poole said.
The Patriots aren’t just all about Poole, or the one-two punch of the lefty pitchers. They are part of Shane Smith’s Patriots organization of 24 teams in its baseball and softball program.
Coach Dakota Brissey pointed out shortstop shortstop Harry Dodson. While other Patriots were moving from one position to another, Dodson remained rooted as the foundation of the infield. He also went 2 for 3 at bat, stole a base and drove in a fifth-inning insurance run.
Last year, the Patriots won the Perfect Game u12 championship. For their u13 season, Poole and his teammates have different goals. He said, “On Sunday, I hope we win the championship. After that, we want to win as many as we can, then win state and win the Triple Crown World Series.”
Brissey said, “We’ll play 65 or 70 games if we win it.”
For now, Poole is looking short-term. Could he pitch again on Sunday? “I will pitch tomorrow,” he said confidently.
LAST WORD – The Patriots arrived Friday, a day after a storm dumped buckets of wind-swept rain that set off tornado alarms. Brissey said, “I couldn’t say any more about how they got the fields ready will all that rain."
by Matt Antonic
RICHARDSON, TX -- Frisco Riders pitcher Oliver Bullard stared down his Texas Generals counterpart in the batter’s box on the two-strike count and came set. With the bases loaded, two out and his team leading by three in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday, the game tension was palpable. Bullard wasn’t fazed.
The Riders’ righthander unleashed perhaps his best pitch of the day that caught the edge of the strike zone. An emphatic strike-three call by the umpire only added to the jubilation as his teammates and coaches met him with fist bumps and high fives.
The Riders capped off a strong performance Saturday in 12uD2 action in the Triple Crown Texas Season Opener at Huffhines Park, winning their first game against NTXBC Dirtbags and snuffing out the General’s comeback attempts in a 5-2 victory.
“That was huge,” Riders coach Scott Armstrong said of his righthander’s performance and the win against the Generals. “Getting them to play like this is phenomenal. Everybody is seeing the baseball well.”
The Riders were thrilled by the fast start, going up 3-0 in the top of the second inning off timely plays that ultimately won them the game. Owen James of the Riders thought the bats came through when they needed to. “Our hitting was definitely a lot better in this game,” he said.
Standing next to James was Bullard, covered in sweat after his work on the mound and having just completed a round of high fives with his teammates. “He was really hitting the strike zone well,” James said.
Bullard’s strikeout with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth would certainly qualify as the play of the day to James and Armstrong, but he was only too happy to spread the credit around to his whole team. Asked what his favorite pitch to throw during games is, Bullard replied immediately: “Two seam fastball, for sure.”
If the Rider’s improvement of the course of the game was any indication, they are set up well for a chance stand alone Sunday afternoon in the championship bracket. The Generals scored two runs on pitches that skipped to the backstop but were unable to generate any more offense against the Riders and their stout defense on the infield.
The 3-0 lead had been trimmed to 3-2 thanks to solid baserunning by the Generals. Both times the ball skipped by to the backstop resulted in bang-bang plays at home, but the runners beat the throw both times.
The Riders responded by manufacturing two runs in the fourth inning, both on force outs at first, pushing the lead back to a more comfortable 5-2. The hitting that both Armstrong and James praised had come through once again by simply putting the ball in play with men on base.
It wasn’t surprising to the coaches, who have stressed defensive fundamentals and mastering the speed of the game in practices with the team. “It is important for these guys to learn how to battle at this stage and really settle into the speed of the game and the communication that has to come with it,” Armstrong added.
“Here we go Riders, here we go,” rang from the dugout several times while the Riders were at bat. The energy was matched by the parents rooting on from the stands and the walk-up music that accompanied each Rider up to bat.
Bullard and James both agreed that the team is excited for what they can do on Sunday and are confident in their chances.
Armstrong concurred. “We’re going all the way, baby,” he said.
And what do Bullard, James and their teammates want most out of Sunday? “To win,” Bullard said. “We want the ring.”
Ten teams will make the cut for the championship bracket -- the semifinals at Huffhines are schedule for 2 p.m., with the title game slated for 4 p.m.