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.”