by Bradey King
For two teams at the Arizona Spring Championships, a determined effort didn’t necessarily mean one could determine a winner.
In 11u D1 pool play action on Friday night, the Dallas Tigers based out of Forney, Texas and Easton Elite (La Habra, CA) squared off, two talented squads that were evenly matched and played to a final score reflecting that very fact. The back and forth battle resulted in a 3-3 tie.
The Tigers jumped out on top immediately in the first inning with a one-out single from Mason Erwin, followed up with a stolen base and a pickoff error that sent him flying all the way home to score.
After that, both teams remained scoreless until a leadoff bunt for a base hit finally got things rolling for Elite in the bottom of the third inning. A similar scenario played out as Elite stole second base, moved up to third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single to tie it up.
The rest of the game was a pitching duel. The Tigers threw five different pitchers and catcher, Kade Bazzell, wasn’t fazed by the changes in speeds and accuracy from his pitchers each inning. He was a wall behind the plate and demonstrated a lot of consistency and leadership.
“I just do my thing so my teammates can trust me, “ Kade said.
Kade’s father and Tigers head coach Keith Bazzell’s game plan involved utilizing his team’s wheels. Despite being undersized, they found ways to create havoc by bunting and stealing bases in order to compete with Elite’s roster.
“We always go after kids with speed and aggressiveness and guys that want to be out on the field. We’ll get the bats rolling, but we figured out how to manufacture runs tonight which was good,” added Bazzell.
While the Tigers threw multiple pitchers, Easton Elite relied on Brandon Garcia to hold it down on the mound. He faced several Tigers scoring threats and responded with crucial strikeouts. Brandon was equally as dominating on offense. His clutch line-drive single to centerfield in the fifth inning became the run that came around to score and give Elite a 2-1 lead. Time and time again he overcame pressure situations.
“Like my dad always says when he comes out to talk to me on the mound, I’ve just gotta keep the fire! Something might hold me down but I can break through,” said Garcia.
Like any great baseball game, the final inning was a nail-biter. The Tigers capitalized on a couple of Elite errors of which were direct results of the smart coaching decision to double-steal third base. The catcher overthrew his third baseman and as the ball rolled down the left field line, the Tigers plated two runs to give them a 3-2 lead going into the bottom half of the inning.
Elite applied some pressure of their own and it fittingly came down to a bases- loaded, two-out, 3-2-count situation. The pitch delivered by Tigers closer Landon Ammerman was just high and out of the strike zone to walk in the tying run. Although disappointed, he stayed focused and got a routine groundball out to end the game.
“I was kinda nervous for the last inning, but I just took a deep breath before every pitch and that helps me,” said Ammerman, who contributed a single, double and scored a run to lift his team on offense.
Both teams remained eager for Day 2 of the Arizona Spring Championships which begins Saturday morning at 8 a.m.