by Tanner Puckett
The 12uD2 NorCal Prospects slugged their way to a 14-1 rout of the Cascade Crush in their final game of pool play Saturday at the Triple Crown Arizona Spring Championships.
The Prospects came out strong in the top of the first, leading off with four straight hits. Three of the seven runners who reached base would come around to score, giving NorCal a lead that grew every inning. In four frames against the Crush, NorCal hitters were 14-for-25 with two doubles and a five home runs.
“We work on hitting a lot. We have a lot of cage time,” NorCal head coach Matt Crudale said. “We take a lot of pride in being able to drive the ball and have good at-bats."
They had no trouble driving the ball in Saturday’s game. Of their five home runs, three were to the opposite field. Lefty Jack Karst’s three-run blast cleared the fence in straightaway center.
The bulk of those homers came in the final inning, when Karst, Jackson Chen and Matthew Baur all but decided the game by adding five runs the Prospects’ lead.
“I was just aggressive. We’re trying to hit the ball and make contact,” Baur said.
Baur was a big part of NorCal’s offensive success in the game, going 3-for-3 with a double to go along with his solo shot.
The game was a much-needed win for the Prospects (Danville, CA), who finished a back-and-forth game against the Colorado Select with a tie just moments before first pitch.
A doubleheader in the dry, hot desert can be tough for even adults. Crudale and the Prospects were conscious of conserving arms for the bracket run ahead.
“We wanted to give guys a chance to be successful and effective,” Crudale said. “Really, we have a pretty good squad and have a chance of making a long run tomorrow, so we don’t want to burn pitching.”
That resulted in three pitchers combining to throw four frames for NorCal, though they were all extremely effective in limiting offense.
NorCal’s starter, Lucas Glazier, allowed just two baserunners over two innings, striking out three.
Glazier saved what could’ve been a potential rally for Cascade in the second inning.
Following a hit batter and two consecutive wild pitches, Glazier faced a 2-0 count with a runner on third and two outs. He battled back to strike out Diego Gutierrez swining and end the threat.
“It’s a shift in momentum when you can shut them down and not allow any runs,” Crudale said of Glazier’s clutch performance. “It squashes their rally and gets us ready to start our own rally.”
Rhett Thompson and Dylan Waters combined with an inning each to finish out the game and hold NorCal’s lead.
The only run from the Crush (Bellingham, WA) came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Waters gave up a solo shot to Grady Adams, who had thrown all four of Cascade’s innings and was well over 100 pitches.
All in all, NorCal pitching limited Cascade to just three hits.
Though their Pool C opponent Blackhawks have locked up the top seed in the pool with an undefeated performance, the Prospects have put themselves in a position to pull a great seed headed into the bracket.
Ultimately, the Prospects ended up with the No. 7 seed out of 16 for the championship bracket.
“It feels great to get a little momentum going into tomorrow,” Crudale said. “We’ll get the kids rested up and hopefully come out tomorrow clicking on all cylinders.”
There’s a similar sentiment from the players. On their though process headed into the tournament, Ben Becker had a pretty simple approach: “Let’s not lose, let’s not tie.”