by Bradey King
After a close battle in pool play on Saturday, Big West Elite Baseball (San Clemente, CA) and Triple Play (Bakersfield, CA) faced off for a second time in the 10u Division 1 championship game at the Arizona Spring Championships.
West won the pool play game, and more significantly, also nabbed the 6-5 victory in the 10u final.
“We definitely had a lot more confidence knowing we had beat them the day before,” said head coach Pac Gutierrez.
Triple Play put two runs on the board in the first inning, but West quickly matched that in the bottom half by drawing three walks and stringing together a few timely hits to take the lead 4-2 and force a pitching change.
West kept the momentum rolling into the second inning as Noah Wineski smashed a line drive to the left-center fence for an RBI.
In the top of the third inning, Triple Play took advantage of an infield error, a dropped third strike and a passed ball to plate one, making the score 5-3. West responded once again in the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back singles and another RBI rip from Wineski.
Just when the game seemed to be leaning in West’s favor, Triple Play put up a huge fifth inning to tie it up, 6-all. Not for long, though, as a one-out double followed up by an RBI single from Corwin Allard sealed the deal.
If there was an MVP award to give out, it certainly would have gone to Allard. He threw five solid innings while striking out five batters. In addition, he had an outstanding offensive performance going 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBI, one of those being the game-winner.
“I feel very confident on the mound. Every single inning my teammates score, I’m like okay, there’s another run to back me up,” said Allard.
West cruised through the last inning to hold off Triple Play and take home the hardware. Parker Bruggerman was all smiles as he ran in from left field to celebrate with his teammates after catching the fly ball for the third out.
“It felt really good to get the last out of the game, and I feel pretty confident we’re gonna win a lot this season,” said Bruggerman.
Coach Gutierrez agreed and applauded his team for their consistent energy the entire tournament.
“Between every inning I tell them to play as a family, stay loud, have good energy and good things will happen,” added Gutierrez.
Here are the other division winners for Session 2 of the Arizona Spring Championships:
9u -- SoCal Wolves (Mission Hills, CA)
11u D1 -- Twelve Black (Katy, TX)
11u D2 -- NorCal Prospects (Danville, CA)
12u -- Dugout Glory (Kilgore, TX)
13u D1 -- OC Tribe (Laguna Niguel, CA)
13u D2 -- Heat Baseball (San Jose, CA)
14u D1 -- South Bay Hustle (South Bay, CA)
14u D2 -- Desert Bandits (Phoenix, AZ)
by Bradey King
The 14u Division 1 Nevada Road Dawgs out of Las Vegas, NV took down WW Sweets (Redmond, WA) in walk-off fashion on Saturday morning at the Arizona Spring Championships, winning their pool play game by a 5-4 margin.
The Sweets got on the board first, scoring a run in the top of second. However, the Dawgs offense didn’t explode until the fourth inning. The middle of their lineup produced back-to-back singles, followed by a Sweets error that loaded the bases. An RBI single from Thomas Crafard scored one run, later followed by a wild pitch that allowed the Dawgs to tack on two more runs and make the score 3-1.
The Sweets rallied in the top of the fifth to tie it up and put some pressure back on the Dawgs. The team responded by getting a base runner on, advancing him, stealing third and then scoring off of a clutch two-out RBI single from Jordan Bowman.
Bowman took the mound the next inning to close out the game but struggled to find the strike zone. He walked three consecutive batters, allowing the Sweets to score and tie up the game once again. After a mound meeting with his coach, Bowman flipped a switch and struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
“He told me to just relax and throw strikes,” said Bowman.
In the Dawgs last chance to win the game, they strung together some timely hits. With two outs and the winning run on third base, the fate of the game was on Ryan Watkins’ shoulders. He got the job done, crushing a walk-off single into the 5-6 hole.
“I told myself to hit the ball in the gap somewhere and hit it on the ground,” said Watkins.
The Dawgs finished with eight hits and earned their first win of the tournament after facing a tough loss the game prior. Head coach Jewell Williams was pleased to see his team bounce back.
“The first game the boys came off pretty flat. In this game we just made routine plays. Like I told them from Day 1, if you made routine plays and pitchers throw first-pitch strikes, we’re gonna win a lot of ball games,” said Williams.
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.
by Bradey King
At the start of pool play Friday at the Arizona Spring Championships, the 9u Amarillo Dragons brought their sticks in a 15-5 victory over Gwynn Baseball out of California.
The game was a prime example of a “team win” as the Dragons combined for nearly 20 hits, most of those being bombs for extra bases. Solid pitching and defense backed the powerful hitting performance.
While most teams’ rosters tend to change year after year, head coach Dennis Davison was proud to announce that the majority of his young Dragons have been playing baseball together since they were five years old, which is both rare and special.
“We’re a unique team in Amarillo because we’re one of the only teams that doesn’t cut players. We don’t host tryouts, so unless someone quits we don’t have an opening on our roster,” said Davison.
This organizational approach seems to work in the Dragons favor as the chemistry, solid fundamentals and confidence among this young team was obvious and fun to watch.
“At this age the mentality is to just put the ball in play and good things happen. We also teach our pitchers to pitch to contact, because we believe our defense is good enough to get the other team out,” Davison added.
Whether it was a perfect bunt, RBI triple, stolen base or double play, every Dragons player contributed a “standout” performance during Friday’s outing. Therefore, it was only appropriate that Triple Crown media caught up with multiple players after the game. Tyler Davison, Tanner Snider, Samuel Ramirez, Trey Bass, Dawson Lanham and Brighton McNabb shared their thoughts on the win and excitement about being in Arizona during Spring Training for Major League Baseball.
“I’ve already got two baseballs full of MLB autographs,“ exclaimed the coaches son, Tyler Davison.
All six players agreed that batting and watching MLB games are their favorite parts of the sport and this specific Arizona Spring Championships experience. The Dragons plan to grab a few more W’s and continue to learn a lot in the next few days.
“I learned stuff on defense today, like how to throw it in from the outfield and not short-arm it,” Ramirez said.
Young Davison jokingly added, “I learned to never catch Brighton (McNabb) again. He throws too hard…like 60 miles per hour!”
The team was headed to cheer on the Texas Rangers later Friday and will be back on the diamond themselves Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
by Bradey King
It’s no surprise that the Triple Crown Arizona Spring Championships is the ideal spring break destination for a young baseball player. The opportunity to compete in a high caliber tournament and also watch their MLB idols at Spring Training is unlike any other experience. The sunny and 75-degree weather is the cherry on top.
Session 2 of the Spring Championships opened up Thursday morning and is off and running with more than 100 teams from states all across the country. Day 1 consisted of two “practice” games for each team. Coaches seemed to utilize their entire roster, giving everyone the chance to play and get comfortable at the plate and on the mound before tournament play begins Friday.
Head coach Ray Atkinson and his NW Bandits 13’s team from Seattle, Washington said that this is a can’t-miss event. This weekend marks the sixth time they’ve made the trip to Arizona.
“This is our version of Spring Training. It starts our season off right. We get great weather and a lot of good games, so we come every year,” said Atkinson.
Most teams wrapped up their games around noon today with plans of heading to the Spring Training games tonight. A very excited NW Bandits player, Micah Coleman, is eager to cheer on the Diamondbacks.
“The best part of the tournament so far is probably the sun! We’re gonna go to the Spring Training games, too. My favorite player on the Diamondbacks is Jake Lamb,” said Coleman.
While the weather in California is pretty comparable to Arizona this time of year, the DBA Crushers – Silver from Danville, California come to this event to see where they stack up against the solid competition it offers.
“I liked today’s format,” said Crushers coach Devin Rocha, who agreed the tournament was a good fit for his squad on multiple levels. “I was able to throw every single one of my pitchers.”
Pool play begins Friday morning in all age groups, with the event wrapping up on Championship Day later on Sunday.
Set aside about 90 minutes on the evening of Saturday, March 17 and come meet MLB players Joc Pederson and Trevor Story during the Triple Crown Arizona Spring Championships!
The night begins at 6 p.m. on Field 6 at Chaparral Park in Scottsdale, where baseball fans want to be as famous YouTube personality Domingo Ayala takes the microphone. Have some laughs and enjoy the show; then at 6:30 p.m., the team from isplack (the colored eye black product that unites in color) welcomes Joc Pederson of the L.A. Dodgers and Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies.
Hear what these MLB players have to say about life in the big leagues and their time in youth travel ball; we’ll do a bat and hat giveaway and run a few drills with some of the youth ballplayers on hand. There will be photo opportunities as well.
Chaparral Park is located at 5401 N Hayden Rd. Scottsdale, AZ, 85250.