by Tanner Puckett
A pair of big innings sent the 12uD2 Dirt Dogs to a 15-2 win over Power Alley Bockelmann in the teams’ final game of pool play Saturday at the Triple Crown Arizona Spring Championships.
Power Alley opened the scoring in the top of the first, but the rest was all Dirt Dogs, who notched five runs in the first and eight more in the third to secure a loud victory headed into Sunday's championship bracket.
The Dirt Dogs (Calimesa, CA) put on a master class in small ball and heads-up baserunning in the first inning. The first seven hitters got on base, with a string of five straight hits leading off the bottom half of the inning.
The other two Dirt Dog runners reached first on errant throws. They took four extra bases on wild pitches during stolen base attempts and picked up their first run on a balk by Power Alley starting pitcher Max Meza.
“When we’re getting on base and we’re running, we put a lot of pressure on the defense,” Dirt Dogs head coach John Heaton said. “That’s something we’re good at.”
The Dirt Dogs seemed very fresh for a team that had played a noon game immediately before the contest with Power Alley (Greeley, CO). Not only were they alert on the basepaths, but on defense as well.
A pair of nifty double plays ended the first two frames just as Power Alley seemed to have a rally brewing. The first came with runners on first and second. A grounder to short turned into a 6-4-5 double play with a force out at second and a heads-up tag on a runner trying to advance to third.
The second began with a short bunt placed between Dirt Dogs starter Evan Heaton and catcher Daniel Rodriguez. It was a similar force-and-tag situation, this time involving a throw from Heaton to first base and a laser to home, where Rodriguez tagged the runner attempting to score.
After the Dirt Dogs’ high-scoring first inning, Power Alley’s Meza seemed to stifle their bats with a 1-2-3 second.
The Dirt Dogs answered in kind when Trevor Busby took the mound in the top of the third inning and struck out the side on 13 pitches, featuring a sharp fastball and sweeping breaking ball.
The fourth inning also featured a strong Dirt Dog pitcher, when Trent Gordon collected two strikeouts, allowed one single and ended the game on a grounder to second base.
“They hadn’t pitched yet, so we wanted to get them each an inning before we head into bracket. They’re our two best pitchers,” Heaton said.
Sandwiched between those two pitching performances was a monster half-inning where the Dirt Dogs batted around and flaunted their power stroke. The bottom of the third included 10 runs and nine hits, with two ground rule doubles and two home runs from lefties Busby and Jack Clark.
“Our approach for the whole team is just to hit the ball and make contact,” Gordon said.
It was Busby’s third home run in as many games at the Spring Championships, and he knew his pitch when he saw it.
“It was my favorite pitch, the fastball right down the middle,” Busby said.
The Dirt Dogs will look to carry Saturday’s strong performance into Sunday, having finished 2-1-0 in a tough pool. Making the statement they did in their final pool game boosts the team’s confidence headed into the bracket, where they are the No. 12 seed of 16.
“It feels good. You want to go in with a win and some positive momentum,” Heaton added. “Hopefully we stick around tomorrow; we’ll see what happens.”