by Austin Green
SCOTTSDALE, AZ -- What a difference a day makes.
After going 1-2 in pool play, Woodinville, Wash.-based Elevate NW Team Tyler needed some things to break their way on Saturday in order to sneak into Sunday’s 13u Division 1 playoff bracket as a No. 6 seed. But once they were in, Elevate’s bats slugged their way to three dominating wins, capped off by a 17-3 run-rule-aided triumph over No. 1 seed O.C. Premier in the Session 2 championship game of the Arizona Spring Championships.
Elevate head coach Mark Tyler believed the difference between Saturday’s rough pool play showing and Sunday’s stellar performance at the plate was due not as much to on-field adjustments as much as one key off-field one. Tyler said his squad appeared sluggish on Saturday after a busy Friday checking out MLB spring training facilities and attending the Arizona State baseball game at night, so he instituted an 8 p.m. curfew on Saturday night.
“Everybody responded beautifully,” Tyler said. “We came out and scored a ton of runs today like we have all season so that was really nice.”
Elevate started the scoring early in the title bout with Anaheim, Calif.-based O.C. Premier. One day after losing 6-1 to that very same team in pool play, Elevate doubled their run total from that game in just three batters. Landon Klein led off the game by lining a triple deep into the right-center field gap and then scored on a Chase Clark groundout.
The No. 3 hitter, Max Hemenway, fought off a couple pitches before crushing a home run over the right-field fence at Thompson Peak Park, roughly 315 feet away from home plate.
“(Hemenway is) a really, really, really good player,” Tyler said. “He's actually a guest player for us, and it was awesome to have down here. He was every bit the player that we knew he was.”
After O.C. Premier got one unearned run back off of Elevate starter Ashton Bergman in the bottom of the first, Elevate tacked on three more runs in the top of the second thanks to RBI doubles from Klein and Clark and an RBI single from Lance Burt.
They then blew the score open in the third. Bergman reached on an error and came around to score on a single from Jarrett Tyler, Ryan Sandby reached on a walk and later scored on a delayed double steal, and Jarrett Tyler scored on an RBI single from Cade Landes.
Sandby’s signature moment of the tournament came in the following inning when, with the bases loaded and two out, he worked the count full before sending a deep fly ball over the right fielder’s head, clearing the bases for a three-run triple and pushing Elevate’s score total into the double digits. Sandby then scored on an error to give Elevate a 12-2 lead.
That was more than enough for Bergman, who allowed three runs (only one of which was earned) over four solid innings of work. The lefthander was able to mostly avoid giving up hard contact against O.C. Premier’s powerful lineup, fresh off a semifinal win powered by Nick Davis’s sixth-inning grand slam. Bergman used a combination of rising fastballs and well-placed offspeed pitches to keep O.C. Premier off balance, and even struck out the side looking in the fourth.
“We just needed him to compete and keep us in the ballgame, knowing that our offense was going to take care of business,” Mark Tyler said. “He pitched really well.”
The only suspense in the fifth came down to whether Elevate would add to their 12-3 lead and trigger the run rule that would end the game if they finished the inning leading by 10 or more. Elevate added another five runs, aided by some costly O.C. Premier errors, and Hunter McLauphlin tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth in relief to seal the win.
“We were really just chasing the sun,” Mark Tyler said. “We were really happy to come down here and play in the sunshine. Awesome group of teams, great tournament, very well put on… It was all about (our kids) today. I didn't coach very much. I told them, ‘Hey, guys, this is your day. Today is your day to go do it.’ And so they did, and I loved it.”