COLORADO SPRINGS – The feeling was rather strange.
As the Catalyst Cardinals packed up their dugout at Security Service Field (Sky Sox Stadium) on Friday afternoon, the surrounding vibe was typical for any team that had just been defeated.
But the silver lining behind it all was that they’re still on track to accomplish what they set out to do.
Despite a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondback Scout team, their first of the 18u baseball tournament, the Cardinals still had done enough through their first three games to finish as the top team from Pool B – giving them a spot in Saturday’s championship bracket of the Pathway Games.
“That’s a disappointing loss right there, but overall we’re optimistic looking forward,” coach Scott Payne said. “We’re definitely still happy to be that top team out of our pool and make it into the bracket.”
The Cardinals (Golden, Colorado) finished pool play with a 2-1 overall record, the same as TC Colorado and possibly the same Diamondbacks Scout team, which played again later Friday.
Catalyst, however, would come out on top of any tie-breaking scenario as they were victorious over TC Colorado in head-to-head play and possessed a higher run differential than the Scout team would be able to reach (+7 maximum) going into their final game.
Their first two emphatic victories (7-2 over Marucci Bears, 15-5 over TC Colorado) to begin the tournament proved to be enough insurance to grab the final championship bracket spot.
“More than scoring a bunch of runs, not giving up runs allowed is really our thing. That’s what did it for us,” Payne said. “Whenever we’re only allowing 11 runs through three games, that’s a good thing.”
Early struggles are ultimately what hampered the Cardinals in their loss Friday afternoon. The Diamondbacks were able to put three runs on the scoreboard in the first inning to give them early control.
The Diamondbacks’ Mason Speirs got things rolling with an RBI single that scored teammate Patrick Kauffman. Casey Lindholm then followed that up with a two-out, two-RBI double that brought Matt Turner and Speirs home. Speirs would score again in the fifth inning to extend the lead to 4-0.
Defensively, the Diamondbacks would escape multiple scoring chances the Cardinals threatened with, including getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth frame and 10 runners left on base altogether.
The Cardinals avoided being shut out with a run in the sixth inning when Ray Ruiz hit an RBI single that scored Anastacio Salas. Jarod Dreiling (Frank Phillips College commit), Jared Campbell (Phoenix CC), Jose Robles (Mesa CC) and Rocco Porreco (Mesa CC) all contributed one hit each for Catalyst.
“We need to string good at-bats together. We didn’t get our run game going and didn’t get some of the extra-base hits we normally do,” Payne said. “Moving forward, the key for us is to get timely hits and make sure that we get ahead in the count and play defense.”
As the top team from Pool B, the Cardinals will play Slammers-Martin, the top team from Pool A, at 9 a.m. Saturday to begin the single-elimination bracket. The winner will advance to the championship game at 2 p.m.
COLORADO SPRINGS – The Slammers-Cronican got exactly what they wanted out of their Pathway Games experience.
The 16u baseball team from Centennial, Colorado, was constantly tested over the four-day tournament at Security Service Field (Sky Sox Stadium). They measured their abilities against some of the best clubs from across the country, many of which were older, 18u teams.
But in Saturday’s finale, the Slammers ended their trip on a high note with a pair of victories that led to them winning the silver bracket championship title.
“We went from a six-game losing streak to a two-game winning streak today, so that’s always good,” coach John Cronican said with a laugh. “We wanted to get to play those older teams with more experience, and we got that here.”
Originally placed in Pool A, the Slammers went 0-3, which placed them in the silver championship bracket of the inaugural tournament. But they responded with a 3-2 win over the Marucci Bears (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) in the semifinals and followed that up with a 6-2 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks Scout team in the title game.
“It’s always good to play that tough competition because it’s only going to help us get better,” said Jake Porter, who hit a two-RBI double in the fifth inning of the championship game. “When we take that into playing more teams our own age, it will show.”
Saturday’s championship was a tight-knit battle that remain scoreless for the majority of the game.
The Diamondbacks drew first blood in the top of the fifth inning when Braden Thomson connected on a ball that went to left-center field that scored Alex Bumpus on a two-RBI double.
Swift to respond, the Slammers got their bats going in the bottom half of the frame, which ultimately blew the game open. An RBI single from Henry Rock that allowed Aaron Berkhoff to cross home plate started it off. Porter’s double then scored Clay Burke and Rock.
Blake Hart added to his team’s scoring run when and RBI single from Riley Cornelio brought him home.
From there, the Slammers led 6-2, which they carried with them through the rest of the game.
“The experience was awesome. I’ve never played on a field this cool before,” Porter said. “What we took away is that we can compete with those top teams. It’s just the small, little details we have to work on.”
COLORADO SPRINGS – The Ohio Warhawks will be returning home with more cargo than they packed.
That’s because each of the players and coaches now have championship trophies after winning the inaugural Pathway Games crown at Security Service Field (Sky Sox Stadium) on Saturday afternoon.
The Warhawks (Springfield, Ohio) completed their mission by edging previously undefeated Slammers-Martin (Centennial, Colorado), 6-5 in the 18u baseball tournament’s title game.
“This was our goal coming into it. When we wear ‘Warhawks’ across our chests, it’s a rich tradition and we’re meant to win,” shortstop Ben Brooks said. “It’s a great feeling to come out of here with that championship win.”
Saturday’s victory was also a bit of revenge for the Warhawks, whose only defeat of the tournament was dealt by the same Slammers team just the day before in pool play, which determined bracket seeding.
Both squads then won their semifinal games earlier Saturday morning, setting up a rematch with the championship title on the line.
“Our kids had to understand that when a team beats you and you get a chance to play them again, you better show your pride, or you’re going home,” coach Ron Slusher said. “We’re going home with young men who used to be boys at the start of summer.”
The Warhwaks were led by a strong pitching performance from starter Danny Denz, a University of Memphis commit, and then helped along with effective offense.
Denz was nearly flawless through three of the four innings that he pitched, finishing with eight strikeouts and allowing just one hit until the Slammers finally found their offensive groove in the fourth frame.
“It was just confidence,” Denz said. “I came out and wanted to set the tone early to let them know that we mean business. I wanted to show my guys I could compete with them.”
While Denz kept his opponents silent, the Warhawks went to work on offense to build themselves a lead.
Brooks recorded his first of two RBIs in the third inning that scored teammate Gage Hughes (University of Cincinnati) for the game’s first run. Charley Welch, who is committed to the University of South Carolina, followed in the next at-bat with an RBI double that scored Houston Morrill.
The Warhawks kept things rolling in the fourth inning as Hughes, Jaylen Wilbon (University of Memphis) and Myles Christian (Middle Tennessee State) all crossed home plate to extend their lead to 5-0.
But the Slammers weren’t ready to let the championship game slip away. They exploded offensively in the bottom of the fourth, the final frame Denz threw, with five runs of their own to equalize the game.
The Slammers strung six hits together, all of which were singles but also good for multiple RBI. Brennan Dorighi and Brodie Mario both contributed an RBI single and one runs scored. Harris Williams connected on a two-RBI single that tied the game 5-5; Nick Merone, Justin Olson (University of Kentucky) and Jake Haze had one run and hit each.
“Some of these teams in this tournament really surprised me, by far,” Slusher said. “The Slammers have a great program. I mean, a really great program. They could play any tournament.”
After squandering their lead, the Warhawks went back to work late in the game to regain control. Reed Dickerson (Itawamba) hit a groundout in the sixth that scored Brooks for the game-winning run.
Slammers-Martin threatened in the ensuing half-inning by loading the bases, but a line drive to short was handled by Brooks to secure the Warhawks’ win.
“This team is filled with great ballplayers who know how to hit, defend, do it all – and we showed it today,” Brooks said. “The summer is still early, but this is definitely at the top for us right now.”
COLORADO SPRINGS – The Ohio Warhawks knew they had the firepower — all they needed was the spark to get it started.
For the early part of their second pool play matchup at the Pathway Games held at Security Service Field (Sky Sox Stadium) on Thursday, it couldn’t be found. The Warhawks simply weren’t themselves, committing simple errors and were virtually silent at the plate.
Slammers-Conican appeared to be heading to an easy rout unless the Warhawks flipped the script. That’s when Ben Brooks delivered the hit that woke up their bats, powering the Warhawks to a comeback 6-4 victory to begin the 18u baseball tournament 2-0 after the first day of competition.
“We got in the dugout and told each other that we were a lot better than how we were playing,” Brooks said. “From then on, we created energy through swinging the sticks and came alive late. It was contagious.”
Brooks, a University of Memphis commit, finally broke his team’s silence in the fourth inning. The Warhawks were trailing 4-0 and hadn’t recorded a single hit when Brooks knocked an RBI double that scored teammate Charlie Welch (University of South Carolina commit).
That’s when things got rolling.
The Warhawks then exploded offensively in the following inning. They cycled through their entire batting lineup and rattled off six hits to take control. Gage Hughes highlighted the frame with an RBI double that scored Datren Bray (Gordon College commit) and a run of his own to cap off the five-run inning.
“This is one of the first times we’ve had all of our young guys together, and I think that shows out there sometimes,” coach Ron Slusher said. “We had to get away from that showcase baseball, weekend-warrior type stuff and play our game.”
Slammers-Cronican, on the other hand, wrote the exact opposite storyline as they started off impressive on both sides of the ball before the Warhawks made their run.
The Slammers appeared to have broken the game open with four runs in the second inning to establish an early lead. They recorded four hits in the frame, two of which were for extra bases including Aaron Berkhoff’s RBI double. Riley Cornelio, a Texas Christian University commit, added an RBI of his own, while Sam Ireland, Grant Magill and Blake Hart all contributed one run each.
Slammers-Cronican (0-1) were slated for a second pool play game against Slammers-Martin later Thursday evening.
The Ohio Warhawks also notched an 8-2 win against the Marucci Bears earlier Thursday. The top three teams from Pool A, as well as the best team from Pool B, will advance to Saturday’s championship bracket.
“We had some ups and downs from both games, but we did enough to get the wins,” Brooks said. “I’ve never been to Colorado, not sure if anyone on the team even has, so this is a great opportunity for us at this tournament.”
COLORADO SPRINGS – There’s no place like home.
For most of the players and coaches participating in the Pathway Games at Security Service Field (Sky Sox Stadium), this isn’t home. In fact, some of the clubs have traveled across the country to showcase their talent at the 18u baseball tournament.
But for a few, getting to play this venue is rather convenient. Such was the case for the Slammers-Martin, whose lineup consists of in-state players ranging from the greater Denver area down to the northern part of Colorado Springs.
And that was something coach Billy Martin said was a bit of a luxury Thursday, following his team’s return home from a trip to San Diego just two days prior.
“It’s fantastic to be able to play high-quality guys without having to go anywhere,” Martin said. “We always try to find good competition, and it’s really nice when it’s in-town.”
Slammers-Martin got their Pathway Games run off to a good start Thursday afternoon, beating the Marucci Bears (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 4-3.
The Slammers were productive early, building themselves a 3-1 lead by the second inning. Their scoring run began in the bottom of the opening frame when third baseman Jake Haze crossed home plate. They then added a pair of runs in the following inning when an RBI single from Garrett Martin helped score Noah Kuzman and Harris Williams.
From there, the Slammers’ offense stalled a bit, but they were able to keep things in their favor through strong defensive play.
“For the most part, we have some pretty good defense. We scuffled there a little bit, but we’ve got some guys that grinded it out,” Martin said.
The Bears stayed within striking distance, and eventually tied the game 3-3 in the top of the fifth inning. The Slammers, however, were swift to respond in the ensuing half-inning on an RBI single from Kuzma that scored outfielder Justin Olson to regain the lead.
Olson, a University of Kentucky commit, finished the game going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and a run scored.
“We have an amazing team, and having other amazing teams come out here that we can play without having to go all over the country is awesome,” Olson said. “It’s so much fun, especially on a field like this. What more could you ask for?”
Slammers-Martin stood 1-0 after their first game Thursday afternoon with another pool play game to come against Slammers-Cronican at 4:30 p.m. The top three teams in Pool A, and the winner of Pool B, will advance to Saturday’s championship bracket.
“We did a lot of good things in that first game that we liked,” Olson said. “We just want to keep winning and stay on a positive note after this game. We have the momentum.”