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.