WINDSOR, Colo. – For the MAC Elite 2021 squad on Sunday, the top of the batting order was in the middle of everything good.
Taking on the top-seeded NOCO Storm in the Pathway Games 16u championship game, MAC Elite saw its first three batters go 6-for-10 overall; the lineup also rode standout pitching by Cesar Ledesma and Dalten Snell to the finish line, where MAC Elite claimed a 4-0 victory at Aaron Cook Field at Chimney Park.
MAC Elite (Rio Rancho, NM) had to fend off a scare in the semifinals, falling behind 7-1 to CNBA Red (Kearney, NE) before flipping the script and scoring 11 straight runs to earn a spot in the final. Eric Romero, Garrett Rede and Ledesma each had two hits against NOCO Storm, with Romero scoring twice and both Rede and Ledesma driving in two runs.
Both teams hit into double plays to end threats in the first inning, and the Storm stumbled in the second when a runner failed to tag up from third on a fly ball to left-center. MAC Elite got untracked with four straight hits in the third, anchored by a two-run triple from Rede, to take a 3-0 lead.
Ledesma doubled in Romero with a double in the fifth, and that was plenty of margin for the team from New Mexico.
“I like to work (the ball) to the opposite field and make something happen, and if I get a pitch inside, just try to pull it down the line,” said Romero, who also had two stolen bases. “We were pretty down in the (semifinal), but I kept saying just chip away, chip away. That’s what we do. I was able to get a hit, and I always say hits are contagious.”
“It’s hard, third game of the day, keeping the guys focused and hungry. They came together in the semis, battled back, but the pitchers came through and we made the plays that we needed,” said MAC Elite coach Benito Martinez.
Ledesma pitched a solid three innings, getting nice movement on the ball, but his control was a bit ragged. When he hit two batters with one out in the fourth, Martinez brought in Snell, who immediately doused the NOCO Storm (Johnstown, CO) rally with two strikeouts.
Snell closed his 3 2/3 innings by allowing just two hits and two walks to go with six strikeouts, ringing up three K’s in the seventh inning.
“Snell pitched a lot Saturday, so we were waiting to see how he felt. We were in a tight spot there, and we knew he was the guy to go with,” Martinez said.
“I get to watch the pitchers there in center field, come in and congratulate them, then hit the ball,” Romero added. “We might need to fix a few things here and there, but otherwise everything was really good here.”
Braeden Saya had three hits for the Storm in the final.
The was the first year for 16u bracket play at this event; with most of the college coaches watching the older age group, event director Gino Grasso wanted to create something meaningful for the assorted 15u and 16 teams that came to the Front Range.
“Changing the format and making it a tournament setting was a huge success this year; it created great energy, and we got a lot of positive feedback on that,” Grasso said. “The other thing to note was the College Workout in Friday (in Greeley). We had 130 players and 15 colleges there. One thing I have to say, there was a lot of talent in the 16’s this year – it really jumped out.”
“We were at the Pathway Games in Albuquerque and really liked the set-up. With the quality of the teams that are here, we definitely wanted to travel and come to this one. We got the boys a chance to compete,” Martinez added.