With back-to-back wins Saturday at the United States Specialty Sports Association World Series held at Lincoln Park in Columbus, the hometown Columbus Blazers are two wins away from their second USSSA crown in three years.
“I have been with these kids a long time, and I have seen them win this thing before,” Blazers coach Mark Foster said. “It all has to do with their mental attitudes. If you get these kids focused on playing the game and staying in the game. ... They start rallying as a team, this group of kids will beat anybody.”
The Blazers face the Elite Extreme (Grand Rapids, Mich.) at 10 a.m. today. With a win, they advance to a noon title game.
“To all the fans that come to cheer us on,” said Foster, “it definitely helps.”
Though the Blazers are 13-year-olds, their coaches don’t call them rookies. They’ve played together the last four years and won the USSSA title as 11-year-olds.
“The core of this team has been together since they were 9-year-olds,” Foster said.
“When you have nine out of the 10 kids on the team playing together this whole time,” assistant coach Todd Hostetle said, “that really helps with things like cohesiveness and teamwork.”
After going 3-0-1 in pool play Thursday and Friday, the Blazers earned a No. 2 seed in the single-elimination tournament for having the second- best record in the 13-and-under division. They believe high seeding and home field will be an advantage.
“We have been joking about getting one of those Under Armor T-shirts that say ‘Protect This House,’ because we are from here and we have won tournaments here,” Foster said. “So we say ‘this is our house, we need to protect it.’”
The Blazers picked up an 11-1 win against the Mahomet Diamond Dogs and a 4-3 win against the Wilson Electric Shock, both out of Illinois, on Saturday.
The opener against the Diamond Dogs saw the Blazers go down 1-0, only to respond with 11 straight runs.
With the score tied at 1 in the second inning, catcher Tanner McFall hit a three-run triple to get the home team going.
“I’ve been struggling (at the plate) so I came out early to work on it in the batting cages,” McFall said. “Coach came with me and told me what to do, and I just did what he said. So I came in feeling relaxed, and when I got a good pitch, I got ahold of it.
The second contest started much the same way as the first with the Shock building a small lead in the opening innings, only to have the host team come back.
The Blazers trailed 3-1 going into the fifth before they were able to tie the score going into the final innings. In the sixth, Luke Hostetler knocked in Jonathon Foster — who fist-pumped his way down the third base line — to put the team up for good.
The Shock were held scoreless in the final two frames.
“Jordan (McCarty) is a great closer for us,” Foster said. “He came in and shut them down the last four innings, and the offense and defense both did their jobs. We walked away with a very tight win.”
Blazers players and coaches shared a few words of confidence after the game.
“With this team playing like it has the last three days,” coach Foster said, “I expect to win this tomorrow. … We just have to hit the ball and hope we find grass instead of leather.”
Shortstop Nathan VanDeventer shared his coach’s optimism.
“We are coming together as a team,” VanDeventer said. “Our pitchers aren’t giving up much so our defense is clicking and our bats are hitting. … Hopefully, we can keep it up tomorrow and get to the top game and win it.”
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!comments powered by Disqus
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.