For the second year in a row, the Colt 45s 14U baseball team with players mostly from Southern Brazoria County won the DFW Icy Breeze USSSA 14AAA World Series championship.
The Colt 45s lost just once in nine games during the 20-team tournament that took place July 11-17.
“This one was a harder ride for us,” Colt 45s manager Marco Leija said. “We got seeded No. 1 after pool play, but we had to work hard.”
Playing against teams from Louisiana, Kansas, Colorado and Texas, the Colt 45s breezed through pool play at Mansfield’s Big League Dreams Park, beating the Louisiana Elite 10-2, Colorado Warriors 10-1 and North Texas Phillies 9-6. That gave them home-team advantage in bracket play.
Then came the tough part of the tournament for the 45s. Bracket play started with a 7-5 victory against the DFW Express, then the Colt 45s had to come from behind in each of its next three victories.
“We had struggled prior to the World Series in the last few tournaments,” Leija said. “We just couldn’t seem to get on track. But I think one of the main factors was that these boys, once it came down to it, they were leaving everything on the diamond. They worked hard for each other and they picked each other up.”
Trailing 3-1 to the Dallas Tigers going into their final at-bat, Andrew de Hierro hit a ball over the center field wall to make it 3-2. Julio Rios followed with a single and Luke Leija and Elijah Celedon walked to load up the bases with no outs. On a 2-2 count, Raul Alanis smashed the ball to left field to score two runs and give the Colt 45s a 4-3 walk-off victory.
The Dallas Tigers West posed the same issue for the Colt 45s, leading 2-0 with three outs left. Caleb Solis hit a two-run double to knot the score, and after a sacrifice fly moved Solis’ courtesy runner, Karen Goins, to third, Isaac Espinoza connected on a two-out, line-drive single to left field for the win.
The late heroics were necessary because of the usually potent Colt 45s’ bats going silent.
“It was the off-speed pitching that really hurt us in those games,” Marco Leija said. “These boys are used to fast pitching, and we are a great ball club to hit, but whenever they threw these slower pitchers at us, we struggled. But I just kept telling the guys just to sit back and stay loaded and have quick hands to the ball. Just wait on it, stay loaded and as soon as you feel like that bat is going to make contact swing at it even if they had to foul it off.”
Playing at Legend Fields in Euless, the Colt 45s put themselves into the championship round with a rally to put away the Heroes Blue squad in the final bracket contest. With the score tied 3-3, Joshua Horsch started things off for the Colt 45s with a single to left field and moved to third on an Espinoza double. After del Hierro loaded the bases on an intentional walk, Rios plated Horsch with the winning run on a line drive up the middle.
The team’s comeback majic escaped them in the first game of the championship round, falling 6-3 to the Dallas Tigers Fort Worth.
“The kid they threw wasn’t a slow pitcher, but he had an awkward pitching style and came over the top of his head,” Marco Leija said. “It was just weird, and for us, it was hard to pick up the ball.”
Because it was a double-elimination tournament and both teams had only one loss, a winner-take-all contest between the Tigers Fort Worth and Colt 45s would decide the winner. Del Hierro stepped onto the mound and left little doubt of the outcome, going 5 2/3 scoreless innings as the Colt 45s won 10-0.
Sebastian Montemayor finished off the shutout.
“Last year we played four seven-inning games to win it all,” Marco Leija said. “This year, we only played two seven-inning games, and whenever you get to this level, you have to have pitching depth, and we were sitting good because we had a little more than 37 innings left out of the whole team. We made good adjustments throughout the whole series on pitching. But pitching was something that really helped us out in this World Series because, we had about six pitchers remaining.”
Alanis picked up the most valuable player trophy for the title game, going 4-for-4. Del Hierro was named most valuable pitcher of the final game.
With all but two members of the team — Andrew Suarez and Goins — having collected the same title two years in a row, the Colt 45s plan to broaden their competition.
“We are going to try to travel outside of Texas to go out of state and see how we do,” Marco Leija said.