13u Texans play the Long game, advance to SlumpBusters semifinals

June 16, 2024

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA – Nate Long is young enough and talented enough to know there are other highlight moments to come in his baseball career.


But for now, Saturday’s outstanding pitching effort for the 13u Texans can stand there as his best-ever performance.


Long worked his way through a talented lineup wielding the bats for 13u Prime National in the championship bracket of the2024 Omaha SlumpBuster (produced by Triple Crown Sports), securing a 4-1 victory and a spot in the semifinals Sunday at the Council Bluffs Recreation Complex.


The eye test tells you Long really never gave up a hard-hit ball, a pretty remarkable fact given Prime National’s skill level. He did give up five walks, but tamped down trouble with seven strikeouts as the Texans’ offense stayed patient and took charge with a two-run double in the fourth inning by Jay Squillante.


“When the curve ball off the plate wasn’t exactly working, I’d go right back to the fastball, put it right in the zone and throw it hard,” Long said. “When the fastball is on, it’s usually pretty good. Both pitches were pretty good this time, and I think that’s probably the best game I’ve ever pitched.”


“That was a pressure-packed game, and that how it feels when you have a pitcher’s duel, said Texans head coach John Williamson, who reiterated his respect for Prime National starter Kylen Dubas. “That team has two pitchers who, if they stay healthy, will play D-I baseball. And I feel the same way about our guys.


“You just felt it would come down to one moment, one at-bat, which is pretty rare in baseball. To compete against team like that was awesome.”


The Texans jolted the crowd with a run in the top of the first as J.J. Leonard stole home with two outs. Prime National tied it in the top of the fourth when a misplay at first base allowed a run to score.


In the bottom of the frame, the Texans put two runners on base via walks, and that’s when Squillante got very serious about not letting the opportunity go by the wayside. His hard-hit double to the fence in right-center drove in both runners, and he came across on a clutch two-out, two-strike hit from Cecil Shorts IV to make it 4-1.


“I hadn’t been hitting that well, and we were tied going into the final stretch of the game,” Squillante said. “I just wanted to bear down for my team. I was looking for a fastball and was ready for it. That gave us the momentum, and then we got another hit. (Long) had nasty stuff, we made some play on defense, but he pitched really well.”


“I was so happy. When I saw him on second and two runs in, all that stress washed away,” Long added. “I knew I could pitch more freely with three insurance runs.”


Reliever Matthew Butler closed up the sixth and then saw two Prime National hitters single to start the seventh. But aground out to third, a strikeout and a popup to second wrapped up the drama.


“We’ve come a long ways; I’ve been with the group for three years, and I’m just thinking about them playing better baseball and not so much a championship,” Williamson said. “This was honestly the best game we’ve played.”