COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Sure, pitching is the name of the game in claiming a Triple Crown Sports Omaha Slumpbuster championship trophy. Quite simply, you just gotta have enough available – and productive – arms.
But it also helps when a team has a competent offense and defense to support a dangerous pitching staff. No, a relentless offense and a flawless defense.
Now that better describes the Bolt.
To say the Utah-based club displayed all of the above and more during the course of the 13U D1 Platinum field would be an understatement.
A massive understatement.
The top-seeded Bolt refused to even smell defeat on its way to a perfect 7-0 tournament, capped by a 15-2 championship game victory over No. 19-ranked Vipers Black Sunday afternoon at the Council Bluffs Sports Complex.
“This is a special group,” Bolt coach Dale Rex said while his players and parents enjoyed photo sessions with the Slumpbuster trophy and championship rings. “I thought we’d compete for the championship here because we do have a lot of arms and we usually swing it pretty well, but I didn’t know that we’d win it all necessarily.”
How good were the first-time Slumpbuster participants? The Bolt outscored its opponents 93-6. Yes, that’s right. They crossed home plate nearly 100 times and surrendered just six in seven games, averaging a little more than 13 runs per contest.
After not allowing a run in pool play and earning a fat target on its backs, Bolt starting pitcher Sammy Dart said his team’s confidence was high.
“It’s got to be at the top,” he said. “We were the No. 1 seed and had all the pitching in the world. Our bats were always hot and I just felt great about us and our ability to get the job done.”
The uniqueness of this particular Bolt squad starts on the mound, as all 12 rostered players have the ability to throw strikes and record outs, according to the man in charge.
“I don’t believe any one of our pitchers threw more than 75 pitches the entire weekend,” Rex said. “Our No. 1 and No. 2 pitcher actually only threw one inning this weekend.”
Not too shabby.
Through the first five innings of the title game, the Bolt held on to a 4-1 lead. However, they found a new gear with a 10-run sixth inning to put things well out of reach. Rocky Downs executed a bases clearing triple, Pratt Morley roped a two-run single and Dart, Jaxon Cloward, Ryder Huntsman and Ledger Holmes all had run-scoring base hits.
“These kids take pride in having good at bats and they don’t try to do too much. Especially when one or two get going; we do a good job of moving runners over and stringing things together,” Rex said. “They’re not selfish players and their goal is to win games and tournaments and they were able to do that here.”
Dart, who according to Rex swung a consistently strong bat all weekend, tossed four innings of one-run ball while striking out six and allowing six hits. At the dish, Dart was 2-for-2 with an RBI double.
“I felt great with it being my first start of the tournament,” Dart said of his championship effort on the mound. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to start, but I was told to put on my flats before the game and I ended up feeling great today.”
Rex was more than satisfied with Dart’s efforts. Enough to deem Dart the team’s MVP of the tournament.
“He hit really well all weekend and we know he’s pretty special on the mound,” Rex said. “He doesn’t blow you away but he throws it firmly and he hits his spots and picks people apart. He takes pride in being a really good pitcher.”
“It’s all about energy and momentum,” Dart said. “One guy can get a big hit and then you just let the next guy do the same thing. You just need that first big hit.”
And that’s what the Bolt received. All weekend long.
“This is probably one of my favorite tournaments I’ve come to,” Rex said. “I love how easy it is to get everywhere and then to be able to go to some of the College World Series games has been amazing and hopefully inspire these kids to be there one day, as well. We look forward to coming back next year; this was awesome.”