Three Rivers Little League’s late rally falls short
12U team falls to Louisiana to end season
Playing in 100 degree heat, a four-run fifth-inning rally wasn’t enough for the Three Rivers Little League (TRLL) 12U team in its second southwest regional tournament game in Waco, Texas on Friday afternoon. The Eagle County all-star team fell 8-4 to Lousiana’s Eastbank Little League to end their season.
“We knew eventually they’d start to bleed through,” Ben Dodds said of his team’s late-game hitting.
Dodds said Louisiana was a more “fundamentally sound” group than the team’s first opponent.
“They had arms, they had bats,” Dodds said. “The Louisiana team were men; mustaches at the age of 12. They were bigger than me.”
Logan Nelson hit a two-out triple in the top of the first inning to get things rolling for Louisiana. A walk and an error brought Nelson home for the game’s first points. The inning would end with Hayden Nunez stealing home while TRLL secured the final out by catching Drew Stromboe trying to steal second base.
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All three TRLL batters grounded in the team’s at bat. It was more three-up, three-down baseball for both teams in the second inning as well.
Nelson led the charge in Louisiana’s five-run third inning with an RBI double and a steal of home. The 7-0 lead grew to 8-0 in the fifth inning when Nunez scored for the second time.
In the bottom of the fifth, the TRLL bats finally found life. Ryder Strablizky and Kasen Aguirre advanced on walks before a Sanders Dodds single loaded the bases. Evan Neuman hit a bases-clearing triple to make it 8-3 before scoring on a passed ball pitch to make it 8-4.
“They were playing us very shallow, but we hadn’t proved anything yet,” Ben Dodds said. Neuman’s blast went 30-feet over the outfielder’s head.
“That’s what got us started. Our energy and our spirits increased. It brought the joy back to what we experienced at districts and states.”
TRLL held Louisiana scoreless in the top of the sixth before attempting a valiant rally in the bottom of the final inning.
Tavin Shreeve hit a one-out single, followed by Strablizky advancing after being hit by a pitch. With two runners on base, Aguirre grounded out, advancing Shreeve and Strablizkly to third and second, respectively. Hudson Rozga drew another walk, loading the bases as Dodds stepped to the plate.
Dodds patiently let the first three pitches go across the plate, but grounded a 1-2 pitch into a fielder’s choice to end the game. With the loss, TRLL also saw its season — which began in mid-March — come to a close, having claimed district and state titles.
“Phenomenal year,” Ben Dodds said. “This has been a very long run. It’s the longest run they’ve ever had.”
Looking back, the coach felt the team’s self-inflicted wounds were decisive in both games.
“What we’re learning is that errors kill you,” he said. “We know that about this game, but they really hurt us; we kind of beat ourselves a little bit.”
The coach also said part of it may have been TRLL being on the big stage for the first time.
“You’ve got cameras all over the field. I was mic’d up for both games — I was trying to have fun with Danny Graves and Keith Moreland,” Dodds said of the former MLB pros in the Longhorn Network’s booth.
On Aug. 3, there was a media day where coaches met with announcers. “It was a full production,” Dodds said.
“We told the guys after the game: there’s a lot of baseball left in your young life to be played,” he continued. “Be proud of how far you’ve gotten and now we just want to continue to get better and better.”
In the junior division southwest regional in Albuquerque, New Mexico, TRLL’s 14U team fell 16-3 to Texas East in its first game. TRLL plays at 11 a.m. on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament.