Lakin claims first Clanton title; Blues fall in semifinals.
By GRANT MELIN
By GRANT MELIN
For some baseball teams, getting the tournament championship is often a lengthy task year after year.
For Lakin, that task finally resulted in the Storm earning a tournament title on Sunday, edging Grand Junction, Colo., 3-2, in 8-innings in the championship game of the 19 and under division, after reaching the championship with another nailbiting triumph, 7-6, over Winfield in the semifinals victory earlier in the day at Williams Stadium.
The game was scoreless through the first two innings, before Lakin struck first in its half of the third. It was a balk by Grand Junction pitcher Kale Smith that allowed Jarett Sauer to score for an early 1-0 Storm lead.
Grand Junction answered back in the fourth inning as an error by Lakin third baseman Ryan Swank allowed Owen Taylor to safely reach first before going to second on a wild pitch. Taylor eventually scored on a groundout to shortstop by Zack Cox, tying the game at 1-all.
Neither team scored in the fifth and then the Storm went back to work to take the lead once again.
In the sixth inning, Lakin made noise again when Bryant Miller walked and then stole second base. With one out, Caleb Seeger reached on a throwing error, allowing Miller to score from second for a 2-1 Storm lead.
Grand Junction refused to go quietly, however, when Tristan Lafferty doubled to right field. Cameron Campbell followed with another double, this one also to right, scoring Lafferty to tie game at two runs apiece. After that, the next three Grand Junction batters were retired in order on a groundout, pop fly, and fly ball to send the game into extra innings.
The eighth inning was the game changer for both teams when Lakin's Kevin Dasenbrock reached first on a fielding error by Grand Junction shortstop Taylor. After a Seeger strikeout, Swank also took advantage of another error, this time by third baseman Zack Cox who threw wildly to first, keeping the Lakin rally alive. That set up a Logan Litton groundout to the pitcher that allowed Dasenbrock to score what would prove to be the winning run.
Grand Junction failed to get any of its runners on base in the eighth inning to finally provide Lakin with the tournament championship.
"We took advantage of them, when we were bunting our intentions were to move a runner but also force them to make plays I don't think they were comfortable making," Lakin coach Chance Kirby said. "We got two or three errors out of that and we were able to move runners and give us the opportunity to get that run in."
Kirby was not only impressed by his team's performance but also doing it against a formidable foe.
"I believed Grand Junction had one player commit to KU (Kansas University), but we played good defense, we executed when we needed to and we forced them into our type of game," Kirby said. "Logan Litton was amazing on the mound."
With Litton forcing Grand Junction into fly balls and groundouts, coach Kirby looked to Litton to get Lakin through to the title.
"Litton pitched an amazing game, he had command of all his pitches, he was hitting spots, controlled timing of the batters very well by standing in his delivery time between pitches," Kirby said. "He was checking the runners, and made the hitters impatient. He took away their timing for the pitching part."
Those fly balls and groundouts rarely fazed Lakin's fielders.
"Shane Davidson and Chandon Moreno both had two great plays, we gotta give our first baseman (Daylin Gilleland) credit," Kirby said. "They made catches on some not some good throws. It was a total team effort."
For Lakin's earlier semifinal game against Winfield, it was also a close affair, but came out on top with the 7-6 win.
In the first inning, Jarett Sauer and Blake Crandall each scored for Lakin and Winfield, respectively.
Lakin tallied four more runs in the second inning, with Dasenbrock, Litton, Gilleland, and Sauer all scoring to provide what seemed a comfortable 5-1 Lakin lead.
Winfield hung around, however, as Will Adler and Caleb Tapia both scored in the fourth inning off of RBIs by Ben Adler and Jacob Byerly. Winfield added two more runs in the fifth inning when a deep hit by Ryan Minton rolled all the way to the left field fence, allowing Clayton Bauer to score. Minton won the race to home plate resulting in an inside-the-park home run.
Lakin got its lead run almost immediately in the sixth inning, first as a dropped ball by Winfield centerfielder Will Adler that allowed Dasenbrock to score from second base and Dalton Shalberg to reach second. Shalberg followed home after a Sauer infield hit to make it a 7-5 Lakin lead.
Winfield made its last rally in the seventh inning when Bauer scored from third off a throwing error by Moreno to first. That allowed Will Adler to make it first base to narrow the lead to 7-6. However, two more pop flies in addition to another one before Adler's appearance on base sealed the deal for Lakin.
In the first morning semifinal game between the Finney County Blues and Grand Junction, the Blues were limited to one run in the second inning after Edgar Montoya reached first on a dropped strikeout. That was followed by a Grand Junction throwing error by shortstop Taylor, allowing Marcus Zapata to reach first base with Montoya scoring. That run would be overshadowed as Grand Junction dominated nearly every statistic in the game to run away with a 12-1 win to end the Blues' undefeated run in the tournament after going 3-0 in pool play on Friday and Saturday.
Grand Junction had every batter score at least one run with the exception of Campbell. In addition, pitcher Walker Williams recorded five strikeouts and allowed only two hits. The Blues' play left head coach Lyle Befort disappointed.
"We come to win this tournament, it's our tournament, we expect to be in that championship game," Befort said. "So it is disappointing to not get there. Otherwise, we played good baseball in the tournament, but we gotta do it on a consistent basis."
The lax defense didn't help the Blues' cause on Sunday.
"Our defense let us down, when you play good teams, you cannot make errors and you give a good team extra at bats when they are up at the plate and we gotta tighten it up," said Befort. "We had that bad first inning and we were done, their pitcher kept on dominating us the rest of the game."
The Blues, now 21-6, will travel to Colorado Springs on Thursday for games at 1:30 and 6 p.m. They continue tournament play there Friday through Sunday. Lakin is now done with the regular season and is contemplating whether or not it will make an appearance in the American Legion postseason tournament later this month.
19 and under
Grand Junction, Colo. 12, Finney Co. Blues 1
Grand Junction, Colo. 424 2 -- 12 10 1
Finney Co. Blues 010 0 -- 1 2 4
WP--Williams; LP--Curran. Grand Junction, Colo.--Williams and C. Woods; FC Blues--Curran, M. Montoya, and Acker.
2B--Grand Junction, Colo. (E. Woods), FC Blues (Curran); 3B--Grand Junction, Colo. (C. Woods).
Lakin 7, Winfield 6
Lakin 140 002 0 -- 7 4 3
Winfield 100 220 1 -- 6 6 2
WP--Shalberg; LP--W. Adler. Lakin--Shalberg and Litton; Winfield--Woods, W. Adler, and Crandall.
2B--Lakin (Litton); HR--Winfield (Minton).
Lakin 3, Grand Junction, Colo. 2
Lakin 001 001 01 -- 3 3 2
Grand Junction, Colo. 000 100 10 -- 2 4 4
WP--Litton; LP--Moore. Lakin--Litton and Sauer; Grand Junction, Colo.--Smith, Moore, and C. Woods.
2B--Grand Junction, Colo. (Lafferty, Moore).