The Northern Humboldt Steelheads 12Us went 6-2 on a recent week-long road trip to Arizona and made it all the way to the championship game at the Triple Crown Spring Championship Tournament.
The local travel team won a pair of exhibition games to open the road trip, before enjoying a busy three days in tournament play and playing three games on the final day of action.
The busy schedule finally caught up to the young players in a 14-3 loss to an undefeated GGI team out of Southern California in the championship.
Despite that loss, it was a very successful trip for the Steelheads, who battled back from an 8-2 defeat to Dana Point Tsunami in pool play to beat the same team 9-4 in an elimination game on the final day of action.
In their first game against the Tsunami, the Steelheads got strong performances from pitchers Jake Brunner and Justin Noga and catcher Cabella Carper, but they were unable to overcome a fast start by their opponents.
The loss didn’t sit well with the players, who felt their opponents displayed some poor sportsmanship, and the Steelheads were fired up for the rematch after an inspirational pregame speech from assistant coach Caleb Carper.
The players responded with arguably their best game of the week.
Ryland Kees and Noga pitched well, while the consistent Cabella Carper continued to make an impact on both sides of the plate and hit a home run, one of 10 Steelhead hits in the win.
The Steelheads also played “flawless defense,” according to the coaches.
In the semifinals, the Steelheads defeated the Fallbrook Warriors 14-10.
After opening up a 5-1 lead in the first inning, however, the Steelheads trailed 8-7 after four, but the young players showed some maturity and mental toughness with a late two-out rally keyed by clutch hits from Tyson Marshall and Teoh Arredondo.
The coaches described the game as “an absolute battle that went back and forth,” with big performances on the mound by Noga, Hudson Kapko, Arredondo and Cabella Carper and an outstanding game behind the plate by Carson Hicks.
Jake Brunner, Kapko and Blake Carper each had multiple hits in the win, while Hicks led the way with three hits.
“Overall I couldn’t be happier with our performance this early in the season,” coach Jaime Arredondo said. “Taking second out of 18 teams is a huge accomplishment for our group.”
Earlier in pool play, the Steelheads defeated Liberty Select 15-4 and Gameday Bolt 16-0.
Blake Carper and Marshall led the way at the plate in a 13-hit team performance against the Select, as the Steelheads stayed aggressive on the bases and stole 11 bases.
Hicks had a strong game pitching against Gameday, with Everett Gruetzmacher combining well with him behind the plate.
Before the tournament, the Steelheads won a pair of exhibition games, defeating Yeti Baseball 17-0 and the Tigers 16-5.
The entire team got multiple hits and runs in the opener, with Kees, Jared Brunner and Gruetzmacher combining to pitch a two-hitter.
Kees also had a home run in the victory.
The Steelhead bats remained hot in the second exhibition game, with 12 hits and 12 stolen bases.
Kapko and Breyden Brock combined for the win on the mound.