Skullcandy 11U baseball wins Layton tournament
The spring season got off to a rocky start for the 11U Skullcandy Crushers baseball team. Playing in a tournament in Phoenix, the Crushers went 0-4 and lost by 10 or more runs twice.
But, by seeing those tough teams from other states, the Crushers returned to Utah with a renewed energy. That new fire showed itself last weekend in Layton, where the Crushers went 4-0 and cruised to a first-place finish in the Grip and Rip Tournament.
Coach Jeff Garff, a former pitcher in the Minnesota Twins’ minor-league system, said he was thrilled with how his players responded to the lessons learned in Phoenix.
"It’s nice to go out and get beat up a little bit because then the kids go home and think, ‘I don’t want that to happen again,’" he said. "I expected the guys to be pretty good [in Layton], but I was surprised at how well we hit the ball."
Skullcandy Baseball Director Brent Milner said it was clear the Crushers came to Layton ready to play.
"I don’t ever want them to go 0-4 and get beaten by the 10-run rule twice, but I want them to go see what their peer group is capable of doing when they jell," he said. "I think these guys, by having that experience, got more focused more quickly and then came back [to Utah] wanting to put the sting on somebody."
Though Garff said the Crushers had been holding hitting sessions at The Turf in Park City during the winter, he was pleased with the way the offseason work translated to live action.
"We’ve had the opportunity to be indoors and get a lot of extra swings with Kevin Johnson and with [former MLB player] Robin [Jennings] in the nice facility we have up here," he said. "That’s something that we’ve added to our repertoire this season. We’ve been swinging the bat a whole lot better the last two or three weeks."
Garff said Bridger Davies led the way at the plate from the top spot in the batting order.
"There were a couple kids who just didn’t really get out at all," he said. "My leadoff guy (Davies) only got out twice the entire tournament. One of them was on a funny bunt where he stepped on the plate and the umpire called him out."
Pitching, the 11U squad’s strength, held up its end of the deal as the Crushers rolled by the DC Sox 13-3 in game one and took down Diablos 14-4 in game two. In game three, the Crushers met up with the DC Sox again and won 11-1. In the final, the Crushers faced the Utah Havoc and emerged with a 12-2 victory.
"Pitching is typically lined up pretty well with the guys I’m working with," Garff said. "The guys I threw in the tournament were Dallen Martinez — he’s my No. 1 right now — and then Tate Walker and Kallen Lewis, my left-hander."
With Garff — a first-year coach with the Crushers program — at the helm of the 11U squad, Milner said he anticipates big things this summer.
"He’s enthusiastic about pitching and also willing to adapt," he said. "The biggest challenge we have in the Crusher organization is getting guys who want to teach what’s current and not necessarily what was taught yesterday.
"Plus, when the Pro Batter [pitching machine] breaks, he can still throw 80 mph," Milner laughed.
Garff’s squad faces its next big challenge this weekend at another tournament — the Utah Select Slugfest. But, Garff said, the Crushers will enter the first game on a high note.
"The confidence is the biggest part," he said. "The boys are heading into a really difficult tournament this weekend. The confidence is high right now and the boys are hitting the ball hard — hopefully that keeps going."
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