Skullcandy 12U squad wins tourney
The Skullcandy Crushers 12U baseball team closed its fall season last Friday evening with a pair of victories in Utah’s Perfect Game Wood Bat Classic to clinch the championship for the second year in a row.
After starting the tournament on Oct. 16 with 2-0 and 10-6 wins, the Crushers followed the hot start with 9-0 and 6-0 victories on Oct. 23.
Behind strong pitching performances (only one of the six runs allowed was earned), the Crushers dominated the Utah competition. Coach Kevin Johnson said the formula for the team’s success was simple.
"The pitchers threw strikes," he said. "Ian Knox threw 10 innings (over the two weekends of games). He was getting ahead of the hitters and forcing them to swing at pitches he wanted them to swing at. Then he’d either strike them out or get a ground ball, and we had pretty strong defense behind him."
Coach Eric Ferguson highlighted another pitcher’s important contributions.
"Cameron Jackson was blowing it by guys," he said. "They were swinging at pitches over their heads and pitches that were already by them. He was around the strike zone and striking guys out left and right."
In a wood-bat tournament, batted balls don’t go as far as they do when players are using aluminum bats. But, Johnson said, the Crushers were doing just fine at the plate.
"Our hitters came out and swung the bats," he said. "We had several players with multi-hit games. Caden Jones had four hits and four RBIs. Cameron Jackson had three hits. Beck [Milner] had two hits and four walks and four stolen bases. Trystan [Musgrove] had three hits, four RBIs and four walks. Justin Morgan came for the last two games and hit a home run and had four RBIs."
Not only did the Crushers hit the ball well, they came up with hits in important situations, Ferguson added.
"We had timely hits," he said. "It was a lot of doubles and guys scoring from second base. Our team, compared to the teams we played, we were the only ones hitting doubles and triples and balls into the gap."
Brent Milner, the director of Skullcandy baseball, explained that the Crushers are used to using wooden bats.
"We train with wood," he said. "The sweet spot is smaller, so you learn when you mishit the ball. Our boys spend a lot of time training with wood and it showed up in the way they hit the ball."
With runs coming at a premium in the tournament, defense is very important. Johnson highlighted Musgrove’s play at the shortstop position.
"Defense wins ballgames," he said. "Trystan was lights out. He was fielding everything."
"Kellen [Denkers], when a pitcher didn’t cover [first base] on a ground ball, ended up diving into first and tagging the base with his glove," Ferguson added. "That was huge."
Milner said he was impressed with the way the Crushers played in all facets of the game en route to the tournament victory.
"It was as flawless as I’ve seen those boys play," he said. "I couldn’t be prouder of the way they performed."
After winning the final tournament of the fall season, Johnson and Ferguson hope the excitement and enthusiasm carries over into the winter training sessions.
"It shows them that the work they put in pays off," Johnson said. "They see the work has results in pressure situations when the game is on the line. That confidence will carry over through the winter and will make them work harder to go to the next level."
"It’s big just to win and have fun doing it," Ferguson added. "It makes you want to keep playing baseball and keep working hard over the winter."
Stifel U.S. Freeski Team athlete and Olympic champion Alex Hall secured the win in big air at Beijing, the same location where he clinched his Olympic victory in slopestyle at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
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