The game of baseball is about as strategic as any when it comes to tournament play, with coaches constantly switching and moving pitchers and fielders around the field like chess pieces.
But instead of a chess board teams not only take on an opponent on the diamond, but fight fatigue and attrition as teams play clusters of games held over short time spans.
“That’s what tournament baseball is all about,” coach Keith Ungrund said. “Just moving a lot of players around and trying to get the most out of them.”
The Cody 12U Little League baseball All-Stars were able to utilize timely pitching and defense to earn third place at District 1 play. The Cubs were just one win shy of reaching state despite only scoring 10 runs the entire tournament.
“They really overachieved if anything,” coach Ungrund said. “We’re not a high scoring offense and needed to get hits when we could get them.”
As per tradition, the Cody All-Star team is put together shortly after the 12U city league completes play. For many of the players it is their first time playing together this summer and sometimes the results show. In their first and only tournament before districts, the 12U All-Stars were swept in three games at a tournament in Riverton.
But the team stayed focused and honed its strengths, winning two critical games just two weeks later.
“I was really happy with them,” Ungrund said. “It was due to defense and pitching.”
Cody lost its tournament opener 6-3 to the Big Horn All-Stars despite 2 2/3 innings of strong pitching from Jaxon Hazel. Being it was the first game of the tournament Ungrund said he had to pull Hazel in order to save his arm for later on, a decision that did pay dividends.
“We knew later on we would need it,” Ungrund said.
In their next game the Cubs bounced back with a tough-fought 2-1 win over Riverton.
Dylan Ungrund pitched 5 1/3 innings without an earned run. But after tossing 85 pitches he had to be removed, and it was from there Trent Bower entered and continued to fan batters. Although Bower did allow one across the plate, his team was able to give him just enough run support for the win.
Ungrund was involved in every Cubs score, driving in a run and scoring on a Sawyor Engdahl RBI.
In its next game Cody beat Rock Springs 3-1. After taking a 3-1 lead in the third the Cubs held Rock Springs scoreless over the next 3 innings.
“We knew we needed to beat Rock Springs to have a chance at playing for state,” Ungrund said.
It was here Hazel took over where he left off, pitching a complete 6-inning game with nine strikeouts and only surrendering three hits and a walk.
“Dylan and Jaxon just pitched great games,” Ungrund said.
The pair gave their team just enough at the plate too as both players hit 2-3.
With a win against Lander in the second-place game the Cubs would have qualified for the state tournament, but the Legends took the qualifier 12-2.
With Ungrund’s and Hazel’s arms spent, younger, 11-year-old arms were all that remained in the bullpen.
Zayden Cockrell started for the Cubs on the mound and pitched effectively until the third when Lander took a 6-2 lead. Despite bringing in Bower, Nathaniel Pryor and Jarom Beardall in relief, the Legends kept slugging, adding six more runs in the fourth inning.
“Our pitchers had trouble finding the zone and then things compounded when we had a couple errors,” Ungrund said.
He said he was pleased with how his younger players performed under pressure, playing against many ball players with more experience at the 12U level.
“They did great,” he said, “They’ll come back next year with that experience under their belt.”