by Jason Hanes
For Invaders Baseball 11u to win the championship at the Triple Crown Summer Nationals in Myrtle Beach, head coach Chad Lockhart knew his team was going to have to work hard and fight for each other, no matter the situation. In the end, the fight paid off.
After a 14-6 win over West Hills earlier in the day to reach the championship bracket, the Invaders (VA) earned a 7-6 walk-off win to force the if-necessary game against Canes 11u NC – Taylor. In the finale, the Invaders wouldn’t be stopped, picking up an 11-3 win via run rule.
“The thing I love about this team, from top to bottom, everyone’s always picking each other up, regardless of what’s happening on the field,” said Invaders head coach Chad Lockhart. “Hats off to them. They fought to the very end and left it all out on the field.”
Two plays at the end of the West Hills game ended up standing out. First, catcher Cody Peck was hit on a swing and ended up with a fractured elbow; however, he stayed in the game to finish the inning. Later in the inning, Connor Leathers snared a line drive in left to keep West Hills off the scoreboard and keep a potential run rule victory intact.
In a 6-6 tie in the first game against the Canes, two fly balls to right easily could have dropped in. However, Carson Melton made two tough catches to keep the game even going into the bottom of the sixth.
“Outfield play has been our Achilles Heel all year long,” coach Lockhart said. “We came into this tournament and we knew we had to go play defense. Our outfielders showed up. Connor Leathers and Carson Melton both just stepped up and came up huge for our team.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Jackson Rosales led off the inning with a grounder that would be thrown wildly to first.
“They made a bad throw, and I saw it get away, so I was just being aggressive and took third,” Rosales said.
After a pair of intentional walks loaded the bases, an offering to Landon Sprouse went to the backstop, allowing Rosales to score the winning run. “I was really excited to get the win!” Rosales said.
“It was kind of scary because you know you didn’t want to lose, but you just had to hope everyone was going to show up and play their best,” said Conner Lockhart.
In the game for the trophy, the Invaders came out hot with three runs to start the game. “I think it took a lot of pressure off of us to help us win that game,” the younger Lockhart said.
“The difference in the last game was heart,” said coach Lockhart. “We worked out all year, we did cardio. We were ready. It sounds crazy in 11u baseball, but it’s important. When you come into tournaments like this, a lot of guys lay down. Our guys had the extra that they needed.”
Peck stayed in the dugout for all of the second game of the day to cheer on his team. He was back from getting x-rays in time for the conclusion of the championship, where he was recognized as his team’s most valuable player and teammate.
“Cody is a workhorse back there,” coach Lockhart said. “Our team stepped up and picked him up. We were really playing for Cody today.”