Tournaments | Story | 6/9/2019

Sparks wins extra-inning fight

Annika Wall        
Photo: Cangelosi Spark Guzek (Perfect Game)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It didn’t take the traditional seven innings to establish a champion at the PG 14u Midwest Invitational on June 9. But the Cangelosi Sparks got it done in eight, fighting back against nationally-ranked Rawlings Xtreme to secure a 5-4 victory.

"That was a great game,” Brian Guzek, Cangelosi head coach, said. “One of our challenges all year is that when we’ve been down, it’s been tough to come back. We can’t seem to get that key hit, make a key play, and today, this entire weekend, we’ve played great baseball. We made very few mistakes, we pitched well, we had timely hitting, so to come back 4-2 off a very good team was a great way to end this weekend.”

Defensively, Josh Polubinski pitched for contact from the mound, forcing ground balls and allowing his defense to work seamlessly behind him. Offensively, Cangelosi scored first by rallying with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Polubinski drilled a fastball out to center field for a single and Cole Vanassen took a pitch to deep left field for an RBI triple. Trent Guzak followed with an RBI single.

Xtreme answered with four runs in the top of the fifth after loading the bases with no outs. After a pitching change, Guzek ended the inning with a strikeout.

Both teams didn’t score in their following opportunities, but Cangelosi clawed back with another run in the sixth as Michael Polubinski scored off an Anthony Martinez single. They held Xtreme scoreless in the seventh and started another rally to load the bases on a trio of walks. Mack Whitcomb remained patient in the batter’s box, fouling off his second and third pitches before taking three straight balls to score the tying run and force extra innings.  

“They’re a good team, but we have to pride ourselves by not swinging at pitches that aren’t in the strike zone,” Coach Guzek said. “I mean, the umpire was great all weekend. I can’t even say the zone got smaller because it didn’t.  If we’re a disciplined team, we aren’t going to swing at them.”

Taylor Kujak led the charge in the eighth for Cangelosi, swinging at his first pitch for a single. Caden Frey responded for Xtreme by claiming his second strikeout in two innings. Kujak, though, was dynamic on the basepaths, stealing second base before reaching third on a slow roller which forced the third baseman away from the bag. While Xtreme still got the out at first, it gave Cangelosi the winning run on third with only one out. Kujak scored on a defensive miscue and the Sparks stormed the field.

“They ran the bases well all day, all weekend,” Coach Guzek said. “Taylor, particularly, on that play, he took third base on a slow roller which was very aggressive and the right play. Then the past ball, he didn’t hesitate at all and beat the throw in. Again, if they make mistakes, we have to take advantage and we did."

Xtreme’s Cooper Thiemann earned MVP honors after batting .667 throughout the tournament. Thiemann reached base 11 times for an on base percentage of .846. Cangelosi’s Drew Zemaitis was named the MV-Pitcher after striking out seven batters and only allowing three hits in his semifinal performance.

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