After placing second at the National Baseball Congress World Series three of the past five years, Seattle-Tacoma Cheney Studs head coach Barry Aden questioned whether this would be the year to break through.
“I came into this season thinking it was going to be a rebuilding year,” said Aden, who has managed the amateur baseball team since 2001, and also from 1990-1993.
But his squad was up to the challenge this year, winning all six games they played at the World Series in Wichita, Kan. – including a 5-1 win over the Wellington Heat in the finals on Aug. 10 to claim the national title.
“They just played perfect baseball day after day after day,” said Aden, noting it was the team’s first national title since winning the American Amateur Baseball Congress national tournament in 1960. “Every game, someone new stepped up and had the performance of their life. It was neat as a coach to watch.”
Studs pitcher David Benson – who picked up the loss in the finals in both 2010 and 2012 – was dominant on the mound against the Heat, pitching eight shutout innings before finally surrendering a run in the ninth. He finished the complete-game win by giving up the lone run on four hits, with one walk and four strikeouts.
“He had six days rest, we couldn’t have asked for any more opportunity to prepare him,” said Aden. “He was not going to be denied.”
First baseman Bobby LeCount had gotten the Studs on the board in the top of the second with a one-out solo homer, a 425-foot blast that Aden noted “really killed (the Heat’s) will.”
“That was the one thing we needed to let them know we were there,” he said.
Right fielder Matt Becker, a 19-year-old Puyallup High grad, finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while Kyle Boe, Ty Holm and Brian Corliss each added RBIs for the Studs in the final. That came after a dramatic walk-off, 4-3 win in 12 innings over the Clarinda A’s on Aug. 8, as Holm singled in Becker with two outs to punch the ticket to the finals.
The Studs had begun the tournament with a 9-7 win over the San Antonio Titans on Aug. 2, as University of Puget Sound sophomore outfielder Connor Savage went 2-for-5 for the Studs, including a bases-clearing triple in the top of the ninth to take the lead. Boe and Eric Peterson each collected two RBIs in the win for the Studs.
They followed that with a 6-3 win over the El Dorado Broncos on Aug. 3, as Peterson’s two-run double helped spark a four-run outburst in the bottom of the seventh inning to take control.
The Studs took a 3-2 win over the Hutchinson Monarchs on Aug. 6 behind Becker, who notched two more RBIs and finished by hitting .409 (9-for-22) in the tournament.
Peterson helped give the Studs a 3-2 win over the Santa Barbara Foresters in the quarterfinals on Aug. 7, tallying two RBIs while starter Ricky Holm gave up two runs on seven hits in seven innings, with two walks and four strikeouts. Aden also noted the efforts of reliever Taylor Thompson – also a UPS alum – who allowed a lone run in 13.1 innings throughout the tournament, with nine strikeouts.
Most of all, though, Aden praised his team’s unselfishness, cohesiveness and unwillingness to quit.
“There was no complaining,” Aden said of his group. “All 27 of them wanted to win. It’s really rare as a coach to have an opportunity to have a group like that. They didn’t care who got it done. They just prepared and worked their butts off. This year’s team was special.”