WThe Braves, in just their second year as a program and league, won the Midwest Plains Regional Tournament in Garden City, Kansas, about two weeks ago and will aim for a national title in the Babe Ruth 14U World Series that begins Saturday in Ottumwa, Iowa, and runs through Aug. 21.
With a 2-2 record after pool play in the Babe Ruth 14U Midwest Plains Regional Tournament in Garden City, Kansas over the weekend, the Rapid City Braves squeaked into the single-elimination bracket as the fourth and final team.
Despite the odds stacked against them as the lowest seeded team in the draw, head coach Molloy Dial said his squad was upbeat.
“The boys were actually pretty confident. They knew what they had to do,” he said. “We told them that 2-2 would get them to the bracket play and they set two goals; the first one was to get through pool play and make the bracket play, and the second was to take care of the play in the bracket, and they accomplished their two goals.”
The Braves entered Monday’s bracket play and lit up their opponents, upsetting the No. 1 seed en route to claiming the regional championship and advancing to the Babe Ruth World Series.
“I think it’s still pretty surreal to them,” Dial said. “They’re just excited about the whole idea that everything is going to go on. On the bus ride home here they’ll get a chance to decompress and soak it in, and hopefully realize that all their hard work paid off and that the real work begins tomorrow to get ready in two weeks.”
Dial added that this year’s tournament gave his team a chance to showcase their talent, as last year’s Babe Ruth events were all canceled due to COVID-19.
“The boys have been working hard to get to this point,” he said. “We didn’t get a chance to do the playoffs last year, so we were all bummed with that, so this year, with them reinstituting Regionals and State and the World Series for the league, they were excited and we knew we had a good team and good shot.”
On opening day of the tournament Friday, the Braves began their campaign with a 9-4 loss to West Fargo, North Dakota but rebounded with a pair of wins in their Saturday doubleheader; a 5-2 win over host Garden City, Kansas and a 19-10 win over Junction City, Kansas.
They fell 13-5 to Centennial, Colorado in their last pool play matchup Sunday, but their record kept them alive and moved them into Monday’s bracket play where they immediately rematched with Centennial, which was unbeaten.
This time, however, things were different, as the Rapid City squad throttled Centennial 11-0 to book a spot in the final.
“The boys knew that it was all about the next day,” Dial said of their loss to Centennial. “So they just cleared their heads, cleared the table and came back the next morning. They knew they could handle business and they went out and handled business.”
That momentum carried into the championship game, as the Braves faced West Fargo again but came through with a 9-4 victory to clinch the title.