Thornton Storm Red were cruising through pool play in the 13u D2 division of the 2018 Triple Crown Colorado State Championships with double-digit wins over Thunder Bats and Gameday Elite. When the Storm dropped its first game to Slammers-5280, Storm Red needed a win over Diamond Club Navy to ensure themselves a spot in Sunday’s bracket play.
Trailing almost the entire contest, the Storm conjured up some late-game heroics to win in walk-off fashion, 7-6, locking in the No. 1 seed in the Gold Championship bracket.
“These kids have battled hard all year long,” said head coach Jeremy Hirschfeld. “They’ve been down more than once this season and battled back. This is a tough group of kids and I’m so proud to be their coach.”
Diamond Club struck the first blow, dialing up two runs on four hits in the top half of the first inning. Before things got out of hand, catcher Roman Padron worked hard to calm down starting pitcher Matthew Hirschfeld.
“I try to keep it loose out there,” said Padron. “Even though we were down, I like to tell some jokes, make them laugh and then focus up on what we have to do.”
As Padron instilled more and more confidence in pitcher Hirschfeld, the right-hander picked up steam, knocking down Diamond Club in order in the top of the second.
The Storm began to chip away at the lead in the bottom half of the frame. Bryan Gutierrez began the effort with a single and would later score to bring Thornton within one, 2-1.
“Their pitchers were really focused on the outer part of the plate,” said Gutierrez. “Once I stayed back and let them come to me, that’s when my hits started to come.”
Diamond Club countered with two more runs in the third inning, stretching the lead to three, 4-1. The resilient Storm had yet another answer, however, bringing in a run on a Padron RBI single.
Padron would strike again in the fifth inning. Still trailing 4-2, Padron found a gap through the middle for the second of his two RBI. He would finish the day 2-3 with an intentional walk.
“I’m not going to lie, they threw it pretty hard,” Padron said. “I tried to be confident and tell myself that I could hit them.”
After Diamond Club added another insurance run in the top of the sixth inning, Thornton was running out of time to mount a comeback. Gutierrez, along with Daniel Gomez and Dominic Chavez sparked a three-run inning, leapfrogging Diamond Club for the lead, 6-5.
“We were always positive in the dugout,” said Padron. “We knew the longer we stayed in the game, the better chance we had at a comeback.”
Tensions rose in the final frame when Diamond Club plated a game-tying sixth run. With the bottom of the order due up for Thornton, the Storm needed a special moment one last time.
Nathanial McGill led off with a single, stole second and scampered to third on a Joshua McKee bunt single. With Padron earning a free pass to first, the bases were loaded with no one out and Ethan McCormick at the dish. As everyone at the Louisville Sports Complex rose to their feet, McCormick singled to left, ending the game, 7-6, and secured the Storm a spot in Sunday’s bracket play.
“I never had a doubt,” said coach Hirschfeld. “These boys have the greatest optimism. Even when us coaches or parents seem to get in the way, they seem to come through.”
Thornton awaits the winner of the TC Wolves and Windsor Wizards. Three more wins are all that separate the Storm and a 13u D2 Gold title.
“We want to show everyone that we can play at this level,” said Gutierrez. “We’ve been working hard all summer long and this would be the perfect way to end our season.”