MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Hunter Watson powered his Houston Banditos Black Team to the brink of a national championship Monday night.
He and the Banditos just needed reliever Dakota More to bring it home.
With one run already in and the Banditos' lead down to two, More recorded the game's final three outs and left the potential game-tying run on second base as the Banditos defeated Team Phenom, 8-6, to win the 2012 HotelPlanner.com National Youth Baseball Championships.
"Wow, it felt amazing," said Watson, who went 3-for-4 with two home runs and was named tournament MVP. "I was in the dog pile and it was just tears of joy."
It was the second consecutive year the Super Series-champion Banditos club won the event at First Tennessee Fields in Memphis, which brings together 12 of the top 12-and-under teams in the country.
"The Bandito program is all about playing the best competition and that's what we did," Banditos coach Ray Deleon said. "This is for all the Banditos. That win was for all the families, the alumni, everybody."
The victory came dangerously close to not happening.
The Banditos entered the bottom of the sixth with an 8-4 lead, but Team Phenom's Diego Alarcon opened the inning by reaching on an error by Watson at shortstop. Zachary Lew's single then scored Alacron, and Michael De Oca singled to bring the potential game-tying run to the plate.
More then entered and, after allowing a sacrifice fly to Jordan Keller and hitting Joseph Perez to bring the potential game-winning run to the plate, got a strikeout and a ground ball to clinch the championship.
"I was really nervous, especially after I made that error," Watson said. "I'm thanking Dakota. He saved my butt out there and he closed it out."
Deleon was just as nervous.
"They had us where they wanted us. That team is scary," Deleon said. "Dakota More deserves every accolade that there is. He did a great job."
Deleon said after his team's semifinal win Sunday he wanted to face the AAU-champion Team Phenom, the squad from Moreno Valley, Calif., many considered the best in the country.
The Banditos quickly made their case for that title with five first-inning runs.
Watson began the scoring with his first homer, a high two-run shot to right field. Brandon Porter extended the Banditos' lead four batters later, knocking a bases-clearing double off the center-field wall.
Watson made it 6-0 in the second with a solo homer to left.
Despite the sizable lead, the Banditos were rarely completely comfortable. Team Phenom scored one run a piece in the first four innings but couldn't get the big hit to really break through, leaving nine men on base.
"We stayed and fought, and after the second inning, we beat them," Team Phenom manager Joe Keller said. "But at the end of the day, they're a class act. They're a great team and they beat us. I wish it was a five-game series, but it isn't and they were the better team tonight."
Team Texas wins inaugural Memphis Cup
Josh Jenkins hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning to give AAU-champion Team Texas (Pasadena, Texas) a 6-4 win over Dixie Youth Baseball-champion Hope Mills (N.C.) in the championship game of the NYBC's inaugural Memphis Cup on Monday.
The Memphis Cup included the four teams who didn't advance out of Friday's pool play.
Hope Mills broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth on RBI singles by Zachary Knapp and Cade Smith.
Team Texas' Brad Burckel led off the bottom of the inning by reaching on an error before Drew Shifflet and Cully Mangus drew consecutive walks.
After a strikeout, Jenkins blasted the grand slam, his third hit of the day. He finished 3-for-3 with five RBIs.