CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – Logan Allen and his MBA Pride Elite teammates knew that despite a 4-0 record in pool play, an excellent Marucci Houston Red team lingered in the shadows with a 3-1 record, needing to beat Melendez Baseball Academy to advance to bracket play in the 16u WWBA National Championship Qualifier. It was time for both teams to put up or pack it up.
MBA Pride Elite did just that in the early Tuesday morning matchup at the Cartersville Baseball Complex. Marucci came out swinging, putting up a three run top of the first inning, but couldn’t keep the pace as Allen settled in on the bump and quickly figured out the Marucci hitters.
As Allen kept the Marucci offense at bay from the second inning on, putting up six consecutive zeros on the scoreboard, MBA Pride Elite was able to rally late with a three run bottom of the sixth to win, 6-3.
“That team from Houston is one of the better 16u teams in the country and when the pools came out we knew that this was gonna be the toughest game of our pool,” said MBA Pride Elite head coach Phillip Hurst. “Marucci is a great organization and they do everything the right way. Logan Allen just battled and battled and battled and we chipped away and finally broke through at the end to get the win. I got a bunch of great guys and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
MBA hung around despite facing two pitchers who were throwing 90 mph (miles per hour) or better. John Henry Gonzalez came out of the gate throwing 88-90 mph and touching 91 mph multiple times. He lasted three innings before Kevin Roliard made a one-inning appearance and showed the ability to get his fastball up to 90 mph.
As impressive as Gonzalez and Roliard looked for Marucci, it was Allen who stole the show on the mound. He threw a complete game, giving up just three earned runs on four hits and a walk while collecting nine strikeouts.
“The key to my win was mixing my pitches and keeping them of-balance,” said Allen. “I pride myself in my off-speed being a go-to pitch. Locating the ball is definitely important. I’m not necessarily an overpowering pitcher, but I can put it in a place where I can keep hitters off-balance and get ground ball.”
Hurst thinks highly of his southpaw pitcher, who is only 15-years-old and hasn’t lost a game for Hurst in three years.
“I think he’s the best 15-year-old pitcher in the nation. If I had to win one game against any team, that’s who would be on the mound,” Hurst said. “He’s absolutely incredible and will be a big Division I pitcher when his time comes. He’s one of the best kids off the field as well as on the field and that wraps up all of our kids and that’s what MBA baseball is all about.”
Hurst’s club has been off to a hot start so far this summer, coming off of a 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational runner-up finish and riding a perfect 5-0 record into the playoffs tomorrow.
“I told our guys coming into this tournament that our expectation is not to come in second, it’s to win every tournament and that’s what we’re here to do,” said Hurst. “We’re trying to be the best team in the nation, no question about it.”
MBA Elite Pride had no trouble winning their pool, running over a couple of teams on the way to the 5-0 record. They outscored their opponents 41-7, averaging over eight runs scored per game.
The young program, founded just a few years ago with many of the team’s current players as 10-year-olds, is steadily climbing the travel ball ranks and growing it’s reputation at a consistent rate.
The MBA program was started by current Alabama State University head baseball coach Mervyl Melendez. He was able to coach the kids up until they were 13-years-old when he passed the reigns down to Hurst, who has been with the team ever since.
“Most of these kids have been playing together since they were 10-years-old, so to be able to have success from age ten all the way up to fifteen is incredible,” Hurst said. “We’re a 15-year-old team playing up and we’re trying to play the best competition we can to help us get prepared for the Perfect Game World Series at the end of the year.”
Behind the arm of Allen, who was named to the Perfect Game-East Cobb All-Tournament team for the 16u division, MBA proves to be a tough team to beat. If this MBA Pride Elite team continues to perform at such a high level they will surely be one of the teams to fear come time for the Perfect Game World Series at the end of July. There are a lot of games between now and then and it should be fun to watch the strides this young team will make over time and repetition.