EMERSON, Ga. – Tri-State Arsenal flexed their muscles once again at a Perfect Game tournament, soundly beating Gators Baseball, 11-2, on the first day of the 15u WWBA National Championship at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint.
While head coach Todd Rizzo believes its his team’s pitching and defense that make them so strong, it was the bats that were on display Friday morning as the Arsenal stringed together 12 hits in the five inning run rule contest.
The Mid-Atlantic based program struck for six runs in the top of the second inning, sending ten hitters to the plate in the inning and making the score 7-0, before piling on four more runs in the top of the fifth.
“I thought we swung the bats pretty well,” said Rizzo. “The energy level’s gotta pick up, but it’s obviously nice to come out with a win in five innings and save some pitching. I’m just hoping the energy level picks up and we can continue on with the wins.”
Four Arsenal players had multi-hit games in the winning effort. Davis Schneider went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored. Kevin Welsh also went 2-for-2 with a walk, an RBI, and two runs scored. Dylan Weikel collected two base hits as well, including a triple that was smashed off the left field fence; originally appearing like it was going to make it out of the park.
Timothy Seagraves starred in the win on the mound and with the bat. He had a 3-for-3 day at the plate with a triple that was crushed to dead centerfield, driving in a run.
On the mound, Seagraves threw all five innings to earn the win, collecting five strikeouts in the effort, while giving up just five hits and two walks for a pair of earned runs.
“Our strengths, undoubtedly, are our defense and our pitching,” Rizzo said. “Our pitching is out of this world. Our defense is very good. We typically don’t make errors. If we can get the sticks going, we’re gonna be a tough team.”
Rizzo has a few standout pitchers on his team, like Brandon Jenkins, a 2017 who already runs his fastball up to 90 mph (miles per hour). He also has Hiro Mizutani, a Japanese right-hander who Rizzo, a former big league pitcher himself, says is the real deal.
“It’s always about the pitching,” said Rizzo. “That’s something that gives us an advantage this year because I have somebody I can match up with the strong teams down here. To me, the wood bat is the ultimate equalizer and that’s gonna make a big difference.”
The Voorhees, New Jersey program made the long trip down to Georgia only to play its very first tournament game at the state-of-the-art Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint complex.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” said Rizzo. “It’s an absolutely gorgeous place. I was fortunate enough to play a lot of professional baseball, so for the kids this is unbelievable. If you can’t get up to play in this place there’s something wrong with you.”
Expect to see several Tri-State Arsenal teams out at LakePoint many times throughout the summer, as they have built the reputation of being one of the better, if not the best, travel ball programs in the Mid-Atlantic.
“We’ve gotta be the premier program in the Mid-Atlantic,” Rizzo said. “It’s just a very solid program. We teach the fundamentals, but we also teach them the intricacies of the game and that’s what’s special about our program is to show them the finer points of the game that college scouts and professional scouts are gonna be looking for.”
The kids know this. That is why Tri-State Arsenal has been able to attract the best talent from the tri-state area. Numbers don’t lie. According to the program’s website, since its inception in 2002, the program has seen 3,600 of its players go on to become college scholarship ballplayers, 900 reach the minor leagues, and 136 players make it on a Major League baseball club.
“Once we get them, we don’t lose them,” said Rizzo. “They understand the benefits of playing for the Arsenal and what it’s gonna do for their careers, whether it be college or professional. We try to teach them how to handle situations; how to handle the game.”
The apple of the Tri-State Arsenal’s eye happens to be who many consider to be the face of Major League Baseball in Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout. The Millville, New Jersey native is the program’s most notable alum.
“When you’ve got somebody to represent you like Mike Trout that’s pretty impressive because he’s a quality kid,” Rizzo said. “He’s a great kid and he’s a once-in-a-lifetime ballplayer and to connect him to our organization is a huge benefit.”
While it helps to have a professional player performing at the incredible level Trout is at, Rizzo believes the combination of Joe and Bob Barth, who started the program, and the experienced coaches hired to coach these kids sets them apart from most organizations around.
“We play a very aggressive, pro-style type of baseball and I feel we are gonna be able to teach you what most organizations aren’t gonna be able to teach you,” said Rizzo. “It’s the real deal. With this team, I joke with my people back home all the time, I could put my 13-year-old daughter in the third base box and win, they’re just that good.”
Made up of players of various cities in the tri-state area, many of the kids on Rizzo’s team didn’t know each other when they came together three weeks ago to begin the long summer schedule.
“They came together right away,” Rizzo said. “They took to each other very fast. They’re a good bunch of athletes, but a great bunch of kids.”
Rizzo’s team has yet to lose a game. He estimates they’ve gone 18-0 over the three-week span.
This Tri-State Arsenal team will be one to keep an eye on throughout the 15u WWBA National Championship with the immense talent up and down the roster. He knows his team is good, this week he will find out exactly how good.