EMERSON, Ga. – A scout’s dream would be to have a pitcher on the mound throwing over 90 mph with great off-speed pitches and that throws strikes. This pitcher would move the game along, and he would showcase his stellar talent for all to see. But, that is not always the case.
For Xtreme Baseball Navy 15u, their starting pitcher had all of those intangibles, minus the 90 mph fastball Saturday in the WWBA 15u National Championship. Still, Andrew Arsenault pitched a gem. Although he did not overpower anyone, he threw a ton of strikes, gave his defense a chance to help him out, and he nonchalantly went about his business. When all was said and done, Arsenault had tossed a complete game, five-hit shutout, and his team won 2-0. More impressively, he only threw 60 pitches, most of which were fastballs. His performance was all about pitching to contact and letting his defense do most of the work, which was evident in the fact that he had no strikeouts and just one walk.
“Andrew did a great job today,” Xtreme Baseball coach Wilson Lorenzo said. “He had around 55 pitches. His performance today was outstanding. There is nothing more you can say. He was throwing a lot of strikes. In the game, a little bit, he kind of went deep into counts, but all day he was on top of the strike zone. He did real well. Good job for him today.”
Runs were few and far between throughout the game for Xtreme Baseball, but they had timely hitting and scored when they needed to. In the bottom of the first inning, second baseman Shane Shifflett roped a line drive into the gap that looked to be a stand up triple. The speed of Shifflett allowed him to race all the way home for a rare inside-the-park homerun. That ended up being the game-winning run as Xtreme pushed only one more across the plate in the fifth to finish the scoring. For Shifflett, he knew that his team had to score early to set the tone for the game.
“Our first two batters got out, and when I hit the ball I knew I had to get something big because our fourth batter needed to drive me in,” Shifflett explained. “So, I was going for a triple and then my coach brought me [home]. So, I knew I had to get in. We had to get at least one run in that first inning to get on top.”
Shifflett started where he left off in game one with an impressive offensive performance. He collected three hits to add to his 3-3 day yesterday to bring his numbers to a perfect 6-6 to start the tournament.
“I haven’t been doing that great [at the plate recently], so I was trying to get it back in,” Shifflett said. “For the last couple of tournaments, I have been taking some pitches, and that is not me. I’m more of a first pitch hitter. So, I’ve been thinking about what my coach used to say, which was ‘yes, yes, no.’ It meant to jump on the first pitch if it’s right there. And, that’s what I’ve been trying to do, and it has been working for me.”
Shifflett, a 2017 grad who has already committed to play college baseball at the University of Central Florida, is one of the players that the team looks upon to lead them. Lorenzo raved about his second baseman’s offensive start in this tournament.
“He’s a great middle infielder,” Lorenzo said. “The kid is phenomenal. He went 3-3 yesterday, and he went 3-3 today. That’s the best you can do [at the plate]. Hopefully this afternoon, he can go 4-4. It was a great performance for him.”
The win this afternoon moved Xtreme to a 2-0 record heading into their game this afternoon against the 6-4-3 DP Tigers 14u that is also undefeated. A complete game from their starter today and a four-inning run-rule yesterday allowed Xtreme to use only three pitchers in two games. Two wins to start a tournament like this, great pitching, and great defense sit well with Lorenzo as he prepares his team for the rest of pool play.
“To start 2-0, it lets you breathe,” said Lorenzo. “You feel more relaxed going back to the hotel. This is a big tournament. It’s long. Andrew today did a great job, and we didn’t use much pitching. That’s outstanding. It’s great for the team that he did that job out there.”
“My bullpen is deep, still deep. I didn’t have to use anybody [today]. We will see how it goes this afternoon, but this is amazing. And, our defense was outstanding today.”
With big name programs like the Dulin Dodgers, 6-4-3 DP, and the Richmond Braves in their pool, Xtreme has the tough task of playing all of these teams in the next few days in hopes to advance to bracket play. They will need all of the pitching they have, as well as Shifflett to lead the way.
Some questions to Shifflett’s health circulated when he was replaced on defense in the middle of the game. When he picked up a hit in the sixth inning, he was noticeably limping on his way to first base. Shifflett, though, was quick to say that his injury was minor and should not affect his playing time or ability in this tournament.
“I’ve been having knee problems a little bit, but it’s not that bad,” explained Shifflett. “On one of the ground balls I got, I twisted it wrong. I still wanted to hit, and they wanted me to hit. So, I said I thought I’d hit, but I need somebody to run for me. That’s why they took me out of the game.”
With guys like Shifflett in the lineup, this team could do some real damage in this tournament. For a team that most of their kids have been playing together for a long time, they view this as a privilege to be able to come up here from south Florida. Lorenzo explained that they play a ton of Perfect Game tournaments in Florida, but this is the first time they have come up to Georgia to play. Like every team, their goal is to be there at the end. But, they also want to get their players in front of scouts and show off their talent.
“It’s a goal that we want to win the whole thing,” Lorenzo remarked. “That’s a goal because we are traveling 10 hours, 10 and a half hours. That’s a long way. But, our goal is to go all the way, plus showcase ourselves.”
Heading into their second game of their doubleheader today, they will be looking for much of what they have received the last two days from their pitchers, hitters, and defense. If they can make it through this ‘group of death’ type of pool, Xtreme Baseball 15u Navy have to be one of the favorites to take the title.