GLENDALE, Ariz. – Even after taking a more regional approach to its organizational operations this summer, Marucci Elite has been able to go out and win yet another Perfect Game national championship.
This latest national title glows with an added sense of accomplishment, however, coming Sunday afternoon at the inaugural PG Super25 17u National Championship, an event played out over five days under the blistering desert sun at the Camelback Ranch spring training complex.
Marucci Elite, based in Baton Rouge, La., wrapped itself around the stellar left arm of Perfect Game All-American Hogan Harris and scored a 5-2 victory over the Hamilton, N.J.-based 9ers Prime in Sunday’s championship game inside the main stadium at Camelback Ranch.
Marucci Elite qualified for the national tournament by winning the PG Super25 17u Deep South Super Regional in Nashville, Tenn., June 19-22, and went from regional champion to national champion in just over a month’s time.
“It’s a perfect marriage; I love it,” Marucci Elite head coach Shane Trosclair said after Sunday’s championship game. “The Perfect Game Super25 is a perfect fit for our organization and we’re proud to be the inaugural national champion; I hope we have many more to come.”
Harris, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound lefty from Lafayette, La., who has committed to his home-town University of Louisiana-Lafayette, worked six shutout innings Sunday, allowing two hits while striking out six and walking none. His fastball, which touched 95 miles-per-hour at the PG National Showcase in June, sat 86-89 mph on Sunday, topping out at 91.
“My main goal was to not let them get on base and not let them score any runs,” Harris said after outing. “I felt good out there today and this has been a real good experience. “
Marucci Elite (5-2-0) scored two runs in the top of the first, one in the second and two more in the fifth to build a 5-0 lead that Harris took to the bank. 2015s Christopher Reid (Baton Rouge, La., LSU commit) collected a pair of singles and drove in two runs; Zachary Rider (Kinder, La., McNeese State) had two singles and an RBI; Dylon Poncho (Elton, La., LSU) doubled and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and O’Neal Lochridge (Lafayette, La., LSU) doubled and drove in a run.
9ers Prime (5-2-0) scored two unearned runs off Marucci reliever Al Pesto (Savannah, Ga., Duke) in the bottom of the second, with Danny Wondrack (Wall, N.J., College of Charleston) and Will Morgan (Middletown, N.J., Old Dominion) driving in the runs.
Marucci Elite’s trip to the championship was – with apologies to the rock band Queen – no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise. After opening the tournament Wednesday with an 11-1 cakewalk past the AZ Wildfire, it was embarrassed on Thursday with, first, a 9-2 loss to Tri-State Arsenal 17u Showcase 1 followed immediately by a 9-4 loss to the Indiana Landsharks. A wake-up call was in order.
“Thursday was the sophomore, second-day syndrome,” Trosclair said with a knowing smile. “We were happy to be here and that first day we were ready to play, and then we got use to hotel life a little bit. Baseball is a game that humbles you and we had a big letdown; we didn’t pitch it, we didn’t play defense.
“We had a good, emotional talk and we challenged the kids to be better defensively and they accepted the challenge.”
War Eagle, a team from nearby Mesa, Ariz., paid the price. Marucci Elite punished the Eagles to the tune of a 10-2 setback in the final pool-play game Friday and moved into the playoffs with a 2-2 record.
“Our mindset that next day was to come out and smack the next team that we played in the face, and that’s what we did,” Marucci’s Reid said. “Everybody was shooting for us because we knew we were the (favorites) in the tournament – at least that’s what we thought – and we knew everybody was going to come at us with their best shot.”
The Elite exacted a measure of revenge with a 7-1 win over Tri-State in Saturday’s quarterfinal round of the playoffs and escaped Longshots Baseball, 2-0, in Sunday morning’s semifinal. The win in the championship game was their fourth straight.
“I knew they had it them; we did it all summer,” Trosclair said of his team’s revival. “I’m so proud of the way that they dealt with adversity, and in life you’re going to deal with adversity –for them to handle that adversity when they’re 17-years-old is awesome.”
Reid enjoyed a terrific tournament, going 7-for-14 (.500) with three doubles, seven walks, eight RBI, six runs scored and a 1.396 OPS; Antoine Duplanits (Lafayette, La., LSU) was 8-for-22 (.364) with three triples, four RBI and four runs; Drew Tyler (Fayetteville, Ark., Arkansas) finished 6-for-17 (.353) with four doubles, two RBI and seven runs; three of Lochridge’s five hits were doubles and he drove in eight.
“It’s hot – it seems like it’s been straight 115 (degrees) all the time – but it’s been really fun,” Reid said. “We’ve played against some really good teams and saw some pretty good pitchers. Luckily, we got to make it to the championship game and come out here and play on this beautiful field. It’s been a blast coming out here and playing with this group of guys.”
The 9ers Prime won the PG Super25 17u Mid-Atlantic Regional to earn the invitation to the National Championship. Although the championship game result didn’t turn out as planned, there was nothing else about the experience Prime head coach Rob Maida would change – except for maybe the 110 degree-plus temperatures.
“This was an unbelievable experience,” he said Sunday. “The idea that Perfect Game had for the Super25 is just a wonderful idea … (and) the event itself was fantastic. I couldn’t say anything better about it; I just loved the format and the way it was set up. The heat could have been a little bit less, but overall it was wonderful.”
The Prime didn’t hit particularly well at this event (.247 as a team) but Brandon Janofsky (Jackson, N.J., Stony Brook) put together a nice tournament, hitting 8-for-19 (.421) with a couple of doubles, two RBI and five runs scored; Alexandro Kovalcik (New Hope, Pa., uncommitted) was 7-for-18 (.389) with a double, four RBI and four runs.
2015 right-hander Brett Hyers (Toms River, N.J., uncommitted) worked 11 innings in two starts, allowing two earned runs (1.27 ERA) on nine hits with five strikeouts and no walks; righty Anthony Marrone (Millstone Township, N.J., uncommitted) worked nine innings in two appearances and allowed one earned run (0.78 ERA) on three hits with nine strikeouts and two walks.
Both Marucci Elite and 9ers Prime used exceptional pitching performances to gain entry into the championship game.
Marucci 2015 right-hander Ty Harpenau (Fort Smith, Ark., uncommitted) twirled a complete-game, two-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Longshots Baseball (5-1-0) in one semifinal played Sunday morning. Harpenau had his fastball sitting 84-86 mph and topped-out at 87, and effectively mixed in a 75-78 mph slider that he threw almost as often as his fastball. It was his second start at the tournament he finished with a line of 10 1/3 innings, one earned run (0.68 ERA), six hits, eight strikeouts and one walk.
Reid delivered an RBI single in the first and Bryant Bowen came through with an RBI double in the seventh to account for Marucci’s scoring.
Armed with a fastball that sat 81-84 mph and topped-out at 85 that he threw almost exclusively, Hyers fashioned a complete-game, five-hit shutout in 9ers Prime’s 3-0 win over the PB Outlaws (3-3-0) in the other semifinal Sunday morning.
Kovalcik had an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning, and Wondrack stroked an RBI double and Jay Sanford received a bases loaded walk for the Prime in the third for the Prime’s three runs.
At day’s end, the team with a new regional focus had been crowned a PG Super25 national champion. Keep in mind that the Marucci Elite organization had previously won PG national championships at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in 2010 and 2011 and at the granddaddy of them all – the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. – in 2011.
“Everybody’s been great, and everybody supports each other and is focused on the team mentality,” Reid said of this particular Marucci Elite team. “We just came out here to do one thing – win the national championship – and that’s what we did.”