FTB fights way to championship

Super25 : : General
Sean Cunningham        
Published: Saturday, August 02, 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. – FTB – Sarasota took one step closer to the 16 Super 25 Championship on Saturday, completing a tough stretch of games against the very talented Rawlings Hitters National Baseball Club.  They ended up securing a spot in the final game, where they will take on the East Cobb Astros at 1:00 P.M. ET tomorrow at Jet Blue Stadium.

FTB creates showcase teams with the focus on getting them ready for the college and the pros, allowing players to get an education while furthering their baseball careers. 

While FTB develops players and showcases talent, they showed off their ability to battle and play together as a team on Saturday.  They played their first game against the Hitters on Friday and won a tight 5-4 victory.  FTB’s win put them in the winner’s bracket and put them one win away from a spot in the title game.

The Hitters wouldn’t back down, however, and fought back after their tough loss to win the 8:00 AM game for a chance at revenge.  They jumped on that chance in their second game of the day, dominating FTB for an 8-0.  The Hitters have a stacked lineup, led by the middle of their order composed of Jacob Snider, Ben Rortvedt and Ty Weber.  With FTB’s lack of offense against the Hitters, their future in the Super25 tournament looked dire.

The Hitters continued their offensive onslaught in their third game of the day and their third game against FTB, an elimination game to decide who would go on to the finals.  However, FTB’s bats came alive with their backs against the wall, and the game that followed was an instant classic.

It was a back and forth affair, as both teams relied on combined pitching efforts in order to attempt to hold down the opposing team’s offense.  Their efforts were largely fruitless, as hitting performances highlighted the game. 

The Hitters took a 9-6 lead following a four-run outburst in the fourth, but the combined effort of Justin Fischer and Edgar Brito would hold them scoreless for the final three innings.  The score remained 9-6 until FTB chipped away at the lead with a run in the sixth, and in the bottom of the seventh they scored three runs, capped off by a walkoff two-run single by Fischer.

Fischer, who models his game after Dustin Pedroia, struggled all game at the plate as the team’s three hitter, going 0-4 until the seventh inning.  That didn’t stop him from stepping up in the big moment and lacing a single to the outfield for the game-winning hit. “I was just looking for a good pitch to drive, just trying to get it in the outfield to at least tie the game up,” Fischer said. “I like big opportunities, I live in the moment, that’s what I look for.”

FTB coach Larry Zunica loves having a player of Fischer’s quality in his three-hole. “Gutty player, one of my best hustlers, one of my favorite players, I love him.  He keeps us in the game on the mound for three innings, goes to third base and makes two great plays over there, then he comes up with the big hit.  Gutty, awesome player.”

Catcher and first baseman Santino Miozzi also led FTB on offense.  “I haven’t seen a catcher with a quicker release than Santino,” Zunica said.  “He’s a team player and he’s also an awesome all-around baseball player.  He’s a great catcher who can hit the crap out of the ball.” Miozzi has a 1.290 OPS during the Super25 tournament so far, and rakes for FTB as the cleanup hitter.

It was a long day for FTB at the ballpark, as they went to battle with one of the toughest teams in the country.  Zunica gave the Hitters a ton of credit, saying, “we had a great 5-4 game against them in our first game, it came down to the wire.  They came out and kicked our butt 8-0 in an elimination for them, and they didn’t back down in this game either, they gave us everything they had and we were able to fight back.”

Heading into the championship, FTB will turn to two of its best pitchers against the East Cobb Astros in Jordan Ely and Matthew Ambrosino. Ely is an athletic left-handed pitcher, who Zunica described as the ultimate competitor on the mound, while Ambrosino is a switch-pitcher who will be able an incredibly tough matchup for the Astros.  Both will be limited by pitch counts as they have thrown earlier in the tournament, but both are rested enough and ready to bring a Super25 title to FTB. 

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