FORT MYERS, Fla. – Saturday morning came early at jetBlue Player Development Complex for the WWBA 16u Labor Day Classic, as the distinguished ‘POP’ of the catcher’s mitt could be heard not long after the sun had risen above the fields still layered with the morning dew. It didn’t take long for the Carrollwood Gators 2017 to wake up, putting an exclamation point on the day’s first slate of games with a fundamentally sound ballgame and a stellar pitching performance from Ryan Glass.
After a one-out double by Alex Mocny in the top of the first, Patrick Morris was able to drive him in and give the Gators the lead before Glass even stepped foot on the rubber. The Gators would back up their pitcher with runs in the second and third as Glass continued to keep the Florida Canes 16u out of the hits column.
“We were led by Ryan Glass’s one-hitter,” said Gators head coach Pete Mocny. “We played six strong innings of good defense with no errors behind him. Some timely hitting kind of got us going. Overall, it was a solid performance and hopefully they can do it again next game.”
After giving up a one-out walk in the bottom of the first, Glass retired the next 13 batters he faced, bringing a no-hitter into the bottom of the fifth before Ihosvany Castaneda spoiled the no-hit bid with a double down the left field line. It would be the only hit Glass would give up. Quickly regrouping after losing the no-hitter, Glass finished the gem he started, allowing just three hits while striking out eight hitters in his six-inning shutout win, giving the Gators a much needed 1-0 start in pool play.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead in the count a lot,” said Glass. “Blue was giving the outside, so I liked to take advantage of that and let them just put the ball in play.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-handed pitcher recorded the leadoff out in all six of his innings on the mound, retired the first two batters in five of his six innings, and tallied three 1-2-3 innings. He threw 62-percent of his pitches for strikes and threw a large majority of fastballs.
“He had a shutout his previous game the previous tournament,” Mocny said. “He mixes it up between his fastball and curveball. He’s a control pitcher who relies on his defense and getting ahead of batters, which he was successfully doing today. He allowed just three base runners in six innings and you can’t go wrong there.”
Glass had the support of a defense that looked flawless, despite playing in the first time slot of the day, and an offense that collected seven base hits and five walks, including three doubles. It was the kind of start Mocny had envisioned heading into the tournament.
“We came to this tournament to win this tournament,” said Mocny.” This is our third time here this summer. We finished fourth and eighth in two bigger tournaments, so we’re a well-seasoned team. We play older competition constantly and this is a tournament we’ve been looking forward to and we plan on winning this one.”
In today’s world of travel baseball, it is more common than uncommon for players from all over the country to come together on one team for a better chance at winning an elite baseball tournament. That’s where Mocny’s Gators team is different from most.
“All of the kids come from about a 15-mile radius, maybe even closer than that, which is unique when you come to these tournaments,” Mocny said. “We’ve been able to compete against the best teams in the country with a group of players only representing three or four high schools in the area. They’re all accomplished, seasoned travel ball players. They work hard at the game and it shows on the field. Coaching them is pretty easy.”
After enjoying recent success in Perfect Game events, the Gators have built a reputation as being one of the grittier teams in the field with the ability to go toe-to-toe with the best travel ball organizations in the country. They’ve become the type of team the opposing coach highlights when he sees them on the schedule, knowing it’ll be a dogfight.
“I’ve been with them for about two years now,” said Glass. “We perform well at a lot of tournaments. It’s well organized and I’ve known the kids for about 10 years, so we have good chemistry. It’s like backyard baseball.”
“Carrollwood is a suburb of Tampa,” Mocny said. “It’s been around for about six years. We have teams in the older divisions and a team that’s won this tournament before. A lot of the kids end up going through the program and getting noticed from colleges and scouts. We keep a small roster. I’ll bring maybe 11 guys to a tournament and we’ll all play. We’re all pretty exhausted, typically, when we get done with it, but that’s how our program runs. It’s a pretty tight-knit group.”
The Carrollwood gators are showing the travel baseball world that team chemistry is still a huge factor in winning baseball games. They are also showing everyone, game by game, not to look past this particular Tampa suburb when searching for young baseball talent.