SLATER, Iowa – The pickings’ came free and easy for PG Iowa Select Navy over the first two days and three games at the inaugural Perfect Game Central Labor Day Classic (Underclass) tournament contested Saturday through Monday on high school fields smack-dab in the middle of Iowa.
Behind an offense that batted .391 and counted nine doubles, a triple and four home runs among its 25 hits, Select Navy resembled a battleship at full steam as it squashed its first three Classic opponents by a combined score of 30-2 en route to a spot in the championship game; the run totals included 8-1 and 13-1 wins over MAP Baseball out of Eden Prairie, Minn.
On Monday, the Labor Day holiday itself, PG Iowa Select Navy found itself playing for the championship at Nite Hawk Field opposite an outfit from Parkville, Mo., near Kansas City called Prodigy Baseball Academy 2016. And that’s when the darnedest thing happened, as usually seems to be the case when a championship game rolls around.
PG Iowa Select Navy had to batten down the hatches in order to pull out a 6-5, 11-inning championship victory on a breezy first day of September in Central Iowa, following a night in which powerful thunderstorms tore down trees, caused power outages and produced flash floods throughout the area. That the fields were playable at all was a testament to the local grounds crews.
PG Iowa Select Navy rallied from a 1-0 deficit after 4½ innings and 5-1 hole after 8½ and finally won the hard-fought title tilt when Hunter Lee came through with a walk-off sacrifice fly on an 0-2 pitch nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes after the marathon affair began.
“We’ve got a great group of guys, first of all,” PG Iowa Select Navy top 2016 prospect Joey Polak said. “We’ve got a lot of returners from last year and a lot of new guys, so it was really important that we got together this weekend; it will help us in the future, especially. We knew today it was going to be a battle and we came together really well.
“This was a great time for all of to come together … and this weekend was really important just from that standpoint of everyone coming together; it’s going to be really exciting the rest of the fall.”
Select Navy finished the tournament with a 4-0 mark while Prodigy BA 2016 ended up 2-1-1. After opening the tournament with a 1-1 tie with Cedar Rapids-based Iowa Select Royal, Prodigy Baseball Academy blanked Team DeMarini Hayes/Perez from Naperville, Ill., 8-0, and then whipped Royal 9-1 in its only playoff game.
The championship game was wild and wacky, fun and fortuitous, gripping and grinding. Prodigy took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second thanks to a couple of walks and a wild pitch and Select Navy tied it in the bottom of the fifth on the power of an RBI double off the bat of Ryan Wyant. The score remained tied at 1 until a very improbable ninth frame.
Prodigy introduced itself first in the top of the ninth, scoring four runs on an RBI triple from Mitchell McCallister and an RBI single from Joe Kinder, along with two unearned runs thanks to Select Navy fielding miscues. That 5-1 lead was still holding water with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Navy decided it wasn’t quite ready to surrender the ship.
Polak started things with a two-out RBI single, Spencer Wiskus made it 5-3 when he drew a bases loaded walk and two more runs came across on a Prodigy fielding error. A scoreless 10th inning led to the 11th where Lee finally delivered the sac fly to drop the final curtain on the affair.
Navy head coach Rich Polak, Joey’s father, said he was especially thrilled with the way this team responded in the face of adversity Monday if only because six team members were in Iowa City at the University of Iowa baseball camp. That left three primary pitchers playing other positions in the field and taking their cuts in the batting order.
“It was a little different environment in (the dugout) today,” Rich Polak said. “I’m really excited about these guys this fall going forward. They showed that they don’t give up, which is a great thing; it’s the only thing a coach can ask for.”
Joey Polak, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound sweet-swinging junior at Quincy (Ill.) Notre Dame High School who is ranked 32nd nationally in the class of 2016 and has committed to South Carolina, was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a runs scored in the championship game to cap a very productive weekend.
He finished 7-for-13 (.538) with a double, two home runs, seven RBI, five runs and a 1.648 OPS in four games, and clearly emerged as the event’s top offensive threat. He was named the Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
“Knowing everyone prior (to a tournament) really makes it easier to feel comfortable instead of just coming in and winging it with a team,” he said. “It was really good to come in and see the guys again.”
Grant Judkins, a versatile 2016 infielder and right-hander from Pella, Iowa, also enjoyed a nice tournament at the plate, hitting .385 (5-for-13) with a double, two home runs, four RBI, three runs and a 1.352 OPS.
Cedar Rapids 2016 left-hander Spencer Van Scoyoc started the championship game for Select Navy and was most impressive. He worked five innings in his only pitching performance of the weekend, allowed one run on one hit and struck out 11 while walking two – both in that fateful second inning.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound junior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School junior with an 87 mph fastball and a No. 187 national ranking, was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.
“I was just trying to give my team a chance to win; just doing all I can out there,” Van Scoyoc said of his effective five innings of work. “I just needed to make sure I wasn’t overthrowing and work on throwing strikes because I know I have good defense behind me.”
Prodigy BA 2016 head coach Michael Younghanz sent 2016 Kansas City, Mo., left-hander Conner Creekmore to the hill in the title game and he dueled with Van Scoyoc every step of the way. The 5-foot-11, 140-pound Creekmore c hanged speeds effectively and didn’t allow an earned run on five hits with five strikeouts and no walks over seven innings.
McCallister, who calls Kansas City home, was Prodigy’s most effective offensive player, batting 7-for-14 (.500) with three doubles, a triple, five RBI and four runs scored.
The players on the PG Iowa Select Navy roster used this event to further familiarize themselves with one another. “It was a good first weekend just to get to know each other and get our legs underneath us,” Van Scoyoc said. “We were missing like five or six guys from our lineup but the guys came in and worked through it, and we did our jobs and got the win.”
Rich Polak made sure he didn’t try to implement too many things that might put pressure on his young players, content to let them be themselves and learn from their mistakes.
He wants to make sure the team performs even more efficiently at the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids Sept. 26-29 and is really mining gold at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 9-13.
“I didn’t put any signs in – I did put a couple in for today – because I kind of wanted to let the guys to their thing,” he said. “I want to find out what they do, how they respond to pressure; how they respond to their other teammates.
“I want them to do kind of what they need to do during this time, and then that way as we progress towards the Kernels tournament and towards the ultimate finish of the year, which is Fort Myers. Hopefully we’ll be clicking on all cylinders at that time.”
The championship at the inaugural PG Central Labor Day Classic (Underclass) provided an excellent tune-up.
“Perfect Game always puts on great events,” Rich Polak said. “As far as the kids getting ready, this was perfect for them. We got all our pitchers’ work in this weekend … and actually this extra-inning game today helped us because we got our pitchers some extra work.”
2014 Central Labor Day Classic (Underclass) runner-up: Prodigy Baseball Academy 2016
2014 Central Labor Day Classic (Underclass) MVP: Joey Polak, Iowa Select Navy
2014 Central Labor Day Classic (Underclass) MV-Pitcher: Spencer Van Scoyoc, Iowa Select Navy