GLENDALE, Ariz. – Team Phenom impressed onlookers over the past four days when they entered the Camelback Ranch Complex in their crisp white uniforms, walking into the big league spring training facility in single-file procession, looking very much the part of an outfit that demanded respect.
As much as that look demanded respect before they crossed the lines, their performance out on the field demanded even more.
Moreno Valley, Calif.-based Team Phenom came into the 3rd annual 14u Perfect Game MLK Championship when the event started last Friday as a bit of an enigma. People definitely knew that this was a first-class organization and this was one of the best 14u units in the country, but Perfect Game’s access to the team and its players had been limited.
That access is limited no longer.
Team Phenom got an RBI double and an RBI single from Steven Bermudez and Zachary Lew, respectively, in the top of the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and beat the San Diego Show, 3-1, in the championship game at the 14u Perfect Game MLK Championship Monday afternoon at Camelback Ranch. The No. 3-seeded Phenom ran the table at the event with a 6-0 record while the top-seeded Show finished 4-1.
Team Phenom was impressive from the get-go, and after finishing pool-play with a 3-0 record it went into Monday’s playoff round at the 14u PG MLK as the No. 3 seed. That meant the Phenoms had to play a first round game while the top-two seeds, including the Show, got first-round byes. It didn’t matter much to the Phenoms.
“This was definitely an excitement for us and I’m proud of them for what they did,” head coach Joe Keller said after the championship game victory. “They wanted to take this thing by sticking together as a team. We stuck to our game plan and my pitchers (threw) well and we had three or four guys really hit well as a group. I am really proud of these guys.”
While Bermudez and Lew provided some heroics in the late innings of the championship game, the headlines belonged to Sean Osceola, a 6-foot, 220-pound eighth-grader from Okeechobee, Fla. Osceola was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and pitched a complete game eight-hitter while allowing one earned run and striking out five in the championship game.
He made three appearances on the mound during the tournament and finished allowing one earned run on nine hits in 8 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts and one walk, and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
The Show’s Jacob Allred, a 2018 outfielder from San Diego, was named the Most Valuable Player. Allred hit .583 (7-for-12) with a double, two triples, an RBI and five runs scored.
The Show beat No. 4 seed Sierra Valley Storm Elite (4-1), 2-0, in the semifinal round of the playoffs while Team Phenom got past the No. seed Central Florida Gators (3-1) in the other semifinal.
Six of the 24 team in the 14u PG MLK Championship field advanced to the playoffs with the No. 1 seeded San Diego Show and the No. 2 Central Florida Gators earning byes into the semifinal round. Team Phenom went into the first round of the playoffs with the No. 3 seed and the Sierra Valley Storm Elite was No. 4.
The seedings proved to be right-on with the Sierra Valley Storm Elite escaping the No. 5 Chico Aces (2-2), 7-6, to set up the semifinal pairing with the San Diego Show, and Team Phenom getting past the No. 6 Tucson Champs 14u (2-2), 5-3, to advance to the semi against the Central Florida Gators.
Team Phenom was, indeed, one of the most professional looking outfits at the 14u PG MLK Championship these past four days. And the beauty of it is, they only hope to get better as they make more and more appearances at Perfect Game events in the years to come.
“As much as we wanted to win … we did a lot of things that we’re going to go back and practice on and get better and execute correctly,” Keller said. “But what the kids did, that’s exactly what they wanted to do – they wanted to come here and prove that they’re the number-one team in the country, and the Gators from Florida came out to prove that we weren’t and the Show (was here) and so I think it was gratifying for our boys to pull this off.”
2014 14u PG MLK Championship runner-up: San Diego Show
2014 14u PG MLK Championship MVP: Jacob Allred, San Diego Show
2014 14u PG MLK Championship MV-Pitcher: Sean Osceola, Team Phenom