GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- On a Sunday that saw only two favorites win their first-round playoff games, the 4th annual Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) could only be described as one big surprise party.
The day of upsets at the Goodyear Sports and Recreation Complex ended with only No. 2-seeded GBG Yak Baseball advancing to Monday's final four among the teams seeded in the top four entering the 16-team playoffs.
GBG Yak Baseball (5-0) will face the No. 11 North County Padres (4-1) in one semifinal Monday morning, with No. 8 San Gabriel Valley (SVG) Arsenal (5-0) going up against the No. 12 So Cal Bombers 2014 Black (4-1) in the other semi, both at the Goodyear Complex. The PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) championship game is slated for 11:30 a.m. (MST) at Goodyear Ballpark.
As Sunday unfolded, two first-round upsets grabbed everyone's attention. The first was No. 16 Lamorinda Baseball's stunning 8-0 win over the No. 1 Playa Vista Orioles 16u, and the second was the North County Padres 5-4, eight inning win over No. 6 Angels Baseball.
Although Angels Baseball entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, it was considered all weekend the team to beat with a national roster that included nine NCAA Division I commits and three others sure to commit to D-I programs sometime soon.
The Padres sent the Angels back to their homes near and far with their first-round victory. They then went on to beat another surprise first-round winner -- No. 14 Team CALIFORNIA Baseball -- 4-2 in one of four quarterfinal-round games.
"I came with 12 strong kids and all we've done, basically, is work hard," North County Padres founder and head coach Jet Cook said after the quarterfinal victory. "Every single one of these kids has done something to get us this far; we knocked off a top team and we just kept playing baseball. Their chemistry is just so unbelievably strong and I'm proud of every single one of them.
"We're getting lucky at times, but they're strong and they're good players. We're getting the pitching and all the other stuff done."
The play of one North County Padre prospect really stood out Sunday. Scott Souter, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-hander and shortstop who is from Carlsbad, Calif., and a junior at La Costa Canyon High School, was stellar both on the mound and at the plate.
Souter was 2-for-3 with a triple and pitched 1 2/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief in the win over Angels Baseball, then was 2-for-3 with a double, and worked five innings of one-hit ball without allowing a run and striking out four as the starter in the win over Team CAL.
Through five games Sunday, Souter -- who played at this event last year with Team Rip -- pitched in four of them, working 8 2/3 innings and allowing only one earned run (0.81 ERA) on three hits while striking out eight and walking four. He hit .429 (6-for-14) with a double, triple and an RBI.
Cook said the core of the group he has here this weekend has been together for most of the past two years but he added four or five extra players for this tournament. The team would be considered a 16u squad if it was playing in a specific age-group tournament, with eight of its 12 roster spots filled by juniors in high school. It is not inexperienced, however.
"We've been playing summer ball in an 18u league in the north San Diego area, and they're all 16 year old kids," Cook said,. "They want to stay together for a few years and I just want to give them the shot to get looked at so they can get college scholarships. I love baseball, I love the game, and that's why I do what I do."
Cook is the freshmen coach at Carlsbad (Calif.) High School, and started the North County Padres organization about four years ago. He has a couple of teams that he coaches during the summer in local leagues and decided to make the squad's first foray into Perfect Game tournament action this weekend.
He said he got in touch with PG Western Tournament Director Matthew Bliven and expressed his desire to bring his team here this weekend. He said he assured Bliven the Padres would be competitive at the PG national tournament level.
"I sent out an email and said, 'Hey, we'd like to compete in your tournament' and here we are," Cook said. "Hopefully we're asked back next year.
"This whole thing is very professionally run, and with all the technology with (GameChanger) and everybody getting updates ... and (Perfect Game does) a fantastic job, and I'd love to come back and play in some more," he continued. "I'll take these guys all over the nation."
Cook said he really wasn't all that surprised that this team survived to play in the semifinals Monday morning. He pointed out that this team had beaten good 18u teams in the league it played in this summer.
He knew coming here and playing against some of the best 16u and 15u teams from the West Coast would be a challenge, but he never doubted what his team could achieve. At the same time, he called it an "honor" to be in the final four at a PG national tournament.
And the win over Angels Baseball Sunday afternoon proved that his team could compete with the best.
"That's why I brought them here," Cook said. "I said, 'If you respect the game of baseball, it will reward you,' and they came here knowing we were going to face some good competition and we came here ready to fight and play ball. All I wanted to do was come over here and compete and we're doing that, and all of this just seems to be a bonus."