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Florida Qualifier ready to roll

Tournaments : : Story
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Please forgive Florida Burn standout Dalton Guthrie for momentarily confusing his Perfect Game tournaments. Sometimes these big stages tend to run together.

It was less than a week ago that Guthrie helped the Florida Burn Orange, a team coached by his father, former big-league left-hander Mark Guthrie,  win the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship. The title awarded the Florida Burn Orange a PG national championship trophy and PG national championship rings for its team members, but for just a moment, Guthrie forgot what he was playing for.

"We expected to do well in this tournament," he said during his team's championship run last weekend. "This is the tournament that gets you into Jupiter, right? We're looking forward to missing school if we can get to that, too, but we're trying to perform and get seen and help each other reach our goals."

The younger Guthrie was off one week. The PG WWBA Underclass World Championship title didn't get the Florida Burn Orange an automatic paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship at the end of the month, but winning this weekend's PG WWBA Florida Qualifier certainly will.

The 9th annual PG WWBA Florida Qualifier begins Friday night with four games at Terry Park and one at City of Palms Park. Pool-play continues through Sunday morning with the first round of the 16-team playoffs and the quarterfinals scheduled for Sunday afternoon. The semifinals and championship game will be played Monday morning at the jetBlue Player Development Complex.

While identified as the Florida Qualifier, the 56-team tournament features squads from not only Florida, but from Mississippi, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Texas. There are also five teams from Puerto Rico and two Blue Jays teams from Ontario, Canada.

Fort Myers-based SWFL 18u is the defending champion and will bring another strong team to the tournament this year. Catchers Hayden Platt (2013, Naples, Fla.) and Michael Mann (2013, Seminole, Fla.) are both top-500 prospects and have committed to Central Florida and South Florida, respectively. Left-hander Sean Labsan (2013, Sarasota, Fla.) is a Florida Atlantic commit.

Fresh off their championship at the WWBA Underclass World, the Florida Burn have added eight 2013 prospects to their roster, including right-hander Cooper Hammond (2013, Venice, Fla.), a Miami recruit.

Catcher Kyle Gilbert (2014, Lake Mary, Fla.) and left-hander Zeke Pietrzyk (2014, Estero, Fla.) were named the Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Pitcher, respectively, at last week's WWBA Underclass World Championship.

Chet Lemon's Juice won this championship in 2010, and returns this year with a roster that includes right-hander Tyler Danish (2013, Valrico, Fla.). Danish is No. 96 in the national prospect rankings for the class of 2013, and is the 265th overall prospect in the 2013 draft, according to PG's Allan Simpson.

Five FTB teams (Black, Clutch, Mizuno, Red, Royal) are entered and all will challenge for the title. SWFL also has 16u and 17u teams in the tournament field.

This tournament has a rich history of attracting top talent, with 155 alumni having been picked in one of the first 10 rounds of the MLB amateur draft. 2012 1st round pick Lewis Brinson and 1st round compensation selections Keon Barnum and Zach Eflin all played in this tournament last year, and Barnum played in it three times.

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