FORT MYERS, Fla. – A run-off was required to determine the winner of the Fastest Man Competition Thursday night, which may foretell what lies ahead over the next six days of competition at the 9th annual 16u Perfect Game BCS Finals national championship – one run-off after another involving highly skilled teams in the 88-team field.
Jonathan Cosme, a 2015 outfielder with the SWFL Prospects Underclass, edged 2015 middle-infielder Brady John from the East Cobb Patriots in the 60-yard run-off on the outfield grass at City of Palms Park, running the distance in 6.40-seconds to John’s 6.43. More than 50 16u prospects took part in the competition and 17 turned in a 6.70-second effort or better.
“I get to showcase my speed a lot; it’s a big part of my game,” Cosme said after his winning sprint. “When I come here I’m confident in myself, I’m confident that I’m going to win it. There are usually one or two pretty fast kids that can me a shot but I’m confident I can do it.”
The Fastest Man Competition was part of a 16u PG BCS Finals opening night at City of Palms that also included a Home Run Derby. Long balls were hard to come by on the major league-sized field – 330-feet down the lines, 410-feet to dead center – but five players managed to hit one out during the 10-swing first round of competition. 2017 corner-infielder Bubba Sangster from the Florida Surge was the only contestant to hit a second one in the five-swing second round, and he claimed the title.
“I love doing this; it’s really a lot of fun,” the 5-foot-10, 205-pound right-handed swinging Sangster said. “This is real good experience being at this tournament.”
The other finalists in the Derby were 2015 catcher Matt Hammaker (East Cobb Orioles); 2016 first baseman Jaquez Williams (GBSA Sox); 2016 left-handed pitcher/utility Ryan Fultz (Jacksonville Warriors Black) and 2015 outfielder Ryan Watts (SACSN National Team).
With the preliminaries out of the way, the players, their coaches and their families from all 88 teams in the 16u PG BCS Finals field were ready for the games to begin Friday morning. The squads will play a first set of three pool games Friday and Saturday and a second set of three on Sunday and Monday, which lead into next week’s 32-team playoffs.
“Summer ball is always fun, and we expect to come in here and compete,” Cosme said of his SWFL Prospects Underclass team. “We’re not really a top team but we’ll fight it out and grind-out games, just looking to get to (the playoffs). It’s always good to compete with all the best players in the country and just compare yourself to them.”
The Indiana Prospects, Georgia Roadrunners (now Team Elite Roadrunners) and the Chain Black finished second and tied for third, respectively, at last year’s 15u PG BCS Finals and have rosters at this event that are mostly intact from those top-four finishes of a year ago. The 2013 15u PG BCS Finals champion Texas Drillers to not have a team in this field
“I look forward to every tournament, no matter what it is,” Sangster said of the loaded 88-team field. “I’ve been playing with (the Florida Surge) for about a year now and we have a good organization. We might not have the best players, but we have players that stay together and fight our hearts out until we win or lose. We go out there to win every game.”
There are definitely some top teams here, stacked top to bottom with highly ranked national prospects from the classes of 2015 and, mostly, 2016. The Team Elite organization from the Atlanta area has five teams in the tournament, and two in particular are attention-grabbers.
The Team Elite Roadrunners have nine players ranked in the top-200 nationally and five that have committed to NCAA Division I schools. The highly ranked prospects include 2015 No. 6 Jahmai Jones (North Carolina), 2016 No. 13 Jonathan Gettys and 2016 No. 34 Cam Shepherd.
Team Elite Prime features seven prospects ranked in the top-200 nationally, including 2016 No. 108 Aaron Schunk and 2016 No. 109 Sawyer Smith to team with identical twin brothers Austin and Nick Wilhite, a pair of 2016s from Buford, Ga., who are ranked No. 120 and No. 121, respectively.
Elite Squad 16u Prime from Pembroke Pines, Fla., has two of the most elite arms in the class of 2016 with No. 2-ranked right-hander Anthony Molina and No. 4 righty Gregory Veliz, both University of Miami commits.
The SACSN National Team, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., boasts the talents of 2016 No. 70 Nick Derr and 2016 No. 73 Deaundre “D.J.” Roberts, and six others ranked in the top 290 in their respective classes.
Other notables in the field include 2016 No. 1 Austin Bergner (Florida Burn Pennant); 2016 No. 26 Garrett Wolforth (Marucci Elite Houston Red); 2016 No. 28 Mason Thompson (Austin Banditos) and 2016 No. 38 Brian Brown (Florida Burn Navy).