FORT MYERS, Fla – The 16u Florida State Championships saw a bunch of fireworks in its final day. Eight teams entered Wednesday with a chance to win the title and be crowned as Florida’s best.
The Xtreme Baseball Navy had an interesting morning in their route to the championship game. Their first game was a 13-0 blowout against the Scorpions Orlando 2016 Purple. But, their semi-final matchup against the FTB Max Bats was exactly the opposite.
Down 1-0 for most of the game, Xtreme scored one run in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the game into extra innings. Both teams proceeded to put up zeros for two innings. Then, in the bottom of the 10th inning, Jack Mora singled home Christian Menendez to send the Xtreme to the championship game.
The Scorpions South Underclass had a similar morning. After a convincing 6-1 victory over the SWFL 16u Navy, they were matched up against FTB Sarasota in the semi-finals. After jumping out to a 3-1 lead, FTB tied the score in the top of the fourth inning. The Scorpions responded with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning and held on for a 4-3 win.
The championship game between the Scorpions and Xtreme was nothing short of a classic. In the first three innings, both teams were unable to plate a run. Then, Xtreme put up three runs in the top of the fourth and saw the Scorpions respond with two in the same inning. The Scorpions added one more in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score. Once again, the game was tied after seven innings and Xtreme was yet again faced with an extra inning game.
Neither team scored in the eighth inning as the game continued to race by. Then, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Damon Irivis singled home Trey Pearce to give the Scorpions the 4-3 win and the championship. The Scorpions finished having won an impressive five one-run games and two others by two runs. Head coach Dan Smith talked about his confidence heading into the finals because of his team’s ability to win the close ballgames.
“We played a lot of close ballgames throughout the tournament, 1-0 games and a couple 1-hit shutouts,” Smith said. “We won 4-3 in the semi-finals. I told my assistant coach before we started, “With the group we have, we are going to win this thing.” We were short some guys. We were missing about four or five players, but we ended up doing that [winning].”
The Scorpions had to wait more than thirty minutes to play the championship game because Xtreme’s semi-final game went into extra innings. They could have easily come out sluggish, but they were resilient. This championship was something that meant a lot to them.
“It’s been a long summer, and we’ve put a lot of work in and played a lot of games,” Smith said. “For us to come out on top is pretty special.”
Scorpion catcher Josh Jano picked up MVP honors for his tremendous performance throughout the week. He finished the tournament with a .435 batting average (10-23) with an RBI and six runs scored. In the championship game he went 1-4 and scored a crucial run for the team.
“It means a lot because this is my first one that I’ve had in awhile,” Jano said of winning MVP. “I just joined this team, and now they are giving me so many opportunities. So, I’m happy.”
Jano explained how his teammates were all working towards the same goal. Each of them wanted to do what they could to help the team win. As the game dragged on into extra innings, his teammates and he tried their best to grab that breakthrough run.
“Everyone just wanted it to be over, so all we were trying to do was get a big hit,” Jano said. “I think some people were trying too much, but then at the end we got it.”
Matthew Doden from Xtreme received the MV-Pitcher award for his impressive outings in the tournament. In two appearances, he worked 11 innings and allowed just one earned run. He finished with a 1-0 record and a .636 ERA.
The Xtreme Baseball Navy finished the tournament with a 7-1 record, while the Scorpions South Underclass finished a perfect 8-0.
2014 PG 16u Florida State Championship runner-up: Xtreme Baseball Navy
2014 PG 16u Florida State Championship MVP: Josh Jano, Scorpions South Underclass
2014 PG 16u Florida State Championship MV-Pitcher: Matthew Doden, Xtreme Baseball Navy
17u Florida State Championship Game
The 17u Florida State Championships entered Wednesday with just four teams vying for a chance to be named the best team in the state. The SWFL 17u Grey matched up against the North Florida Storm 17u Black, while the Elite Squad 17u Slugger squared off against the Scorpions Panhandle 2015.
SWFL raced through pool play allowing just two runs in four games, while scoring 24. Besides a 1-0 victory in their first game, they had not been tested throughout the tournament. That continued on as they defeated North Florida 9-1 to advance to the championship game.
Elite Squad was impressive in pool play having allowed only six runs, but a 5-2 loss to The Edge gave them a 3-1 record and second place in their pool. After a strong 8-0 victory over the SWFL 17u Navy in round one of the playoffs, they once again faced off against The Edge. This time, Elite Squad did everything right and rolled to a 12-0 victory.
Their semi-final matchup against the Scorpions Panhandle was very different from their previous two games. After scoring two quick runs in the top of the first inning, they entered the final frame leading 2-0. After watching the Scorpions Panhandle score one already, Elite Squad was faced with a two-out, first and third situation. That was when Jose Padron struck out the final batter and propelled Elite Squad into the championship game against SWFL.
SWFL got on the board in the bottom of first inning thanks to a leadoff triple by Jacob Silverstein, who later scored on a Zuriel Collins groundout. Both teams scored a run in the sixth as the game entered the final inning with SWFL up 2-1. With two outs and a runner on, Elite Squad was down to their last out. Then, Patrick Mitchell laced an RBI triple to right field to tie the score. SWFL was unable to score in the bottom of the inning to send the game into extras. Both teams threatened to score in the eighth, but the pitching staffs would not let their team lose. In the bottom of the ninth inning, SWFL got three runners on with no outs. A fly-out to right field and a pop out to second quickly turned a no-out situation into a two-out one. Then with a 3-2 count, Conor Roe laid off an inside fastball to receive a walk, and SWFL won the game 3-2 and took home the title.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” SWFL head coach Ryan Horton said. “We’ve had a lot of close calls throughout the summer: 3rd place at [East] Memorial Day, 3rd place at the BCS, and nine innings in this game. To win it that way, these boys deserve it. It’s been a long summer, and it’s a great note to end on.”
Troy Bacon, a University of Florida commit, pitched six strong innings for SWFL to keep them in the game. He allowed just two earned runs and three hits, and he battled against a good hitting Elite Squad team.
“It was huge for us,” Horton said of Bacon’s performance. “We were running real low on pitching, and for him to give us almost seven solid innings [was key] before bringing Thaddeus back. He’s one of the best pitchers I think I’ve coached. He’s just a bulldog. I went out there a couple times asking him how he felt and he said, “Coach this is my game.” I said, “Ok buddy it’s yours to win.”
Jacob Silverstein was key in the win for SWFL. He led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple and the bottom of the sixth inning with a double, and he came around to score both times. His performance throughout the tournament, especially in the championship game, gave him MVP honors.
“He’s unreal,” Horton said of Silverstein. “He’s a table-setter for us. He gets on almost every time, and he leads our team. We say when you [Silverstein] get on we go, and that’s what he did for us all tournament. It was a well-deserved MVP for him.”
Silverstein finished the tournament batting .480 (12-25) with an RBI and an impressive nine runs scored. But, his individual numbers were not his main focus as he was the ultimate team player
“I was just looking for a nice pitch to hit, something in the zone that I could handle, and something that would get me on base and help the team,” Silverstein said of his approach in the championship game.”
As the game entered extra innings, SWFL continued to stay focused on doing their job. Emotions were constantly going up and down, but the team kept their mind on playing for each other.
“We were hyped,” Silverstein said of the team’s attitude in extra innings. “We were playing for one run, playing as a team, and playing very solid baseball. We were doing what we needed to do and nobody was being selfish. It was all for the team.”
Michael Schappell, from Elite Squad, picked up MV-Pitcher honors for his stellar performance on the mound throughout the tournament. He appeared in three games and finished with a 2-1 record in 8.2 innings. He allowed no earned runs and just four hits, and he finished with an astounding 13 strikeouts.
The Elite Squad 17u Slugger finished 6-2 on the week, and the SWFL 17u Grey finished unblemished at 8-0.
2014 PG 17u Florida State Championship champs: SWFL 17u Grey
2014 PG 17u Florida State Championship runner-up: Elite Squad 17u Slugger
2014 PG 17u Florida State Championship MVP: Jacob Silverstein, SWFL 17u Grey
2014 PG 17u Florida State Championship MV-Pitcher: Michael Schappell, Elite Squad 17u Slugger