FORT MYERS, Fla. – Many of the teams at the Florida State Championships in Fort Myers, Florida have played in numerous Perfect Game events this summer. This event gives those teams yet another chance to hoist up a trophy at one of PG’s many tournaments.
The 15u Florida State Championship tournament has a variety of teams who competed in this year’s 15u WWBA National Championship in Emerson, GA. The Gainesville Naturals 15u are one of those teams. They had a great showing in Georgia winning their pool and advancing to bracket play in the 184-team tournament.
“Our confidence started about two weeks ago in the 15u WWBA,” head coach Esix Snead said. “We won our bracket up there, and we went 6-2 in the whole tournament. So, these guys are pretty confident. We started out playing 16u just to get them challenged because I knew I had a really good group. So, we started at 16u and started a little slow. We finally played to our own age group, and we are ahead of the curve.”
Gainesville got things going on day one of this tournament with two victories to start pool play. In game one against the FSB 15u, Jacob Pigeon picked up the win in five innings of work. He allowed just two hits all day and led his team to a 5-0 victory. Zach West had a solid 2-4 performance with two RBI at the plate.
In game two, Gainesville’s offense scored early and often against the SWFL 15u Grey. They scored in each of the first four innings led once again by West. He finished the game 2-3 with two RBI. Cody Lacoste pitched his way to a win allowing no earned runs and only one hit in the team’s 7-2 win.
Heading into Sunday, Gainesville sat atop their pool with a 2-0 record. Their third pool game was against another undefeated team in the SBO Florida 15u at the JetBlue Player Development Complex.
This game would give the winning team very good position to win the pool and receive a top seed in bracket play. With two undefeated teams playing, it seemed as if this game would go down to the wire. But, the Naturals had other ideas. In the top of the first inning, they sent 11 hitters to the plate and pushed across five runs. They added two runs in the second and four runs in the fourth, while they pounded out 12 total hits on the day. Tyler Lynch was impressive on the mound throwing all five innings and not allowing an earned run till the last inning. When all was said and done, Gainesville took the game 11-2 and moved their record to 3-0. Their offense was extremely impressive and Snead took kindly to that.
“We had really good at-bats,” Snead said. “We probably had 10-15 quality at-bats. We sprayed the whole field with the ball. We ran the bases well. We probably had five or six stolen bases. We have a really good group that has good hand-eye coordination. They don’t strike out much. They probably struck out maybe two or three times. We put the ball in play, and we battled.”
Once again, West led the offense. He went a perfect 3-3 with a double, two runs scored, and an impressive four RBI. After three games, he is batting .700 (7-10) and has knocked in eight RBI. West could not have asked for a better individual start, but his focus is on the team and helping them win games.
“It’s a privilege to play in this tournament and to be here,” West said. “To be 3-0 is really good. We work as a team.”
Matthew Inlow also had a big day at the plate for Gainesville. He picked up two hits and matched West’s RBI total (4) thanks to a bases-clearing three-run triple.
“I just planned to come out and drive gap to gap, and it worked out for me,” Inlow said.”
With the team now in perfect position to win the pool, they can breath a little easier. The way they are playing would suggest they would be 4-0 after Monday and pick up a top three seed headed into bracket play on Tuesday. But, Snead is the type of coach that keeps his guys focused on the next game. To him and his team, it is all about being consistent.
“Every game is the same whether it’s against a superior team, inferior team, or somebody on our level,” Snead said. “When we come out we want to play at the highest level every time. We never play up or down to anybody. If you come out playing at the highest level, then you are always playing at the right level.”
They finish up pool play Monday against the Scorpions 15u. Gainesville once again looks to win their pool and advance to bracket play in a Perfect Game event. Having allowed only four runs thus far, a quality win tomorrow could put them in the driver’s seat to have the opportunity to play in Wednesday’s championship game.