FORT MYERS, Fla. – The 13u Florida State Championship has been a battle all week. When pool play concluded Monday, no team had an undefeated record. That means that when bracket play starts Tuesday, it is any team’s tournament to win.
The Central Florida Wolverines entered their last pool game right in the thick of things. They held a 2-1 record and their final game would determine whether they be one of the top seeds or not.
Their tournament did not start they way they would have liked with a 4-1 loss to the Ironpigs. Dropping game one could have been fatal for this team, but they took it as a challenge. They stormed back and went 2-0 the next day. In their game against The Roaddogs, two Wolverine pitchers allowed only three hits and no earned runs. Clayton Powell had a double and a triple, along with four RBI. The Wolverines won the game 8-0.
Their next game against the Florida Stealth was very similar in that they had great hitting and pitching. Edgar Alvarez pitched all seven innings allowing just one earned run and only three hits to pick up the win. He also went 2-4 at the plate and added an RBI. After a slow start in the tournament, they had quickly turned things around.
“This is our first year out here, and they are 13 and young,” head coach Andrew Escobar said. “They were a little shell-shocked coming to a tournament and a facility like this. We struggled a little bit in the first game with our nerves. Then, we got a comfort level and saw that this is where we should be, and they turned it on from there.”
Monday’s game against the 1-2 Orlando Stingers South at City of Palms Park gave the Wolverines the opportunity to close out pool play on a high note. After conceding a run in the first inning, the Wolverines looked to Josiah Rivera to calm the Stingers bats. Rivera pitched 5 1/3 innings of relief and picked up the win in a gutsy outing. He allowed no earned runs in the process. Although the Wolverines were out-hit 11-6, they did well at hitting with runner’s in scoring position. They picked up three runs in the bottom of the third inning and got out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the seventh to win the game 3-1.
“Our starting pitcher pitched good a couple of days ago for us,” Escobar said. “He didn’t throw too many pitches, but his arm was a little sore. We yanked him in the second. Josiah Rivera came in and gave us a good performance on short notice and went all the way to the sixth. He gave it his all for us.”
With a 3-1 record, they finished tied atop the pool. Although, they will finish as the number two seed because of a head-to-head tiebreaker, the team is still in great position to make their way into the championship game. The main thing for them is to stay healthy and not get too overwhelmed with the stature of the tournament and the fields they are playing at.
“They just need to know who they are,” Escobar said. “Any field they go to it’s the same game. Baseball is baseball. They can’t get intimidated by any situation, and that’s why this tournament is such a good experience for us. To have them be able to play in facilities like this against teams in this organized tournament is huge.”
“We just have to make sure everybody is healthy. We’ve been working hard this summer, and we have a couple of nicks and a couple of bruises. We will just try to fight through that. We have a lot of pitching left, so we are just going to have to be mentally strong from the first pitch to the last pitch every game.”
This is the team’s first trip to a Perfect Game event, and a good showing was the first goal for them. Now, they have the opportunity to do more than just win a few games. They have the chance to play their way into the finals and compete for the title of Florida’s best 13u team. Escobar understands what a tournament title in this tournament could do for this organization, and he and his team are looking at it as another hurdle to jump over.
“It would be huge, especially having two teams in this tournament, to come out and have a good showing in the first Perfect Game [tournament] for these guys,” Escobar said. “I know they are young, but it would really be huge for these guys and the organization from central Florida. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
We may be seeing yet another Florida organization make its name at a Perfect Game event. Receiving the number two seed, the Wolverines are now just two wins away from a title.