FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Perfect Game World Series has one of the most talented fields of any tournament that takes place over the summer, and the 15u World Series this week in Fort Myers is no different. Legendary travel organizations like the Evoshield Canes, Orlando Scorpions, and Tri-State Arsenal are competing for the World Series title, but a newer program, the T-Rex Baseball Club, is off to a hot start in the tournament as they have their eyes on the championship.
While the T-Rex Baseball Club is newer than much of its competition, it has just as much talent as the rest of the field. They are based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and have traveled all the way across the country to Fort Myers in order to compete in the PG World Series. Head coach Rex Gonzalez is originally from Tampa, Florida, and has returned to his home state in order to lead his 15u squad to a championship.
The T-Rex Baseball Club started after Gonzalez moved out to Arizona in 2010. They have teams all the way from 11u to 18u, and have just started getting some of their best players into higher levels of baseball, sending players to elite colleges like Florida State and Alabama.
As for this 15u team, they have scratched and clawed their way to a 3-0 record so far in the PG World Series, relying on elite pitching and timely hitting to stymy their tough competition.
“These kids have been playing together for awhile, we’ve had pretty decent success playing Perfect Game tournaments, great competition as always, just trying to get the kids better,” Gonzalez said. “We’re not always as successful as we want to be, but we’re always doing the little things and everything we have to do in order to succeed and help these kids improve.”
Well, this week, they’ve been successful to say the least. T-Rex started the World Series having to face the Orlando Scorpions, one of the best teams in the country year in and year out. Despite their opponent, they stepped up to the challenge, riding the combined pitching effort of Zane Strand and Marcus Christy.
Strand started the game for T-Rex and did a stellar job, holding the Scorpions to one hit and one walk while striking out six over five innings. Christy singled in a run in the second and Jacob Gonzalez tacked on another RBI single in the fifth. With the chance to beat the vaunted Scorpions, T-Rex turned to one of their best pitchers in Christy to close out the game. “The Scorpions are a really good ballclub,” coach Gonzalez said, “but thankfully Marcus Christy was able to come in and pitch for us, he’s a pretty good little pitcher.” T-Rex held on for the 2-0 win.
The great pitching performances continued on Sunday as T-Rex took on MBA Pride Elite and Xtreme Baseball Navy.
Connor McCord was the hero in the team’s first game of the day. He pitched a complete game, giving up two runs (one earned) while striking out five and throwing 68.2 percent of his pitches for strikes. McCord also came away with the biggest hit of the game, a two-run double in the middle of the team’s three-run rally in the third inning. Three runs was all T-Rex needed for the win, as they held on 3-2.
T-Rex had yet another tough matchup in their third game of the tournament, taking on Xtreme Baseball Navy. The 15u Xtreme team enters the World Series coming off a runner-up finish at the PG Florida State Championships last week, but in the 16u division.
But, once again, the tough opponent didn’t faze T-Rex Baseball. Mitchell Allen started for T-Rex and threw an economical 75 pitches over seven innings. Allen was throwing exclusively fastballs and pitching to contact, allowing him to keep his pitch count down while letting his defense make plays behind him. Jacob Gonzalez and Scott Mehan led the way at the plate for T-Rex with two hits apiece, and T-Rex won 5-3.
For T-Rex Baseball, they have talent throughout their lineup and a deep roster, as they don’t rely on superstars to put them over the top. Two of their best players, Blake Paugh and Boyd Vander Kooi, were invited to Team USA so they could not compete in this tournament, but that hasn’t stopped them from beating elite teams. Gonzalez explained, “there is no big hero for us on this team, it’s a collective effort. Obviously we’re here to get the kids better and move them on, so we’re pretty excited about Blake and Boyd getting the chance to play for team USA. But in their place, it’s been any given guy from game to game.”
Gonzalez feels that the fact that anybody on the team can step up gives their team an edge versus their competition. “I think the talent level is pretty equal out here. I like the fact that we’ve played together and they trust each other, the fact that we’ve been together, nobody is trying to be the hero, everybody’s playing for the name on the front, not playing for the name on the back, just playing for each other. When you do that, at the end of the tournament things usually work out, and in baseball anything can happen.”
So far this week, it’s clear that T-Rex Baseball is a serious threat to win the 15u World Series, as they’ve already put themselves in great position moving forward. However, they will continue to put their heads down and push forward until the championship. “I expect we’ll have some tough games ahead of us,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think there’s an easy game out here with the competition being so good. I don’t see anybody walking through this tournament at all, every game feels like an elimination game, and I don’t think there’s much disparity from one team to another in terms of talent. I’m happy with the way we’ve been playing, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on the field, and we’re definitely not hanging our hats on the three wins we already have, that’s for sure.”
While they are already an elite program, T-Rex’s success this weekend will be huge for their organization. They are showing that despite the dearth of talent in the Southeast, these kids from Arizona are just as good and know how to play the game the right way.