FORT MYERS, Fla. – A new champion has been crowned at the Perfect Game WWBA 18u Labor Day Classic. The Ostingers Baseball Academy 17u team defeated the South Florida Storm Blue, 2-0, in a tight and exciting championship game, ending the tournament with exceptional baseball played by both sides.
“It’s a great way to start the fall,” said Ostingers head coach Jim Osting. “Just coming out here and playing hard every single game – it’s fun to watch a team go about their business like they do. Hopefully we can make a little roll.”
The championship game was shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel early, with both sides trading zeros back and forth for three innings until Austin James was able to cross the plate after getting hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Ostingers a 1-0 lead.
The Ostingers added one more insurance run late after Nathan Chevalier doubled to left field to lead off the bottom of the sixth and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch four batters later, giving right-hander Brandon Harris plenty to work with to preserve the championship victory.
“It was a rush. I’m still shaking right now,” said Harris, who was named Most Valuable Pitcher for the tournament. “It felt good. Just getting the chance to go throw was exciting. The whole team worked hard for this. This is the first big tournament we’ve won together, so it was good. Not a lot of people can say they’ve been MVPitcher of a whole tournament. It feels good.”
Harris came on in relief of Conor Grady in the fifth inning to preserve the win for Grady while tossing three shutout innings and sitting 81-86 mph with his fastball. He surrendered just two hits while striking out three to earn the save in the big game.
“My fastball was definitely there, some work with my curveball was good, but basically I attacked hitters with fastballs,” Harris explained. “The curveball was used just to throw them off so they couldn’t hit the fastball.”
Harris appeared on the mound in three games and got the start in Friday’s win over the Hialeah Warriors 18u. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound righty totaled seven innings pitched over the course of the tournament, allowing just three hits and a walk while holding his opponents scoreless with nine strikeouts. He finished with an outstanding 0.57 WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched).
“Brandon’s maturing on the mound,” said Osting. “I think he’s realizing now he can pitch instead of just go out and throw. He’s throwing breaking balls for strikes now, which is something he hasn’t really done in the past. He’s definitely loosened up his mechanics and he’s throwing the ball downhill. He’s throwing the ball with confidence, which is something he’s never really done before, so it’s great to see. All three outings this weekend were very good.”
Harris was a key contributor to the dominant display the Ostingers Baseball Academy 17u put on throughout the four-day tournament. The team combined to outscore its opponents 29-4 on their way to a 7-0 record, tallying an incredible five shutouts, including shutouts in the semifinal and championship games.
‘Dominant’ wouldn’t even do justice when trying to describe the performance of the Ostingers pitching staff in the seven games. The staff did not allow a single earned run over the course of 40 innings of work, while allowing just 21 hits and 13 walks and striking out 42.
“It’s big for the program, but it’s bigger for the kids,” Osting said. “It’s not about my name or anything like that. As a program, we’ve got some kids up and coming and these age groups are pretty strong teams.”
It wasn’t an easy road to the championship for the 17u Ostingers. First, they had to go through the Ostingers Baseball Academy 2015s in a thrilling semifinal game that ended in a 1-0 game after the eventual champs were able to scratch across a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Then they would have to go through the South Florida Storm Blue and tournament Most Valuable Player John McKenna in order to hoist the first place trophy.
The Storm boasted an impressive offense that scored 56 run through six games heading into the championship. The team posted an outstanding .348 batting average (57-for-164) through seven games, but just couldn’t string together some runs in the championship.
McKenna paced the Storm offense, going 7-for-14 (.500 average) with three doubles, a triple, six RBI, and six runs. Maybe even more impressive was his eye-popping .650 on-base percentage.
“It feels good knowing that I got to do this in front of all my peers, all the parents, and the coaches,” said McKenna. “I just swung at fastballs early in the count and just had confidence at the plate.”
It was an adventurous Monday for the South Florida Storm Blue, to say the least. It took an exciting two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth for the Storm to come out on top over the Team Avenue Aces 18u in the semifinal matchup. Down 4-2 late, the Storm was able to come back and score three runs to take a 5-4 lead, which they held onto in the seventh to advance. Unfortunately for the Storm, there would be no such rally in the championship game, but this weekend was a huge step in the right direction for the program.
“It was a great experience being out here,” McKenna said. “It was exciting, it being the first 18u Perfect game tournament that we’ve done. It was a fun road.”
2014 18u WWBA Labor Day Classic runner-up: South Florida Storm Blue
2014 18u WWBA Labor Day Classic MVP: John McKenna, South Florida Storm Blue
2014 18u WWBA Labor Day Classic MV-Pitcher: Brandon Harris, Ostingers Baseball Academy 17u
Meanwhile, on the field next to the 18u game at the jetBlue Player Development Complex, the 16u title was being fought over, and the Carrollwood Gators 2017 won that battle with a 7-0 shutout to hoist the WWBA 16u Labor Day Classic trophy.
“This is a good one,” said Carrollwood head coach Pete Mocny. “These are some of the elite tournaments. They draw the best teams and best competition, typically, so to win something like this is greater than your average tournament and we recognize that, so it’s a big deal for us.”
The Gators met PBC Gameday Elite Underclass on Monday morning for the 16u title. Carrollwood was able to grab an early lead in the second inning when Matthew Berube singled in Anthony Cassos for the game’s first run.
PBC seemed to get back into their groove and held the Gators at bay for a few innings, entering the bottom of the fifth inning still just down 1-0.
That’s when a couple of walks, on top of some fielding miscues, on top of a base hit by tournament Most Valuable Player Kenny Rodriguez led to a three-run fifth for the Gators, giving them a 4-0 lead.
PBC showed signs of life in the sixth inning, getting a pair of runners in scoring position, but nothing came of it and the Gators piled on a few more runs to add to the cushion. Four base hits in the bottom of the sixth, including an RBI double by Rodriguez, solidified the Gators’ control of the game with a 7-0 lead and just three outs to go.
A primary shortstop, but a star pitcher on Monday, Alex Mocny finished the game he started on the mound when he recorded a strikeout looking to finish off a complete game shutout in the title game, earning him Most Valuable Pitcher honors.
“He’s not typically a pitcher,” said Mocny. “He’s a shortstop by trade. He’s got a good arm and good control and he’s got a two-seam fastball that causes problems for the other teams and if he’s on, it’s a tough day for the opponents, typically. After a long week, the kid’s got good stamina and we’re not afraid to put him out there for six or seven innings.”
Mocny was stellar in his complete game shutout, going the distance while giving up just four hits and a walk and striking out seven. He retired 19 of his 21 outs on three pitches or less and threw 58 of his 78 pitches for strikes, giving him an incredible 74-percent strike percentage.
“This was my first time pitching this tournament and it felt great,” Alex said while proudly holding his MVPitcher trophy. “My pitches were working. I threw one curveball through the whole game. My fastball and two-seamer were really working for me. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Mocny had a lot of help from his teammates, who combined to tally 11 base hits in the championship game, including four from Rodriguez, who finished the game a perfect 4-for-4 with a double, two runs, and two RBI.
“When the other team sees him swing, they’re like ‘woah’,” said Mocny. “He’s a powerful player, an aggressive player, he’s a five-tool player. He’s got everything. He’s definitely one of our top players and he’s a great kid as well.”
Rodriguez finished the tournament with a remarkable .529 batting average (9-for-17). He collected five extra-base hits, including one of the few home runs over the entire weekend for both the 16u and 18u age division. The 6-foot, 183-pound youngster also finished the tournament with seven RBI and five runs.
“I just took advantage of the first-pitch fastball,” Rodriguez said. “I just try and hit the ball hard and that’s it. It feels good. It was a complete team effort. We put in a lot of hard work.”
The Gators outscored its opponents 40-5 en route to a 6-0 tournament record, tallying four shutouts along the way.
“This is our first tournament we’ve won at Perfect Game for our 16u team, so it feels really good,” said Rodriguez.
The well-rounded club combined for a .353 team batting average (53-for-150) with 20 extra-base hits and an impressive .446 on-base percentage. Pitching was also lights out, along with Mocny, the staff combined to give up just five earned runs through 36 innings of work giving them a collective 0.97 earned run average.
“We just played as a team,” Mocny said. “We played great defense and threw strikes. It’s a big field and with wood bats that’s what we needed to do, and we can hit the ball. That’s a good combination to win a tournament.”
The Gators battled with the Tampa Threshers 16u in the semifinals before pulling away in the fifth inning with two more runs, going on to win 5-3 and advance to the championship, where they met PBC.
PBC played a close ballgame against the Florida Canes 16u before adding two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and eventually fending off a seventh inning rally to win, 4-2.
Mocny hopes this will be a signature tournament title for the Carrollwood Gators organization in order to continue to progress and gain national recognition; no easy task for a local-only organization.
“The Gators program has had several teams here and it means a lot to keep us relevant,” said Mocny. “With our performances this year, we’re hoping to make a national ranking. For a local team, that’s a big deal for us. It’s a very small radius of kids that we pull from, so it means that much more to us.”
2014 16u WWBA Labor Day Classic champions: Carrollwood Gators 2017
2014 16u WWBA Labor Day Classic runner-up: PBC Gameday Elite Underclass
2014 16u WWBA Labor Day Classic MVP: Kenny Rodriguez, Carrollwood Gators 2017
2014 16u WWBA Labor Day Classic MV-Pitcher: Alex Mocny, Carrollwood Gators 2017