FORT MYERS, Fla. – The championship trophies from Perfect Game’s two WWBA Memorial Day tournaments held here this weekend are heading north up I-75 to Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Warriors and the Carrollwood Gators won the 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic and the 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic, respectively, on adjacent fields at Terry Park and just minutes apart on a sunny and hot Memorial Day late-afternoon.
The eighth-seeded Warriors completed a 7-0 weekend in the 18U event by beating No. 7 seed Cyclones Baseball out of Clearwater, Fla., 6-2, in the championship game at the main stadium at Terry Park. They trailed the Cyclones, 2-1, after four innings before rallying for five runs in the fifth inning and holding on for the win.
The Warriors beat the Orlando Scorpions 17U Purple – a game that featured top pitching prospects Lance McCullers from the Warriors and Walker Weickel from the Scorpions facing one another – in a tight 3-2 game in the quarterfinals, and the Ocala Heat, 10-1 in the semis, before facing
Cyclone Baseball in the championship. All three of those games were played Monday.
“Tremendous tournament, great competition. Perfect Game puts on one of the best tournaments in the nation,” Warriors head coach Dan Withum said after receiving a Gatorade dousing from his players. “We’re just proud and honored that we were fortunate enough to win seven in a row, and we look forward to the next Perfect Game event.”
Tampa Bay managed just four hits in the championship game, but one of them was a three-run bomb from third baseman Corbin Olstead in the fifth that followed base-hits from Avery Romano and McCullers.
“I got a hold of a high and inside fastball,” Olmstead said after accepting his tournament MVP plaque. “I was seeing curveballs and changes all game and I was sitting dead-red. I could see the pitcher got a little bit flustered after two base-hits in a row and he tried to challenge me with a fastball … and I was sitting dead-red.”
Olmstead, a 6-3, 210-pound senior-to-be at Jefferson High School in Tampa, seemed to thoroughly enjoy his weekend here.
“I love coming out to these Perfect Game tournaments. They’re awesome,” he said. “You see a caliber of player that you wouldn’t normally see. It’s almost like the big-leagues in our age group. I got to meet a lot of good people that have played on this team over the last two years. Playing with some of these kids it’s good to see how everybody plays and develops into a player on their own.”
Right-hander Walker Lockett started the title game for the Warriors and allowed two runs on three hits in three innings. Right-handers Chris Chism and Robbie Kalaf worked a scoreless fourth before righty Tommy Peterson came in to deliver the final three scoreless innings.
The Cyclones beat the Pensacola Pirates, Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple and St. Pete Hurricanes Elite 18U in the playoffs to reach the championship game.
Winning three games in one day and seven over the course of three days can take its toll. Withum thinks he knows why his guys prevailed.
“It’s all focus. They’re all Warriors (and) they’re Warriors in their hearts. They’re baseball players first of all, and they stay focused,” he said.
Gators top defending champs
The Carrollwood Gators began their journey to the 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic championship by playing Palm Beach County PAL 16U to a 1-1 tie on Friday, the first night of the tournament.
Three days and five wins later, the Gators rallied to beat PBC PAL, 8-6, in the championship game played late Monday afternoon at George Brett Field at Terry Park. PBC PAL was the defending 16U WWBA Memorial Day Classic champion.
The Gators (6-0-1) came into the tournament with high expectations, even if winning their first Perfect Game championship wasn’t among them.
“Basically what we were envisioning was getting to the playoffs,” Gators head coach Danny Rodriguez said after having his photo taken with members of the team, friends and family members. “We’ve been together for awhile and we’ve played other tournaments, but we’ve taken it step by step. These guys focused on the playoffs one game at a time, one inning at a time.”
After that tournament-opening tie with PBC PAL, the Gators beat Team Voluisa White, 3-2, on Saturday and Miami Suns 16U, 7-2, on Sunday to complete pool play. The 2-0-1 record was only good enough for a No. 13 seed in the playoffs, but they responded by beating No. 4 Florida Hardballers, 2-1, in the first round of the playoffs Sunday night.
Monday brought more challenges the Gators were ultimately up to. They blitzed Orlando Reds 16U, 12-0, in the quarterfinals, and then beat their neighbor, the Tampa Bay Warriors 16U, 4-2, in the semifinals.
Shortstop and right-hander Brett Morales, a junior-to-be at King High School in Tampa, was 2-for-4 at the plate and earned a save with a game-ending strikeout in the win over the Warriors. Morales was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
PBC PAL rapped-out 10 hits in the championship loss to the Gators, but that wasn’t enough. Gabriel Matinez (class of 2012) was 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs, Franco Guardascione (2013) was 3-for-3 with a run scored and Gage Morey (2013) was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“I give it up to the PAL team because that’s a true team,” Rodriguez said. “To beat that team and come in here and beat the champions from last year – I think these boys are going to take that (to heart) even more than just winning the tournament. We had to dethrone the team that won the championship last year.”
It was a great run for the Gators, most definitely a Cinderella story considering their No. 13 seed entering the playoffs. It would be foolish to underestimate them again.
“I’m proud of my boys,” Rodriguez said. “These guys go to different high schools, most of them. We just get together to play tournaments but we’ve been together for awhile and it’s a tight group. They all love each other and we put this team together to envision stuff like this. And it’s been successful so far.”
PBC PAL right-hander Jeremy Graff was named the 16U Most Valuable Pitcher.