FORT MYERS, Fla. – Yet another afternoon thunderstorm rolled off the gulf and through this southwestern Florida city Wednesday, right as the Perfect Game 16u BCS Finals playoff quarterfinals were getting under way at Terry Park.
The 14u BCS Finals quarterfinals at the nearby Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex were washed out of there, and PG officials were hoping they could still be played at Terry Park Wednesday night.
There were only two upsets in the 16u playoffs’ first round, with No. 11 seed Palm Beach Select knocking off No. 6 SWFL 16u, and the No. 9 Midland Braves beating the No. 8 Palm Beach Rockets.
All four top seeds found their way to the quarters, including the surprise No. 2 seed, Team Volusia Gold. Volusia went 6-0 in pool-play over the past four days – winning four of those games by three or fewer runs – then bounced Team Elite 16u Grey, 8-0, in its first round playoff game.
Right-hander Zach Barrett pitched a five inning two-hitter, striking out six, to pick up that win. It was Volusia Gold’s second straight shutout – right-hander Ben Wilcox threw a seven inning four-hitter in the Gold’s final pool-play game, a 3-0 win over the All-American Prospects 16u Red.
“Defense and pitching wins championships, and right now our defense and pitching is holding up,” head coach Jordan Butler said of his team’s run to a 7-0 record at the Finals. “We’re set up pretty good and if our pitchers keep throwing strikes, we’ll be OK.”
Volusia Gold and the South Florida Prospects were in the second inning of their quarterfinal game when rain halted play. Before that game started, Butler sounded like a coach who expected his team to continue to make a march toward Thursday’s scheduled 16u BCS Finals championship game at City of Palms Park.
“We’ve got a lot of good baseball players, we’ve got a good team, and every time we step out on the field we expect to win,” he said.
This is the first year this particular Team Volusia Gold 16u team has played together as a group, and the players come from all over the Daytona, Fla., area and many are from the same high school.
In fact, eight of them – Wilcox, Barrett, Kyle Marsh, Griffin Fuller, Eric Tidman, Tyler May, Chandler Rodriguez and Austin Hays – all attend Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, Fla. That is the school at which Team Volusia co-founder Johnny Goodrich is the head coach, and Port Orange is where Team Volusia bases its operation.
“We really cover about 40 miles and about four or five high schools,” Butler said. “A lot of these guys have played together in past and they have that camaraderie. It’s a huge thing when you come to these tournaments because you can see the teams that have played together and those that really haven’t. Playing together as a team makes a big difference.”
Goodrich and Butler built the foundation of Team Volusia three years ago when they had the RBI organization – the RBI Cudas and the RBI Hawks. They changed the name to Team Volusia this year, and there are 13u, 14u, 15u and 18u teams under the banner, in addition to the Gold 16u team playing here.
“We’re trying to find something that is a little more (conducive) to trying to get kids seen,” Butler said. “We want to put them all in college and we have a lot of good baseball on that side of the state that never gets picked up. We’re trying to do something that’s affordable for our kids to play.
“We started it three years ago and it’s really coming together.”
The rain aside, Butler and his team seemed to be enjoying their stay in Fort Myers. It was the second time in just over a month they played games at Terry Park.
“This is always a great tournament, and we’ve been coming to Perfect Game (events) for three years now,” Butler said. “We over were here for the (16u WWBA Memorial Day Classic) in May.”