SF Prospects win 16u BCS Finals
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Call it luck or call it a never-say-die approach, any way its sliced the South Florida Prospects had plenty of both here the last six days.
Keith Oren broke a 3-3 tie with a big two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, and the seventh-seeded Prospects held on for a 4-3 win over the ninth-seeded Midland Braves in the championship game of the Perfect Game 16u BCS Finals Thursday afternoon at City of Palms Park.
The win, achieved in a steady light rain, was the eighth-straight for South Florida (9-1) at the tournament after it split its first two pool-play games last weekend. Winning eight straight games over five days – including four playoff games the last two days – is quite a feat for any team, let alone one that has only been together for about a month.
“This was a good experience for the kids,” SFP head coach and former Major Leaguer Bruce Aven said. “This is our first year of being together and we picked some kids that are trying to jell and learn each other. We still made some mistakes here and there, but this was a big tournament for us and a big win.”
At the conclusion of the tournament, the Prospects’ Brian Gonzalez was named the 2011 16u BCS Finals Most Valuable Pitcher. Gonzalez, a well-built 6-foot-3, 220-pound left-hander, pitched 10 innings in four games, and gave up eight hits and one earned run (0.70 ERA), with 15 strikeouts and only two walks.
“It’s been great. I love these guys, even though we’ve only been together not even a month,” Gonzalez said. “We pulled it off and we put it together real well, so it’s been real fun.
“I love these tournaments,” he continued. “It’s good competition and I love competition. It just makes me stronger and better every time we come out here.”
The Midland Braves’ Zak Shannon was named tournament Most Valuable Player. Shannon tore the cover off the ball while helping the Braves to a final 7-2-1 record. He batted .516 (16-for-31) with four doubles, four triples, three home runs, 12 RBI and 15 runs scored. He also walked seven times.
Kirvin Moesquit was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Oren drove in two runs to lead the Prospects in the title game. Jason Stettner and Eddie Saloman combined for a six-hitter.
Karl Ellison had two hits for the Braves.
Aven first broached the topic of the Prospects possibly having a little luck on their side when he spoke of their 13-12 win over the Florida Future in the first round of the playoffs.
The Future scored six runs in the top of the first, but the Prospects chipped away and tied the game with one run in the bottom of the seventh. The Future put another six-spot on the board in the top of the eighth, but the Prospects rallied for seven in the bottom half to pull out the win.
“We had a break there in one of our games when we went extra innings, and they scored six and our kids came back and scored seven,” Aven said. “When that happens, sometimes I think luck’s on your side, and I think that’s what happened. When you come back from six runs in a tie ballgame – I know momentum is only as good as your next starting pitcher, but (after that) everybody just started trying to out-duel everybody else.”
“We felt like we had the players to do it, but to win the tournament you also need some luck on your side.”
They also had some talent, enough that Aven felt confident when the tournament began that his team would still be playing on Thursday afternoon.
“I felt like we belonged here, I really do,” he said. “We have that type of players; we have that type of versatility. We can steal (a base), so if the guys aren’t hitting we can move (the base runners) around. We have other ways of winning. Our pitching has been our strength, and I felt like if our pitching stayed good that we had a chance, and we did.”
The Prospects reached the championship game by beating 11th-seeded Palm Beach Select, 3-0, in the semifinals. Oren, Alec Byrd and Peter Nicoletto all drove in runs from their spots at the bottom of the order as the Prospects put up two in second inning and one more in the fifth.
Gonzalez and right-hander Richie Naylor combined for a seven-hit shutout, striking out 11.
After the wild affair with the Florida Future, South Florida beat No. 2 seed Team Volusia Gold, 3-1, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Lee Kinzel was 4-for-5 with two RBI and four runs scored to lead the Prospects in that game. Oren drove in three runs and Brandon Vicens was 2-4 with two RBI.
Byrd pitched six innings of one-hit ball and struck out 11 in the shutout victory over Team Volusia Gold.
Midland’s road to the championship game consisted of three upsets, at least in terms of the seeding.
The Braves scored five runs in the top of the first and built a 10-0 lead through 4 ½ then held on to beat fifth-seeded Palm Beach County PAL, 10-5, in a Thursday morning semifinal.
Shannon went 3-for-4 with a pair of triples, drove in a run and scored three more to lead Midland’s 12-hit attack. Cameron Harris was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and two runs, Sam Lee was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run, Matthew Ruppenthal 2-for-4 with an RBI and Gary Trapani 1-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
In the three playoff games leading up to the championship, Trapani was 7-for-11 (.636) with four RBI and four runs scored.
The Braves beat the No. 8-seeded Palm Beach Rockets, 9-5, in the first round of the playoffs and shocked top-seed SC Shockwave, 8-4, in the quarterfinals.
Shannon went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double, an RBI and a runs scored in the win over the Shockwave. Trapani was 3-3 with a triple and two runs scored on the heels of a 3-for- 4, two RBI, one run scored performance in the playoff opener against the Rockets.