FORT MYERS, Fla. – This is, as they say, why they play the games.
No. 16 seed South Florida Elite Squad Black (SFESB) jumped to an early lead, managed to hold it and scored a 6-5 upset of the top-seeded Tampa Bay Warriors in the first round of the 17u BCS Finals playoffs Thursday morning at Terry Park.
The Warriors weren’t the only top seed sent packing at the 17u Finals Thursday morning – No. 15 seed Palm Beach County PAL 17u pulled an upset of its own, dispensing of No. 2 Marucci Elite, 7-2. The third-seeded Texas Sun Devils (7-0) and No. 4 All-American Prospects 17u (6-0-1) avoided the upset bug and advanced into Thursday afternoon’s quarterfinals.
The other 17u quarterfinalists are No. 6 seed Tampa Panthers, No. 7 Music City Outlaws (6-0-1), No. 8 Orlando Scorpions 17u Purple and No. 12 South Oakland A’s-Green.
The 18u BCS Finals also saw two of its top-four seeds fall by the wayside in first-round playoff games at the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex.
While No. 1 seed FTB Mizuno (7-0) and No. 2 Next Level Baseball (7-0) advanced to the quarters, No. 3 East Cobb Braves 18u (5-1-1) and No. 4 Team Mizuno of Puerto Rico (5-2) were both upset. No. 14 SWFL (5-1-1) dropped the Braves, 6-2, and No. 13 Bullets Baseball (5-1-1) blanked TMPR, 9-0.
No. 5 South Florida Elite Squad, No. 9 Syracuse Sports Zone Chiefs (5-2), No. 10 Schaumburg Seminoles (5-2) and No. 11 East Cobb Braves 17u join FTB Mizuno, Next Level Baseball, SWFL and Bullets Baseball in the 18u quarters.
SFESB (5-2) jumped on the Tampa Bay Warriors (6-1) for four runs in the top of the first and two more in the top of the second to take a quick 6-3 lead. It was the first time in seven games at the tournament the Warriors were forced to play from behind, and their comeback attempt came up just short.
“This is a great win,” SFESB head coach Ed Marti said. “We’ve had a rivalry with the Tampa Bay Warriors since we were both 14-under teams, and it seems like every time the two teams go at each other it’s a one-run game either way. Its two quality teams with great pitching staffs and quality hitters, and both (rosters) are just full of D-I talent.”
SFESB has 11 D-I commits listed on its roster.
Alexander Rodriguez, the winner of the 17u Rawlings Home Run Challenge Tuesday night at Hammond Stadium, was 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a runs scored in the game. Phildrick Llewellyn, a Florida International commit, smacked a two-run double in the SFESB’s explosive first inning.
Miami commit Nick Travieso came-in in relief of Andre Martinez in the fourth, and allowed only two hits and struck out four over the final three innings.
SFESB was fortunate to even qualify for the playoffs, as the No. 16 seed indicates. After winning its first two games, it lost its third to the South Oakland A’s-Grey, 3-2. SFESB once again won its first two games in the second round of pool-play, but dropped the third to South Oakland A’s-Green, 5-2.
At 4-2 overall, SFESB was definitely on the playoff bubble.
“We snuck in through the backdoor … and I was saying it was like the boys crashed a party when the chaperone wasn’t looking, so watch out girls, here we come,” Marti said with a laugh.
SFESB did get some solid pitching in two of its pool-play wins.
Right-handers Hayden Hurst and Ryan Owens combined for an 11-strikeout one-hitter in a 7-1 win over the Florida Hardballers, and left-hander Ivan Pelaez and righty Alex Lavandero combined on a 13-strikeout three-hitter in 9-0 win over New York Grays 17u.
“We have a very strong pitching staff,” Marti said. “We have around six guys who can throw 90 or more, and we have some left-handed pitching that gives us some quality innings.”
The Tampa Bay Warriors had been enjoying an incredible run through the 17u BCS Finals until Thursday’s loss.
In six previous games, a pitching staff led by right-handers Corbin Olmstead, Tommy Peterson, Brandon Long, Dylan Drawdy, Cam Hokanson and Walker Lockett had held its opponents to just five runs on 19 hits. Seven of those hits and three of the runs came in one game, a 16-3 win over Bucky Dent UCLA.