FORT MYERS, Fla. – After three weeks on the road, the Texas Sun Devils finally get to go home. And they’re going home as national champions.
The Sun Devils came into the 2011 17u BCS Finals last Sunday after spending the previous two weeks in Marietta, Ga., and promptly went 10-0 and won the 17u Finals championship with a 3-0 win over the Orlando Scorpions 17u Purple in a rain-delayed championship game Friday night at City of Palms Park.
It was a great conclusion to a long road-trip for the Sun Devils, who over six days here – and what probably seemed like at least two full days of rain delays – were able to leave town with a Perfect Game national championship trophy.
“It started three weeks ago when we hit the road,” Sun Devils head coach Matt Thompson said, referring to a two-week stay in the Marietta, Ga., for the PG WWBA 18u and 17u National Championships.
“We’ve been on the road, in a hotel and around each other for three weeks straight, and to cap off the three weeks here in Fort Myers and go 10-0 and win it, it tells you something about the group of guys we’ve got.”
The championship game started at 7 p.m., 2 ½ hours after its scheduled starting time of 4:30 p.m. A strong thunderstorm that produced dozens of lightning strikes and downed trees in the vicinity of City of Palms Park also cancelled the 18u BCS Finals championship game and delayed the start of the 17u title game.
All-around top prospect Kolby Copeland was named the 17u BCS Finals Most Valuable Player after (unofficially) hitting .520 (13-for-25) with a home run, a double, nine RBI and 11 runs scored in 10 games. He was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in the championship tilt.
“This is definitely enjoyable,” Copeland said. “We’ve been working hard all summer … and we just came into this tournament knowing we were going to win and we’d be the team to work the hardest, play the hardest and come out with the victory, and that’s what happened.”
Right-hander Taylor Butler pitched seven shutout innings of five-hit ball in the championship game, and in three appearances at the tournament (unofficially) threw 11 innings, allowing nine hits and no earned runs with three strikeouts and three walks.
The Texas Sun Devils are based in Beaumont, Texas, but have players from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and California on their roster. Five of the players have committed to Division I schools, including three to Ole Miss.
The No. 3-seeded Sun Devils scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to escape No. 15 seed Palm Beach County PAL 17u, 3-1, in a semifinal game early Friday afternoon. They had breezed through pool-play with a perfect 6-0 record, then beat No. 14 Texas Stix, 7-1, and No. 6 Tampa Panthers, 9-0, in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Sun Devils pitchers gave up only one earned run on 15 hits in their first three playoff games, and eight of those hits and the one earned run were produced by PBC PAL in the semifinal game.
In that game, Sun Devils right-hander Ty Hensley scattered those eight hits over six innings and struck out seven with one walk. The one earned run he surrendered came when PBC PAL’s Robbie Coman smacked a solo home run in the top of the sixth. Butler pitched a perfect seventh.
The Devils’ Troy Lewis was 2-for-3 and delivered a big two-run double in the three-run sixth.
“We came down here tired and I think it took a couple of days to get our feet underneath us, but the longer we were here, the more they wanted to win it,” Thompson said.
It was a bittersweet day for Orlando Scorpions Baseball. Just a couple of hours before 17u Purple lost in the 17u BCS Finals championship game, the Scorpions Underclass Purple lost in the championship game at the 2011 WWBA 2013 Grads or 16u National Championship to South Florida Elite Squad Black back up in Marietta.
The Orlando Scorpions 17u Purple pounded out 14 hits in their 11-5 semifinal win over the 12th-seeded South Oakland A’s-Green, their seventh straight win at the Finals. Previous playoff wins came against No. 9 East Cobb Astros 17u and No. 16 South Florida Elite Squad Black, 3-2.
The Scorpions scored five runs in the bottom of the first and added five more in the bottom of the fifth after the A’s-Green had tied the game at 5 in the top half of the inning in the semifinal game.
Luke Czajkowski was 3-for-3 with a triple, four RBI and a run scored to lead the Scorpions’ attack. Jalen Phillips, a Duke commit, was 3-for-4 and scored three runs.
Right-hander Eric Hanhold came on in relief of fellow righty Reilly Monkman with two-out in the fifth and pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings to pick up the win.