FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Marlins Scout Team/Storm was assembled by organization general manager Mike Leiderman to win Perfect Game national championships. They came up one game short at the PG WWBA 18u 2012 Grads or 18u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., earlier this month, and are determined not to come up short again.
The Marlins used a nice combination of small-ball and long-ball to put up three runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings, and dropped Xcel Baseball 18u, 6-2, in their final pool-play game at the Perfect Game 18u BCS Finals, played at the Player Development 5-Plex.
The decisive win was enough to hand the Marlins Scout Team/Storm the No. 1 seed in the 16-team playoff bracket that was finally set early Thursday afternoon after days of persistent rain early in the week kept pushing the schedule back.
The Marlins (8-0) went on to beat the No. 16 Florida Pokers, 5-1, in the first round of the playoffs and then downed the No. 8 Mizuno Edge, 12-3, in the quarterfinals to advance to Friday morning's semifinals.
The Marlins face the No. 12 West Coast Nine (7-1) in one semifinal at 11:30 a.m. on Field 5 at the Lee County Sports Complex, with No. 10 Naturals Florida (5-2-1) facing the No. 6 East Cobb Braves 17u (7-1) in the other semifinal on Field 3 at Lee County. The championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Hammond Stadium, also on the Lee County Sports Complex grounds.
The Marlins outscored their six pool-play foes by a combined 33-6 to grab the top seed in the playoffs. En Fuego Baseball (6-0) was awarded the No. 2 seed, the New York Grays (5-0-1) entered as the No. 3 seed and the Texas Sun Devils (5-0-1) - last year's 17u BCS Finals national champion - earned the No. 4 seed.
The 10 champions from the second set of pool pairings earned automatic berths into the playoffs, and the other six went to at-large entrants based on their performance in all six pool games. There is little doubt that there is another team the 18u BCS playoffs more diverse than the Marlins Scout Team.
The roster consists of players from 10 states ranging from California to Florida to New York, and all points in between. At least 20 of the 2012s on the roster will be on NCAA Division I rosters in the fall.
"We've just kind of been rolling," said Charlie Barbieri, one of three coaches who helps guide the Marlins. "We've been getting great pitching and our defense has been tremendous."
Barbieri said this far-flung collection of top 2012 prospects has only been playing together for the last three weeks and have compiled a record of 20-2, including the loss to the East Cobb Yankees in the championship game at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship.
"It's pretty cool," he said. "They've come together real quick and they've bonded real quick and they work real hard."
Leiderman, who deferred to Barbieri when asked to comment for this story, was the force behind putting this collection together. The first incarnation of the Marlins Scout Team appeared at last year's PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
Leiderman is friends with Dan Jennings, the assistant general manager of the MLB Miami Marlins and got the go-ahead from him to use the Marlins name and logos on their uniforms.
"He puts in a ton of work, a ton of effort and a ton of energy," Barbieri said of Leiderman. "None of this would be possible without him. He gets all the credit.
The talented 2012s on the roster have signed with schools as far-flung as St. John's and Stanford, Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton. And all of the players chipped in to get the Marlins Scout Team the No. 1 playoff seed here this week.
University of Miami recruit Eric Neitzel (Gulliver Prep, Coral Cables, Fla.) hit two home runs in the Marlins' first six games, and also laid down a run-producing bunt when asked to in the win over Xcel Baseball 18u. Grant Diede (Acalanes HS, Lafayette, Calif.), a U. of California signee, was 5-for-12 (.417) with two doubles, four RBI, three runs scored and five walks.
In Thursday's win over Xcel, 6-foot-5, 210-pound Southern California recruit Vahn Bozian (2012, Ayala HS, Chino Hills, Calf.) smashed a long three-run home run in the fourth which was the Marlins' first hit of the game.
The Marlins coaching staff used 11 pitchers that worked at least one inning in the first six games and combined to allow four earned runs on 28 hits in 39 innings (0.72 ERA) with 53 strikeouts.
Right-handers Mark Tyler (2012, Culver City HS, Los Angeles) and Seth Martinez (2013, Sunrise Mountain HS, Peoria, Ariz.) each made one start and combined to allow one earned run in 13 innings with 10 hits and 21 strikeouts. Both of those players are uncommitted.
"The best part about it is, they're very coachable and they work their butts off," Barbieri said. "You would think some of these D-I guys might have a little arrogance, but these kids want to learn and they want to get better. They're very appreciate of what everyone does for them, so that makes it even better."
Since most of the players on the Marlins Scout Team's roster have already signed on the dotted line when it comes to where they will attend college, it would be easy to wonder what sort of the benefit they derive from being at this tournament. Barbieri doesn't wonder at all.
"They're getting to compete against the best competition in the country, so it's almost like a seamless transition into college baseball," Barbieri said. "They're going to go right in there in the fall when their at college and start playing against a higher level, so for them to be able to come down here and compete in all these tournaments against the top players in the country, I think it just makes them better and it's definitely beneficial."