CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Giants Scout Team beat the defending champion Reds Midwest Scout Team 17-11 in the championship game to win the 2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. In doing so, the Giants Scout Team receives a paid invitation to play in Jupiter at the 2012 WWBA World Championship, October 25-29.
Similar to their first game of the day, the Giants Scout Team pulled ahead big early, scoring five runs in the top of the second inning. The big hits in that frame came off the bats of Christopher Ward, who hit a two-run double, and Mitch Roman, who hit a two-run single.
The Reds Midwest Scout Team answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, a single run in the third, and tied the game up at six with a three-run fourth.
That rally only sparked the Giants Scout Team to double their run total in the top of the fifth, scoring six runs, all of which came after two outs were recorded. Ward, who went 3-for-4 with four RBI, added a two-run single, while Ethan Schmidt added a two-run knock of his own.
The Giants, who hit the ball hard the entire tournament, showing an energetic, hustling approach on offense, finished the game with two more runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh. As a team they collected 16 hits, with big days at the plate from Roman, Ward, Schmidt, Austin Kiracofe (2-for-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBI) and tournament Most Valuable Pitcher and the team's primary catcher, Mike Hammel (2-for-2, 3 walks).
“(I had) a lot of great defense behind me, it feels good," Hammel said of his all-tournament honors, quick to share the the accolades with his teammates. "It's awesome, a great feeling. We get to go to Jupiter."
Hammel took the mound three times for the Giants, factoring into each of the game's decisions by going 2-0 with a save. In 10 innings he struck out 10 batters and posted a 1.40 ERA. He also hit .444 (8-for-18) with a pair of doubles and five walks.
Hailing from Westfield, Indiana, the Giants Scout Team is made up mostly of players that hail from an area north of Indianapolis. Head Coach Larry Martin quickly put together his team to compete at the Kernels Foundation Championship looking to get some local kids valuable exposure while also knowing what was at stake: The WWBA World Championship.
“We put this team together in less than 30 days," Martin said. "We decided to do it and we've come the last couple of years. We had some kids that couldn't play because of football and other things that played on our summer team, so we picked up some kids and they came together great. They never gave up. They pounded the ball, played great defense, and each time someone got close to us we just kept moving forward. It was just a terrific few days and we had a great time.”
The tenacity of the Giants Scout Teams player was evident, with an aggressive overall approach and a vocal, fun-spirited approach being exhibited in the dugout.
“One thing that we try to do is try to have fun," Martin said of his team's approach. "It looked like we had more fun (than the other team)s and the kids were relaxed. The more we relaxed it seemed that the other team didn't relax. We were here just to play and have a great time.
"It's a game and we enjoyed playing the game.”
Hammel confirmed his coach's approach.
“You just have to relax, get up to the plate, get your pitch and swing away at it. Attack the baseball. We have to keep getting on the board every single inning so we put pressure on the other team.”
With the win the Giants Scout Team receives an automatic, paid invitation to participate in the 2012 WWBA World Championship held in Jupiter, Fla. While being able to play to gain experience and exposure is an important role for all of the travel teams in attendance, all of the players and coaches were quick to recognize the ultimate, No. 1 goal of the event.
Now Coach Martin has another 30 days to put together his next team.
“We only had 12 (players) here, and we probably couldn't have gone another inning of pitching. We will go back and look at some of the kids and figure out who wants to go. I know you go down there to win, but we also want to bring the 12 that got us here. We'll probably look at a couple of more arms.”
Pitching was clearly thin for all of the teams on the final day of the tournament, a big part for any team to be successful over a multiple days and games. The final score was a clear indicator of the pitching dearth.
Proving that they were far from out of it, the Reds did score five more runs in the fifth and sixth innings, but were unable to pull any closer as the Giants continued to pile on runs.
The Reds scored runs in bunches all tournament, led by the event's MVP, Josh VanMeter, who hit .688 (11-for-16) with two triples, three home runs, 10 runs and 10 driven in. He added one of his triples and one of his homers in this game, going 3-for-4 while blasting a no-doubt shot over the wall in right field at Perfect Game Field.
“I've never hit one out at a minor league stadium, so it was a pretty good feeling," VanMeter said of his blast. "Too bad we couldn't pull off the W, but it was a great day.”
A 6-foot, 165-pound left-handed hitting shortstop, VanMeter is from a small town in Northeastern Ind., Ossian, and similar to teammate Ryan Boldt from a year ago, he used the big stage of the tournament to make a name for himself. Despite losing in the championship game, VanMeter was pretty upbeat about his team's overall performance.
“This is obviously our first tournament as a team together. We came out and played really well until (the last) game. A few breaks didn't go our way. That's just the nature the game. I'm feeling pretty good coming off this weekend, and hopefully we keep getting better as the rest of this fall goes on.”
Reds catcher Brent Gibbs went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, while Mason McCoy continued his hotting hitting by driving in three.
In the first of two semifinal games the Reds Midwest Scout Team defeated the No. 11 seeded St. Louis Pirates Scout team 6-5. The Reds pulled ahead early with three-run innings in the first and the third. Spencer Gaa went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and a two-run double in the first, and VanMeter had a two-run triple in the third.
The St. Louis Pirates Scout team made things interesting late in the game, scoring two runs in the top of the sixth to pull within one.
The Giants Scout Team jumped out to an early lead in a 13-5 win over No. 4 seed Hitters Baseball in the second semifinal game. The Giants pounded out six base hits and scored six runs in the first, with the big blast coming off the bat of Cory Malcom, a grand slam. Malcom added a solo shot in the fourth and a sac fly in the sixth, giving him two home runs and 6 RBI in the game.
As part of the event on Saturday, a Fastest Man Competition and Home Run Challenge was conducted at Perfect Game Field.
Gaa and Laren Eustace both recorded 60-yard dash times of 6.62 during the Fastest Man competition. Gaa out-ran Eustace in a one-on-one dash to claim the title.
Local star and Perfect Game All-American A.J. Puk of Iowa Select Black put on an impressive display of power during the Home Run Challenge, launching seven balls far over the wall in right field, several over 400'. Only one other player hit more than one home run, Evan Skoug of Team DeMarini, who hit two out. Puk was awarded a new bat of his choice. He selected a Louisville Slugger Prime 9, the same bat he used to hit the home runs.
2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship runner-up: Reds Midwest Scout Team
2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship MVP: Josh VanMeter
2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship MVPitcher: Mike Hammel
2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship Fastest Man: Spencer Gaa
2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship Home Run Challenge winner: A.J. Puk