GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standout 2015 outfield prospect Kyle Dean endured a six-hour car ride from his home in Poway, Calif., to the Valley of the Sun to play for the Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) at the 2nd annual 16u Perfect Game MLK Championship this weekend.
The last thing Dean wanted to see happen was his trip cut short due to lack of execution either by himself or his GBG teammates. He fully expected to be playing on the final day of the tournament, which was Monday at the Camelback Ranch Complex here in Phoenix's western suburbs.
"I had a lot of confidence, and that was the biggest part," Dean said of his thoughts on playing for a championship on the four-day event's final day. "It was a six-hour drive and I wanted to stay as long as I could. Monday was a big day, and that's just where we wanted to get to."
Not only did the GBG 16u get there, it took full advantage of the opportunity.
GBG 16u scored single runs in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings, and plated two others in the third for good measure, and beat-back the AZ Prowlers from nearby Peoria, 6-1, in the championship game at the 16u PG MLK Championship Monday afternoon on the Chicago White Sox side of the Camelback Complex.
GBG, based in Los Angeles and coached by nine-year minor league veteran Michael Garciaparra, finished the tournament with a 5-0 record and claimed its second Perfect Game tournament championship in four months. GBG Yak Baseball West won the 2012 PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) in mid-September.
Four players that were here this weekend were also on the PG/EvoShield roster that won the championship. But this team is led by a quartet of underclass NCAA Division I commits: Dean (2015, Poway, Calif.), a University of San Diego recruit ranked No. 18 nationally in his high school class; catcher Michael Hickman (2015, Fountain Valley, Calif.), an Oklahoma commit ranked No. 11; shortstop Brendon Perez (2015, Ladera Ranch, Calif.), an Oregon commit ranked No. 38; and second baseman Jagger Rusconi (2015, Valencia, Calif.), a Southern Cal commit.
"It was a fun four days," Garciaparra said Monday afternoon. "We put a new team together, pretty much, because these guys really hadn't played too much baseball together as one team. They're an exciting group of young prospects ... and everybody contributed."
Having everybody contribute is what Garciaparra expects.
"That's the kind of baseball Garciaparra Baseball wants to be known for, just that little game," Garciaparra said. "We got guys in when we needed to, we got those bunts and we played pretty good defensively; not great defensively like normally, but when we needed guys to make the plays they made them. ... I couldn't ask for a better effort out of this group."
In the championship game victory, Dean had three hits to lead an 11-hit attack and also drove in a pair of runs. In four games down here this weekend, he went 7-for-13 (.538) with a triple, four RBI and five runs, and boasted a .667 OBP and a 1.350 OPS; he also stole three bases. He was named Most Valuable Player at the tournament's conclusion.
"First of all, playing for Coach Garciaparra is a great experience," Dean said, noting that this was the first time he had played with a GBG team. "I've always wanted to play for him, especially him being the 17u coach; that made me want to play with him even more. We came out with a win today, and obviously we just wanted to win more and keep getting better."
The real story of GBG's success was its pitching staff. Garciaparra used eight pitchers here and the staff didn't allow an earned run until the championship game. All told, they combined for 31 innings of 19-hit ball, and allowed only one earned run (0.23 ERA) while striking out 37 and walking 10.
Right-hander Drake Pingel (2015, Rolling Hills, Calif.) pitched a five-inning no-hitter on Friday and righty Eli Morgan (2014, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) followed up with a seven-inning, 12 strikeout no-no on Saturday.
"We came to the (PG/EvoShield Underclass tournament) with some of the same pitchers and we didn't have the flame-throwers, we didn't have the 85-plus, and we didn't have that here," Garciaparra said, "but we have guys that can pitch and play the game. They throw strikes, and with the defense and the players we have behind them, that's why they don't give up hits; these guys make good plays for them."
No pitcher at this tournament was better than Prowlers' left-hander Chaz Morgan (2016, Glendale, Ariz.), however. He threw 14 innings and won two games in two starts, including a seven-inning no-hitter in Monday morning's semifinal round. In 14 total innings, he allowed two hits, three walks and no runs (0.00 ERA) while striking out 16, and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Pitcher.
GBG scored a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to overcome a 4-2 third inning deficit and beat the Chandler Rangers, 5-4, in one of the two 16u PG MLK semifinals played Monday morning on the White Sox side at Camelback.
Max Green (2014, Rolling Hills Estate, Calif.) smacked a two-run triple in the top of the sixth to give GPG its final margin of victory.
No team in the 16u PG MLK field was more dominant than GBG during its championship run. It won its first two games with no-hitters, blanking the Tucson Bobcats, 10-0, and the Illinois Indians TRIBE, 2-0. The NorCal Baseball Black managed five hits off GBG pitchers, but GBG still earned the shutout in an 8-0 win.
The Chandler Rangers (3-1-0) waltzed past three California teams en route to winning their pool championship. They beat the Rawlings Prospects, 5-0; the San Diego Show, 3-1; and the North County Padres, 10-1, to earn a spot in the 16u final four.
The Prowlers advanced to the championship game thanks to brilliant six-strikeout, two-walk no-hitter produced by Montoya in a 1-0 semifinal win over the Lamorinda Monarchs from Berkeley, Calif.
The Prowlers scored the game's only run on an RBI single from Aaron Prado (2015, Phoenix) in the bottom of second, one of only five Prowler hits. The game took only 1 hour, 25 minutes to complete.
The road to the semifinals was relatively seamless for the Prowlers. They started out with hard-fought 2-0 win over the So Cal Cavs, and then pounded the ball in 14-4 and 13-1 wins over Oregon Diamond Jacks and Team CALIFORNIA Baseball.
The Lamorinda Monarchs (2-2) set sail in pool-play by outscoring the Ultimate Baseball Academy Elite and the NorCal Baseball Cardinal by a combined 16-1 in their first two pool-play games. Having already clinched the pool championship, the Monarchs dropped their finale to the Pilots 16u Red, 11-7.
2013 16u PG MLK 16u Championship runner-up: AZ Prowlers
2013 16u PG MLK 16u Championship MVP: Kyle Dean, Garciaparra Baseball Group
2013 16u PG MLK 16u Championship MV-Pitcher: Chaz Montoya, AZ Prowlers