FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tuesday morning presented a unique opportunity to have some fun with numbers at the 14u PG BCS Finals national championship tournament, and all the numbers were generated by the North Texas Longhorns-Gillespie.
The Longhorns-Gillespie boast an 11-man roster, relatively small when compared to most of the other entries in the 48-team tournament field. They won 4 of their 6 pool-play games Friday through Monday, with 1 tie and 1 loss. That wasn't good enough to claim a pool championship, so they entered the 16-team playoffs with an at-large berth and No. 13 seed.
What do those numbers add up to? After a first-round playoff win Tuesday morning, North Texas -- the No. 13 seed, mind you -- found itself playing in the round-of-8 Tuesday afternoon. It got there by waxing the fourth-seeded Midland Tribe, 14-0, in its mercy rule-shortened, five-inning playoff opener.
"In my opinion we really hadn't put together a complete game. We've been able to outscore (our opponents) and basically get to 4-1-1 without playing our best ball," North Texas Longhorns-Gillespie interim head coach Chris Buley said in post-game comments.
"Today, I thought defensively and at the plate we were very focused. Our starting pitcher had the zone with three pitches, and when you keep them off balance and throw first-pitch strikes, it's going to be hard on their offense. They were very focused; they know it's time to wear the big-boy shorts."
The Longhorns-Gillespie rapped out 11 hits in the win, including run-scoring triples from Nick Llorente (2016, Arlington, Texas) and Roy Smith (2016, Van Alstyne, Texas).
Right-hander Austin Buley (2017, McKinney, Texas), Coach Buley's son, was as solid as the Longhorns' bats were potent, working five efficient innings of six-hit ball with six strikeouts and no walks. He threw 75 pitches -- 47 for strikes -- and although he's worked nine innings here already he will be available on Wednesday if North Texas advances.
"We wanted (the outing) as short as possible because we'd like him to be able to come back," Coach Buley said. "We haven't overworked him all year and tried to keep him fresh so he might be able to go back-to-back days. He'll be ready to give us some tomorrow if we need him."
The North Texas Longhorns-Gillespie -- normally coached by North Texas Longhorns co-founder Brandon Gillespie, who was unable to be here this week -- went 2-0-1 in the their first set of pool-play games and whipped the GCBA Black Sox 14u, 12-0, in their first game of the decisive second set of three pool-play games.
They then hit big-time speed bump in their bid for a playoff berth when they were beaten by the eventual No. 3 seed Georgia Jackets, 6-4, in their second game on Sunday; they then rallied their horses and downed the Florida Pokers, 11-3, in the final pool-play game and earned entry to the playoffs as a wild-card with the No. 13 seed.
"We played the Jackets a tough 6-4 game but it was still not our best game," Buley said. "We made a couple of errors that gave them some runs and you can't do that against good teams. We'll take advantage of that when it happens and every other good team is going to take advantage of it."
Buley certainly considers the North Texas Longhorns, based in McKinney, Texas, to be among the best teams in the tournament field. That may not translate into a playoff run, but if he can instill that belief in his young charges, he figures he'll be one step ahead of the game.
"I've told these guys that we're not just here to play (in a) Perfect Game (national championship tournament), we're here to win it," Buley said. "I think we have the talent -- we have the pitching, the hitting -- and we have great team speed, which really helps your defense out. If we can play clean every game we're going to be in every game and we can beat every team out here."
That team speed of which Buley spoke can not only make a team's defense better, it can also bolster a team's run-scoring potential. North Texas stole 33 bases (with only two caught-stealing) in their first seven games, and average of almost five per game.
"When you've got athletes and you've got speed -- we've got seven guys that can take bases at any given time," Buley said. "Of course, we try to be smart about when we run, but we've got good team speed and we've got an outfield that can track down a lot of balls and an infield that's generally quick to the ball."
With the North Texas Longhorns-Gillespie carrying only an 11-man roster, it places a lot of responsibility on every young player -- all 11 guys have played in every game and nine have been called on pitch. They combined to post a team batting average of .308 and a team ERA of 2.45 through seven games.
"I know a lot of these teams picked up players because that's what they feel it takes to win down here, but we're going to try to do it with the 11 we brought," Buley said. "So it's a pretty short squad."
Short on numbers, perhaps, but not short on ability. The team's top hitters in seven games played over the last five days have been Llorente, who went 10-for-15 (.667), with eight RBI, 10 runs scored and a 1.617 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) percentage; David Bedgood (2017, Sherman, Texas), 9-for-18 (.500), three extra-base hits, seven RBI, 10 runs, 1.282 OPS; and Luke Collis (2017, Rowlett, Texas), 5-for-12 (.417), three doubles, four RBI, five runs. 1.278 OPS.
Austin Buley was the workhorse on the mound, scattering 11 hits and surrendering four earned runs in nine innings (3.11 ERA) with seven strikeouts and two walks. Bedgood, a right-hander, worked five innings of shutout ball and allowed three hits with one strikeout and no walks.
The North Texas Longhorns organization has been around for seven years and grew from one team in 2007 to more than 25 today, ranging from 7u through 16u, with the emphasis of the program on the younger age-groups.
There are a couple of players on this Longhorns 14u team -- the organization has four 14u teams -- that have been playing together since they were 12 years old and others joined as 13-year-olds; four more were added to the roster this year as 14-year-olds. This is the kids' first experience at a PG national championship tournament, but Buley thinks they've been handling it well.
"They get along well and I can't tell you enough about team chemistry," Buley said. "These kids love each other and they've got great chemistry and that helps us get through the ballgames every day."
And maybe even have some fun with numbers along the way.