FORT MYERS, Fla. – Everything had to go just right for the Sarasota Baseball Club and head coach Clyde Metcalf over the past four days. Every piece had to fit and every part had to mesh. Most importantly, perhaps, every test had to be passed.
The Sarasota Baseball Club, which in reality is the 2013-14 Sarasota High School team that Metcalf also coaches, entered the playoffs as the No. 16 seed and then did everything it needed to do en route to winning the championship at the 6th annual PG WWBA Florida Qualifier.
The capper came early Monday afternoon when an opportunistic SBC clipped the 15th-seeded Team Tampa Bay Warriors, 4-3, in the championship game at jetBlue Park. Sarasota finished 7-1 at the four-day tournament while Tampa Bay was right on its heels at 6-2.
“A lot of things really fell our way to be able to do this,” Metcalf said after the title game. “It was unlikely – very unlikely. A lot of things fell into place for us and it was really gratifying to see these guys accomplish this.”
Many students at Sarasota High School were required to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) on Monday, an exam that students must pass before they are allowed to graduate. That requirement certainly affected the Sarasota Baseball Club.
“We had four guys that had to take the F-CAT today so we didn’t have those guys for the (semifinal game) this morning,” Metcalf said. “That first game we had a first baseman playing third, we had a catcher playing right, so we had some issues.”
Two of those prospects that took the test Monday morning – 2014s Zachary McMullen and Tyler Leonard – arrived like knights in shining armor in the bottom of the third inning of the championship game and contributed. McMullen, a left-hander, pitched the final two innings in relief without giving up a hit or a run while striking out two, and Leonard smacked a seventh inning single.
Their teammates had done a good job of taking care of business before they arrived, however. This was a 2-2 game after the first inning but Sarasota led 4-2 after 4 ½ and although Team Tampa Bay scored a run in the bottom of the fifth it would get no closer.
2015 right-handed submariner Shelby Banks came in in relief for SBC and scattered five hits over four innings while allowing one earned run. Michael Busby was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI and Skylar Frey was 1-for-3 with two RBI.
Team Tampa Bay was its own worst enemy in the title game – the Warriors committed five errors in the first three innings and all four of SBC’s runs were unearned. Tampa Bay left-hander Jeffery Vaughn pitched a complete game seven-hitter without allowing an earned run and struck out four without a walk. Derek King was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and Robbie Hanlin went 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored.
SBC’s Frey, a junior at Sarasota High, was named the tournament Most Valuable Player after hitting .526 (10-for-19) with two doubles, eight RBI and three runs.
“It’s a good start to our (fall) season and I’ve been working hard,” Frey said. “I just broke out this weekend and started hitting a lot and I was seeing the ball really well. We were really scrappy and we found a way to (score) runs. Our defense just worked and our pitching was just on-point.”
Pitching was the key for Sarasota, especially early in the tournament. In its first three pool-play games, SBC got complete game shutouts from three right-handers – Leonard, Andrew Beyer and Jordan Gubelman – which were like a gift from the baseball gods.
Leonard threw a five-inning, two-hitter with 10 strikeouts; Beyer threw a seven-inning no-hitter with seven K’s; and Gubelman pitched-in with a seven-inning, 10-strikeout three-hitter.
“We enter these (PG) tournaments all the time with the purpose of getting as many games as we can against the best competition that we can, but also with the understanding this our high school team,” Metcalf said. “We don’t have the pitching depth that a lot of the travel teams have but we’re blessed this year with the fact that we’re eight-deep on the mound.”
The PG WWBA Florida Qualifier champion is awarded a paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., about two weeks from now, but Metcalf isn’t sure if his team will be able to accept the invitation.
He and his assistant coaches will talk to the players about it as a group over the next couple of days but Metcalf’s concern is that at least 10 of his players have already committed to play for other teams at the World Championship.
“I don’t feel comfortable when coaches have already put them on their rosters, going up to those coaches and saying, ‘Hey, I want you to release them to me,” he said. “I’m going to talk to the kids about it and we’ll see what happens. This (winning the Florida Qualifier championship) was reward enough, quite frankly; it really was.”
2014 RIGHT-HANDER JOE CAVALLARO TOOK THE BALL for Sarasota Baseball Club in its semifinal game against CFBL Mizuno Blue and responded with a dandy five-inning two-hitter in Sarasota’s 8-0 win.
SBC totaled 13 hits – 12 singles – in the romp, including a 3-for-3 performance from Frey, who also had an RBI a run scored. Sam Carillo was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Mason Dancer and Nino Fricano each drove in a pair of runs.
SBC lost its final pool-play game to FTB Louisville Slugger, 5-4, after winning its first three by the aforementioned shutout: 8-0 over the South Florida Storm; 5-0 over Xtreme Baseball Red and 8-0 over Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy.
Rapidly running out of fresh arms and fresh bodies, SBC was able to regroup and slide past Chet Lemon’s Juice, 2-1, in the first round before upsetting the Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime, 4-2, in Sunday night’s quarterfinals.
CFBC Mizuno Blue (5-2) also dropped its final game in pool-play (9-3 to SCORE International) but posted a pair of one-run wins in the first two rounds of the playoffs: 5-4 past Ostingers Baseball Academy Select and 3-2 over FTB Chandler 2015.
In a rematch of a pool-play game that went the other way, the Team Tampa Bay Warriors used a 10-hit attack and five shutout, two-hit innings from 2014 right-hander Chris Jordan to oust the Florida Express, 6-2, in the other semifinal game Monday morning.
The start and the win were the second in the tournament for Jordan, who threw a total of nine innings, didn’t allow a run on two hits, struck out 11 and walked just one. He was named the event’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
“This has been a great experience,” Jordan said after receiving his award. “We were able to get some base hits, move some guys around and score some runs. I felt really good this weekend –my arm felt fresh and my change-up was working really good.”
The Warriors built a 4-0 lead in the semifinal before the Express posted a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth; Team Tampa added two more in the top of the seventh to complete the scoring. Devon Woodward and Noah Dyals were both 2-for-4 with two RBI and 2016 Peyton Whitehead was 3-for-4 with a double to lead Team Tampa Bay at the plate.
The Warriors endured a 2-1 loss to the Express during pool-play, but rebounded for a 4-3 win over Orlando Baseball Academy in the playoffs’ first round and a 4-1 win over Hit N Run Baseball in the quarters.
The Florida Express were the only team to reach the semifinals without a loss in pool-play, where they outscored their four opponents by a combined 23-4. Their last two pool games were played Sunday, as were their first two playoff games: a 4-0 win over the Brevard Aces in the first round and a 3-2 upset of FTB Louisville Slugger in the quarterfinals.
2013 WWBA Florida Qualifier runner-up: Team Tampa Bay Warriors
2013 WWBA Florida Qualifier MVP: Skylar Frey, Sarasota Baseball Club
2013 WWBA Florida Qualifier MV-Pitcher: Chris Jordan, Team Tampa Bay Warriors