JUPITER, Fla.- With the help of three 2013 Perfect Game All-Americans, the EvoShield Canes came to this year’s WWBA World Championship with one of the most talent-filled rosters at the event and defeated the Florida Burn, 4-3, in the Championship Game.
First baseman Justin Bellinger batted in the third spot for the Canes, while Brandon Murray and Grant Holmes anchored the pitching rotation. Holmes, who started the 2013 Classic for the East squad, surrendered just one earned run in eight innings pitched during the tournament, giving him a 0.88 earned run average.
Baseball’s most heavily scouted amateur event, conducted annually at the Roger Dean Sports Complex in Jupiter, Fla., in the end of October, marks the end of Perfect Game’s tournament season and closes the book on the travel ball careers of high school seniors and members of the EvoShield Canes 2014 class.
“It’s an experience to get to play in (the WWBA World Championship),” said an enthusiastic Bellinger. “I’ve been coming here since the eighth grade and now that it’s all over it’s a little upsetting. This team’s the best.”
“This team’s not just any team, it’s a family,” explained Murray. “To come out here and compete and come together as a team and win it all -- it really means a lot.”
This year’s WWBA World Championship marks Bellinger’s 31st Perfect Game event and an event Bellinger has been coming to since 2010. Bellinger was a member of the EvoShield Canes for last year’s World Championship as well. For Grant Holmes, this year’s Championship is his third consecutive.
“It’s a dream come true,” Holmes said of winning the tournament. “We’ve all dreamed of winning this tournament. It’s a great feeling.”
“It feels great. It’s been everything you’ve worked for. For that opportunity to say that you’re part of the best team in the country…” said a grinning Murray. “All those years of travel ball since you were a little kid and all the work in the backyard with your dad or whoever it may be -- it feels good to go out on top and see where the next step in your career is.”
While Holmes shined on the mound in the semifinal matchup against the Orlando Scorpions/Mets Scout Team, Murray showed his stuff on the mound in the title game in a short relief appearance and Bellinger displayed not only his ability to hit the ball hard, but to drop a bunt down if needed.
“All the pitchers we saw were really, really good and throwing the ball hard and had good breaking balls so for us to stay in and battle and come out on top is really something special,” said Bellinger. “To get to come and play against the top 85 teams in the country is a great experience and to be on top and be the best travel team in the country right now -- it’s pretty cool.”
“The competition was great. The pitching was great. The hitting was great. Pretty much everything was great,” added Holmes.
Their teammate, Ryan Avidano, took home Most Valuable Pitcher honors after throwing the first four shutout innings of the Championship Game to earn the win. He threw six shutout innings in the tournament, allowing no runs on four hits while collecting 12 strikeouts. The EvoShield pitching staff finished with an incredible 0.81 earned run average (six earned runs in 52 innings).
With the travel ball careers of these three All-American ballplayers behind them, it’s time for them to focus on what’s next for their baseball futures.
Grant Holmes, a University of Florida commit and likely high draft selection simply stated he wants to keep improving on every aspect of his game. The same goes for Bellinger, a Duke University commit that said he would do everything he can to prepare for the upcoming draft.
Murray is looking forward to the most immediate future of his baseball career, saying his plan is to, “just get in the weight room, get stronger, and get ready for the spring.”
To read more about the 2013 WWBA World Championship please visit the event page as well as Jeff Dahn’s feature on the Championship Game.