Tournaments : : Story
Friday, July 18, 2014

Bringing the WWBA 16u title West

Matt Rodriguez        
EMERSON, Ga. – On paper, the Team Elite Roadrunners would appear to be the better, older, more experienced team, but that’s why you play the game. Southern California-based BPA DeMarini Elite came to Georgia one of the youngest teams in the WWBA 16u National Championship and left as champions.

With the Team Elite Roadrunners coming into the championship game averaging nearly nine runs per game and hitting a combined .393 (112-for-285), and BPA DeMarini Elite a tick above eight runs per game with a collective .365 batting average, everyone expected a heavy offensive output. That was not at all the case.

Zero after zero appeared on the scoreboard for the longest time in the fast-paced game. The pitchers ruled this game for the most part, battling a scoreless game into the bottom of the sixth inning.

A single to leadoff the ballgame by Team Elite Roadrunners shortstop Cam Shepherd might’ve hinted at the offensive clinic many expected to see in this game, but any opportunity to start off the game with one in the runs column was quickly foiled by a 4-3 double play to end the inning. That leadoff single would account for exactly half of the Roadrunners hits.

Roadrunners right-hander Sawyer Steele matched BPA thrower Zach Wolf frame-for-frame for most of the contest, not giving up his first base hit until the bottom of the fourth inning.

However, someone had to break the scoreless ballgame at some point, and it happened in the bottom of the sixth when BPA shortstop Isaiah Parra led off the inning with a double to the fence in left field on field 13 at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint. After Parra was sacrificed to third base, Brett Borgogno connected for a groundball single through the 5-6 hole to break the scoreless tie.

The Team Elite Roadrunners would have a chance to tie or take the lead with the top of the order coming up, and did put a scare into BPA DeMarini. With two outs, Roadrunners star center fielder Jahmai Jones drove a fastball to the left-center field corner that, for a second, appeared it might leave the ballpark. The shot one-hopped off the fence, though, leaving Jones at second base with two outs.

Dominant for the entire game, Wolf prevented the tying run from scoring and finish the gem he started. It was nothing short of just that: a gem. BPA DeMarini Elite took home the championship game with a 1-0 final.

“This is the best tournament that we go to every summer and we enjoy coming out,” said BPA DeMarini Elite head coach Jared Sandler. “This is the furthest we go to play because we feel like it’s the best competition. Most of our team is 15-year-old kids playing up and we just take it game by game. We had some big outings yesterday and today and it worked out.”

Wolf threw a complete game shutout against the Roadrunners in the title game, giving up just two hits while collecting four strikeouts, helping him earn co-Most Valuable Pitcher honors.

“Zach Wolf did an outstanding job,” said Sandler. “He’s a gutty kid. It was a tough effort and he just threw the ball for strikes, pitched ahead, played good defense, and that was a big effort by him. That was a big game he just threw.”

Efficiency was what made Wolf’s performance most impressive. It took the Dana Point, Calif. native just 76 pitched to throw a complete game. He retired the side in order in six of the seven innings, accounted for five innings in which he threw 13 pitches or less, and retired 13 batters on three pitches or less.

“I felt good because I was able to get my breaking ball over early, so I could pitch ahead in the count,” Wolf said. “It feels great. We’re not really a hitting team, so the pitching staff was doing great this whole tournament.”

Wolf’s teammate, Hagen Danner, took home Most Valuable Player honors after performing on the mound and at the plate. He was unavailable for an interview, having to catch a flight back to the West Coast.

The young UCLA commit hit .379 (11-for-29) with five doubles, nine RBI, and 12 runs, while also getting credit for the team’s only home run of the tournament.

The star two-way player also earned two wins on the mound, throwing nine total innings and giving up one earned run off of six hits and three walks, while tallying 12 strikeouts. Danner finished with a 0.78 earned run average (ERA) and displayed an electric 90 mph fastball in both outings.

“Hagen’s really good,” Sandler said. “He swung it well, threw a good game against a Scorpions team yesterday. He just does a lot of things for us. He made a catch in right-center in the semifinal game against the [Houston] Banditos that changed the game. Hagen did a great job and I think he’s the best 2017 player in the country.”

The path to the championship was anything but easy for BPA DeMarini Elite, who snuck by the Houston Banditos Black, 4-3, to advance to the championship matchup.

The Houston Banditos Black’s star right-hander Mason Thompson took home co-Most Valuable Pitcher honors with Wolf after an impressive tournament.

The University of Texas commit, ranked No. 28 in the 2016 high school class, earned two wins in two dominant starts. His first outing, last Friday against Nelson Baseball School 15s, went four innings. Thompson gave up just one hit in the shutout appearance, walking one and compiling 11 strikeouts. In his second start he threw a complete seven-inning shutout and gave up just two hits and a walk while striking out nine. He also made a relief appearance in which he struck out the side in order.

At the end of the day, however, it was BPA DeMarini Elite that owned the spotlight, and deservingly so. They finished the tournament with a remarkable 12-0 record to take home the first place trophy and proving many people wrong.

“I think it starts on the mound,” said Sandler. “Guys understand what they need to do with the baseball, play defense and they’re just a tight unit.”

“I think it just goes to show if you play baseball the right way and take care of the baseball, you give yourself a chance to win every time.”

2014 16u WWBA National Championship runner-up: Team Elite Roadrunners

2014 16u WWBA National Championship MVP: Hagen Danner, BPA DeMarini Elite

2014 16u WWBA National Championship co MV-Pitcher: Zach Wolf, BPA DeMarini Elite

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