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Reds 'find a way' to win Kernels

Tournaments : : Story
Patrick Ebert        
Published: Monday, September 29, 2014

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – In what looked like a potential blow out early on, the 2014 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship game quickly turned into a nail biter. The Reds Midwest Scout Team were the eventual winners, beating Cangelosi Black 2015 11-6 in 10 innings, as the Reds claimed their third Kernels crown.

The Reds jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after two innings, only to have Cangelosi battle back, twice, to make a game out of it and force extra innings.

All fall we've found ways to win,” Reds Midwest Scout Team Head Coach Andy Stack said after the game. “We had to do that today. We kind of coasted out to an early lead and the guys stop throwing strikes. We didn't really hit all weekend, we hit enough just to win every game.

Early on in the tournament we got really good pitching, and for a couple of innings there are pitchers just ran out of gas, guys coming back throwing a second time. We're proud of the kids for how they stayed with it and got a big win at the end.”

With the win Stack and his Reds Midwest Scout Team receive an automatic, paid invitation to the WWBA World Championship to be played Oct. 23-27 in Jupiter, Fla.

The Reds scored four runs in the top of the first, adding another run in the second. 
Three-hole hitter Ethan Skender, who was named the event's Most Valuable Player, had the biggest hit in the opening frame, an RBI triple, and followed that up with a RBI base knock in the second, doing most of the early damage for the Reds.

It feels amazing,” Skender said. “I've been playing with this team for two years. I love playing for Stack. This is a special team right here, we're going to make a good run at Jupiter and we're going to finish this fall really strong. I'm excited to see what's ahead.

Although the Reds' early lead seemed fairly commanding at the time, Cangelosi Black battled back in the bottom of the third with four runs of their own to make it a 5-4 game. Anthony Faron and Mark Khoury each hit RBI singles and gave new life to the team.

They added another run in the fifth to pull even with the Reds, as Matthew Gruber drove home Faron -- who led off the inning with a double -- with a sac fly.

The Reds Midwest Scout Team answered quickly with a run of their own in the top of the sixth to pull ahead 6-5 when Skender hit a sharp single to left field that was misplayed by the outfielder and rolled to the warning track. Cole Daily scored from first on the play, with Skender ending up at third.

It's not the most orthodox approach to hitting, but the guy just finds a way to put the barrel on the ball and hits a lot of balls very hard,” Stack said of Skender. “The strength and bat speed in his swing is pretty impressive. He's been a very good hitter for us for two years, really good numbers down in Jupiter for us as an underclassmen and he's just been light's out for us. He's our go-to guy.”

But once again Cangelosi came right back, scoring another run in the bottom of the sixth when Brett Stratinsky hit a hard ground ball that Reds second baseman Mitch Boe couldn't handle. The play scored Ryan Kairis and tied the game at 6.

The game remained knotted at 6 until the 10
th inning when the Reds Midwest Scout Team scored five runs to put an exclamation mark on their championship. Joshua Stowers hit an RBI single to start the scoring, which was followed by an Ethan Skender sac fly. Chris Botsoe put the game out of reach by driving in a pair thanks to a sharp single up the middle and Scott Kapers finished the scoring with an RBI single to left.

This was the first time since 2011 that the Reds Midwest Scout Team had won the WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship, also taking the event in 2009. The Reds had also claimed the upperclass portion of the inaugural Central Labor Day Classic held in Des Moines, Iowa earlier this month.

That's been our thing all fall. We've only had one loss in 15 games. It's never been pretty, but we keep finding ways to do it and come out with a win. 
I think that's a testament to the kids and how they've jelled. Early on in the Des Moines tournament we kind of came together in winning that thing. You see it out here. We never give in, we make plays when we need to and come up with big hits. Finding a way, finding a way.”

The Reds entered the playoffs on Sunday as the No. 4 seed after allowing only four runs to score during their 3-0 start to the tournament. Cangelosi Black 2015 was the No. 3 seed, also allowing only four runs in pool play.

Skender went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI and a run scored in the game, and overall went 6-for-15 (.400 batting average) in the tournament. Skender was also named the MVP for the Reds at the aforementioned Central Labor Day Classic.

Whenever you can help your team it's a great feeling,” Skender said of his second MVP award in the month of September.

Righthander Cal Jarrett worked the final three innings for the Reds, keeping Cangelosi off the board to earn the win.

In the semifinal game prior to the championship contest, St. Louis Gamers 18u starter Michael Plassmeyer, last year's Kernels Foundation Championship co-Most Valuable Pitcher, and Malcolm Grady of the Reds were sharp over the early innings. The teams traded single tallies in the first and second innings before the Reds blew the game open in the bottom of the fourth, and finished the game with a 5-1 victory on their way to their championship matchup with Cangelosi Black.

The Reds scored four runs in the fourth, with Tyler Paulsen providing the big hit, a two-run triple that he sliced down the right field line.

Grady ended up going the distance, allowing just the first inning run. He allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out four, keeping hitters off-balance by complementing his 87-89 mph fastball with a sharp low-70s breaking ball.

That performance led to him being named the event's Most Valuable Pitcher.

It feels great,” Grady said of his team's championship. “Me and my brothers right here, we've been tough through the fall, we've been working hard and it's paying (off) as we're going to Jupiter.”

Malcolm's been unbelievable for us this fall,” Stack said of his star pitcher. “Kind of came in as a kid that I wasn't sure what to expect. I saw him at a tryout camp (where he was) 83-85, I like the body and the delivery and he's made really good strides. He works hard at baseball and he did an outstanding job.

He told me in the fifth or sixth inning 'You're not taking me out of this game coach.' So the plan was to use him for about five and get another guy in, but once he got on a roll I just said 'go get 'em big boy because you're throwing the hell out of it.'”

The semifinal complete game victory was Grady's second appearance in the tournament, posting a 1-0 record and spotless 0.00 ERA over his nine innings of work.

In the first semifinal game of the day, Cangelosi knocked off Chicago White Sox ACE 8-0 in five innings. Cangelosi jumped on the White Sox early, scoring three in the first, one in the second and four in the third leading to the run-rule victory. Alex McGimpsey and Alex Ragusa both hit two-run singles, with McGimpsey also adding a sac fly, giving him three RBI in the game.

Lefthander Robert Talarico faced one batter over the minimum in going the full five innings. He struck out four and allowed only one base hit while inducing 10 ground ball outs.

On Saturday night Jordan McFarland of the St. Louis Pirates claimed the 2014 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship Home Run Derby title. McFarland, an infielder from the class of 2016, has committed to play for Arkansas and is currently ranked 174
th in his class.

2014 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship runner-up: Cangelosi Black 2015

2014 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship MVP: Ethan Skender, Reds Midwest Scout Team

2014 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship MV-Pitcher: Malcolm Grady, Reds Midwest Scout Team

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