Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, October 04, 2014

Cal Under semis set sans Warriors

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Not every story that comes out of a Perfect Game World Series tournament ends up with a perfect ending.

A case in point is the extremely talented Team California Warriors out of Carlsbad that effectively got knocked out of Sunday’s semifinal round at the Perfect Game California World Series (Underclass) after a cataclysmic 11-3 loss to pre-tournament favorite GBG Marucci.

The Warriors offered some intrigue because the roster they brought here this weekend is essentially the same one that captured the PG national championship at the 15u Perfect Game World Series in Fort Myers, Fla., in late July.

They became the first team from the West Coast to capture a PG World Series championship – 14u, 15u, 16u or 17u – in the three-year history of the age-group PGWS. And with the advent of the California World Series this month, they were looking to become the first team in the country to grab a pair of PG World Series championships in the same calendar year.

Instead, the PG California World Series Underclass semifinals will proceed without the Warriors, which does nothing to diminish the strength of the final-four field that will play Sunday morning at Dedeaux Field on USC’s downtown Los Angeles campus.

The semifinal round at the PG Cali World Series Underclass includes three So Cal teams and one Nor Cal team. CBA Marucci (2-0-1) out of Chino takes on the ABD Bulldogs (1-0-2) from Norco at 9 a.m. and  the San Jose-based CCB Elite play the Southern California Bombers (3-0-0) from La Puente at 11:30 a.m. The championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The final-four at the PG California World Series (Upperclass) was also set late Saturday, with the semifinals and championship game scheduled for Sunday morning at Cal State Northridge. CBA Marucci (3-0-0) out of Chino will face June Lake’s So Cal NTT (2-1-0) in one semifinal with BPA DeMarini Elite (3-0-0) from San Juan Capistrano taking on interloper NorCal Baseball (3-0-0) from Pleasanton in the other.

Based on their experience in Fort Myers, the Warriors certainly expected to be in that field Sunday morning. And just because they’re not does nothing to diminish what they accomplished over a five-day period in hot, humid and often rainy Fort Myers on the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast.

“That experience was great,” the Warriors program director and head coach Mitch Spiers said from Riverside City College Saturday afternoon. “When we went to Florida we went out there with high expectations just to compete throughout the tournament. We always expected to be there in the medal round but that tournament there, it’s just so tough. Anything can happen, you get very few opportunities and you have to make the most of them.”

This underclass Team California Warriors team has been together with basically the same roster since most of the primary players were 14-years-old and while they’re all 15- and 16-year-olds (classes of 2016 and 2017) that counts for something.

“These guys have really just started to eliminate the fear of failure,” Spiers said. “When they get thrown out or they strike out, they come back ready to go and make that adjustment; they have each others’ backs. It’s a good group of guys and they’re just like a family.”

2017 left-handed pitcher and utility guy Damien Rinehardt from Yuma, Ariz., was named the Most Valuable Player at the 15u PGWS and was here this weekend. So was, briefly, right-hander/corner-infielder Jack Melton from San Diego, who was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

“There was a bunch of very good competition over there and we just all had to compete (hard) against everybody else,” Rinehardt said Saturday. “After winning the first couple of games we all started getting together and we felt great.”

Warriors Underclass team captain Sam Wezniak, an uncommitted 2017 shortstop from Carlsbad ranked 155th nationally in his class, was named to the all-tournament team at the 15u PGWS, as was 2016 right-hander and U. of San Diego recruit Jonathan Worley from San Diego.

“That was a blast,” Wezniak said of the Fort Myers experience. “You got out there and you know you’re going to have to beat all those great teams that got invited from all over the country and you know you’re going to have to go out there and play as hard as you can, the best you can. You just have to leave it all on the field and whatever happens, happens and then you don’t have to worry about the outcome too much.

“You learn from it, you know, and you can always learn from other people and other great players like that,” he continued. “You try to make yourself better off of that (experience) and you kind of size yourself up compared to those other teams and say, ‘Yeah, we can beat them; we’re better than them.’”

During their run to the 15u PGWS national championship, the Warriors knocked off, in order, the Houston Banditos Black (Texas); Florida Burn (Florida) and the Dirtbags (North Carolina), all in pool-play (they lost to Chet Lemon’s Juice out of Florida during pool-play).

That was good enough to advance to the semifinals where they beat the EvoShield Canes (Virginia) before finally knocking off the West Coast Mariners (Washington) in a surprising all-West Coast championship game.

“Those are all good programs; those are the best programs in the United States,” Spiers said. “We were fortunate that Perfect Game selected us to go out there and we just wanted to go out there and represent California well. We were fortunate to compete in every game.

“Out here in California the competition is really tough so we just get after it and see whatever happens,” he continued. “They just try to eliminate the fear and get better every game, every pitch and they’re just having fun.”

There is obviously disappointment in not showing as well as had been hoped here in their own backyard, but even before the one-sided loss to Los Angeles-based GBG Marucci, Spiers vowed this team would return to Florida next year to try to win the 2015 16u PG World Series national championship.

“This group is fun, is what they are,” he said. “They get out there and compete and once they get through the lines they pick up their intensity. That’s when they get their business-like attitude, is when they get out on the field, but in between the games and stuff, it’s really a great group; it’s like a family. The chemistry is through the roof and it’s a good group; I’m very fortunate.”

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