FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Beyel Brothers Bulldogs came into this week’s 17u PG BCS Finals walking with a noticeable limp – a decided hitch in their giddy-up, if you will – after doing more losing than winning at four previous Perfect Game tournaments this summer.
Their combined record in those PG events played here and up in Emerson, Ga., was 6-9-1, a mark certainly not bad enough to contemplate calling in the National Guard but also one not good enough to rally the troops around a celebratory bonfire and sing its praises from the top of the nearest mountain.
The outcomes of those 16 games are notable, however, when placed next to what Beyel Brothers accomplished during the first four days it spent at the 17u PG BCS Finals. All this Rockledge, Fla.-based band of Bulldogs did was open its five-game pool-play schedule with four straight wins and not only clinch a spot in the playoffs, but put themselves in position to receive a very respectable seed in bracket-play.
“We started out pretty good and this is our best tournament (of the summer) going 4-0 to get started,” 2016 right-hander/infielder Blake Beyel said Wednesday morning before the Bulldogs’ final pool-play game against Team Elite TPX 17u started and then went into an interminable weather delay. “We’ve really come together for this tournament … and we’re going to have everyone together. Everyone’s playing as a team; everything’s going good.”
Things might start going even better for Beyer Brothers once the now delayed playoffs get under way either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The Bulldogs managed to reach bracket-play despite not having three of their top pitchers available during pool-play, and now all three will be available for the playoffs.
Those difference-making arms belong to 2016 right-hander Cooper Bradford, a North Florida commit; 2015 right-hander Austin Dennis, a Middle Tennessee signee; and 2015 lefty Chris Reynolds, who has signed with Flagler College. Owens will also have the guys who threw earlier in the week ready to go again if the team keeps winning right into Friday.
The Bulldogs four wins to start the tournament came over Velocity Baseball White from Corpus Christi, Tex., 4-0; the South Florida Bandits from Boynton Beach, 3-0; SoCal NTT based in June Lake, Calif., 6-3; and SWFL 17u from right here in Fort Myers, 4-2.
Beyel Brothers head coach Jim Owens got quality starts in all four games, but three in particular stood out. Blake Beyel, who is ranked a top-550 prospect nationally, threw a complete-game, six-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks at Velocity Baseball White to get things started. 2016 right-hander Bryson Wallace followed that up with 6 2/3 innings of one-hit, shutout ball with five strikeouts and no walks in the win over the South Florida Bandits.
Finally, another 2016 right-hander, Drew Eller, gave up one earned run on five hits and struck out four and walked one over six innings in the win over SWFL 17u. “We throw strikes,” Owens said. “We don’t have overpowering arms – these first four that pitched are topping out at 84, 86 (mph) – but they’re consistently throwing strikes with a couple of good pitches.”
The offensive side of the coin was not nearly as shiny as the pitching side in the Bulldogs’ four wins, but in each game they managed to score more runs than the opponent and that, of course, is all that matters. The ‘Dogs hit only .241 as a team (20-for-83) with 15 singles and five doubles. Beyel contributed five singles, drove in two runs and scored two, and 2016 shortstop sensation Luis A. Curbelo counted two doubles among his three hits.
“We struggled all summer to really put together great at-bats,” Owens said. “The pitching that we’ve faced has been up-and-down – some days we’re seeing consistently 85 (mph)-plus, other days we’re getting in the 75s – so our guys have not hit as well as they should all summer. But our pitching and defense is what has kept us in games and tournaments.”
There are quite a few other highly regarded prospects on this Beyel Brothers roster, including 2015 outfielder/right-hander Conrado Skepple, an Alcorn State signee ranked in the top-500 nationally in his class. Among the 2016s, first baseman/outfielder Tanner Frabott joins Beyel in the top-550, and right-hander Kyle Brana and Dylan Owens are ranked in top-600.
Mark Beyel is one of five Beyel brothers – Joseph, Phillip, Steve and Danny are the others – who in 1989 resurrected a company their father had started that is known as Beyel Brothers, Inc., and Beyel Brothers Crane and Rigging, which has grown into one of the largest crane and rigging companies in the state of Florida. It is Mark Beyel who is behind the Beyel Brothers Bulldogs baseball team. Blake Beyel is Mark’s son and Blake is the reason Mark started the program in the first place.
The team is fully funded by Mark Beyel – he pays for everything including the uniforms, tournament entry fees, travel and hotel accommodations – and he’s even been known to take the entire team out for lunch from time to time.
“He fully sponsors the team – he sends us everywhere – and his sole goal is to get them to a college where they can continue playing baseball,” Owens said, before adding with a laugh: “If (college) doesn’t happen, he owns a major company and he always says, ‘I’ll hire them; they’re going to be OK.’”
In his role of recruiting coordinator for the team, Mark Beyel can often be seen in the stands during Bulldogs’ games doing what amounts to working the crowd. He’ll approach college coaches and scouts and point to one of his young prospects and fill their notebooks with everything they need to know about the kid. The feedback from the recruiters has been overwhelmingly positive because no one else really does it this way.
According to Owens, Mark Beyel has been fielding questions from college recruiters who wonder if he’ll start another Beyel Brothers Bulldogs team after Blake Beyel and his teammates graduate from high school and move on; Mark Beyel is seriously considering it. The recruiters are interested because he makes their jobs so much easier by keeping them constantly in the know about his top prospects.
Beyel Brothers will have played in 10 very competitive tournaments by the end of July, including the five Perfect Game events. The team was at the 18u PG WWBA East Memorial Day Classic, the PG 17u National Invitational, the 17u PG WWBA Elite Round Robin and the 17u PG WWBA National Championship before arriving at the 17u PG BCS Finals.
The Bulldogs finished 1-2-0 at the PG WWBA East Memorial Day, 1-2-1 at the PG 17u National Invite and 1-2-1 at the PG WWBA Elite Round Robin before rebounding with a very respectable 3-3-0 showing at the prestigious 17u PG WWBA National Championship.
Owens reported that the Bulldogs’ participation at the Elite Round Robin tournament drew dozens of pro scouts who showed up to watch his shortstop Curbelo perform. Perfect Game ranks Curbelo, who lives in Puerto Rico, the 57th top national prospect in his class and has been projected as a first- or second-round selection in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
For the Beyel Brothers Bulldogs, the first four days spent in Southwest Florida was all about getting a bounce from their fine performance at the 17u WWBA in Georgia and gaining confidence every step of the way as they prepare for bracket-play at a PG national championship tournament. That limp – that hitch in their giddy-up – has all but disappeared.
“Our guys get their juices flowing when we start winning,” Owens said. “They’re excited about today’s opportunities … and knowing that we’ve got our best arms coming in. They know how to win, and if it’s close they’ll figure out a way to pull it out.
“We’ve won some big tournaments and we compete with the best programs,” he concluded. “We’re just this one team and we’re not a big program but we can compete with anybody.”