Tournaments | Story | 10/26/2015

Canes pitch way to Jupiter 3-peat

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

JUPITER, Fla. – Monday was a great day to be wearing the black and gold of the EvoShield Canes Baseball Club at Roger Dean Stadium, and not only from the view of the here-and-now, but also the big picture provided from a historical perspective. With all the hoopla, a person couldn’t help but wonder if the local folks up in Fredericksburg, Va., weren’t dancing a little jig by late afternoon.

The championship game at the 17th annual Perfect Game WWBA World Championship pitted older brother against younger brother from the Fredericksburg-based Canes organization, and the older and more experienced EvoShield Canes discarded the younger Team EvoShield with a 9-0 victory shortened to five innings by the tournament’s run-rule.

Although it’s been a mostly different group of players each year, this is the third straight PG WWBA World Championship title claimed by a team playing under the EvoShield Canes banner, the first time an organization has gone back-to-back-to-back in the 17-year history of amateur baseball’s most heavily scouted tournament.

“It’s an amazing experience to be able to come down with this kind of group and just have such a great and successful week,” Canes 2016 catcher Brandon Martorano said after pulling himself out of the celebratory dog-pile on the pitcher’s mound. “I’ve never played with such a great group of guys, so to be around them and just be a part of this group and to bring a championship home for Coach (Jeff) Petty and the rest of the staff is pretty special.”

The Canes (8-0-0) boast a roster filled with many of the top high school seniors (class of 2016) in the country, including six PG All-Americans. By comparison, the Team EvoShield (7-1-1) roster is stocked with the top 2017s and 2018s in the EvoShield Canes program. In addition, the youngsters were strapped with the burden of having to win a play-in game just to reach the playoffs’ round-of-16, but not one peep of protest could be heard.

The Canes left seven runners on base during the first three scoreless innings of the championship game before busting loose for seven runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth to end it. Khalil Lee had a two-run double, Bryant Packard an RBI triple and Jimmy Titus and Joe Rizzo RBI singles as part of the seven-run fourth; Seth Beer drove in a run with a sac fly and Austin Langworthy got an RBI with a bases-loaded walk.

They added two more runs in the fifth on the strength of an RBI double from Grant Bodison and a run-scoring single from Lee. The latter was 2-for-4 with the double, three RBI and a run scored; Packard was 2-for-3 with the triple and RBI, and Langworthy went 2-for-2 with a double, an RBI and a run.

2016 right-hander Garrett Stallings worked five tidy, shutout innings, allowing two hits without a walk. Team EvoShield’s Cameron Locklear and JeVon Ward each singled to spoil Stallings’ no-hit bid.

It was, without any argument, the Canes’ 12-man pitching staff that carried them to their third straight Jupiter championship. The dirty dozen combined to allow only one run in 50 innings (0.14 ERA) on 15 hits, with 68 strikeouts and 14 walks.

“When we put this pitching staff together we knew that we wanted to bring 12 guys down here who could throw multiple pitches for strikes, and that’s what they did,” Petty said Monday. “I don’t know how many guys we walked this tournament, but it wasn’t a lot and that’s by design. We go after hitters and we attack the zone with multiple pitches.”

Every one of the 12 hurlers did their part, but the seven innings of work turned in by Stallings and 2016 right-handers Matthew Cronin and Matt Manning stood above the rest, especially the efforts of Manning.

A 6-foot-6, 185-pound PG All-American and Loyola Marymount recruit from Elk Grove, Calif., the No. 10-ranked Manning pitched seven shutout innings over two appearances, giving up only one hit while striking out 14, walking one and hitting two batters. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.

“This is what it’s all about,” Manning said while waiting to be fitted for his PG national championship ring. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this and to be a part of it with (the Canes) is just great. This is a different brand of baseball … and it’s a great environment to be in. Especially with the pitchers, Coach Petty instills a great mindset and Coach (Jason) Mills has a great game-plan for each game; we just went out there and executed it.”

The Canes also hit well during their eight games, compiling a team batting average of .356 with six players that had a plate appearance in all eight games finishing with averages of .375 or higher. One of those was Martorano, a North Carolina-Chapel Hill commit from Marlboro, N.J., who is ranked No. 136 nationally.

 Martorano, who was 1-for-2 with a triple and a run scored in the championship game, hit .400 (6-for-15) with two doubles, two triples, a team-high seven RBI and team-high 1.360 OPS and was named the event's Most Valuable Player. He also had the pleasure of working behind the plate while all those stellar pitchers did their work from the mound, and seemed to enjoy that end of things just as much as the hitting part.

“I really take pride in how I catch and how I handle the pitching staff but these guys make my job pretty easy,” he said. “They’re some of the best in the world and to be able to out there and do a good job with them is nothing but an honor.”

Petty looked back on what he called a real “up-and-down” year for this upperclass team, noting that it failed to advance to bracket-play at both the 17u PG WWBA National Championship and 17u PG World Series. Coming up short started to weigh heavily on the players, giving them the feeling they weren’t capable of getting the job done on PG’s biggest stages.

“We started to doubt ourselves a little bit, but we just tried to stay focused and take it one game at a time; I just couldn’t be more proud of our players,” Petty said.

The future certainly looks bright for Team EvoShield, and it’s more than likely many of its players will be on the EvoShield Canes roster in 2016. A couple of 2017 middle-infielders, No. 43-ranked South Carolina commit Noah Campbell and No. 219 Virginia recruit Tanner Morris, both enjoyed great tournaments for TE:  Campbell hit .409 (9-for-22) with a double, four RBI and seven runs scored while Morris counted a home run and a double among his six hits; he drove in a team-high nine runs.

Petty said he had some mixed emotions about sending his upperclass team out of the field against the program’s underclass team in the championship game of PG’s most prestigious tournament.

“We were talking about it in the dugout that it desensitizes us a little bit and that sucks because (winning) this is so hard to do,” he said. “I actually got our kids together before we went out there (for the bottom of the fifth) and I said, ‘Three more outs, enjoy it, because this is not easy to do.

“’This is such a hard task and don’t let the fact that we’re playing someone from our own program or the fact that it turned into a blowout desensitize what an accomplishment this is. You may never get another one of these because it’s just really hard to do.’”

The Canes’ 8-0, five-inning win over elite West Coast entrant GBG Marucci (5-1-0) out of Los Angeles in one of Monday morning’s semifinals was – for all intents and purposes – over after the first inning. Manning struck-out two of the three batters he faced in the top of the first and then his teammates scored seven runs – five earned – in the bottom half of the frame to seal it.

Langworthy led off with a double, and Lee and Rizzo singled, with Rizzo’s safety driving in Langworthy. Martorano was credited with an RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Bodison pushed across a run with a sacrifice fly.

Rizzo was walked to lead-off the bottom of the second and eventually scored the eighth and deciding run on a wild pitch. Manning worked five razor-sharp, shutout innings, and allowed only a single to fellow PG All-American Ben Baird in the top of the fourth; he struck-out eight and walked none.

This marked the third straight year the Canes advanced to the final four in Jupiter and the second straight time GBG reached the semifinals.

2017 left-hander Austin Weiermiller and ’17 righties Shane Roberts and Buddy Kennedy combined on a seven inning three-hitter with six strikeouts and six walks to lead Team EvoShield to a 2-0 win over the Dallas (Texas) Patriots Stout (5-2-0) in Monday’s other semifinal.

Team EvoShield scored single runs in each of the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings: Campbell stroked a one-out single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Tyler Solomon in the fourth; Jordan Adell was plunked by a pitch to leadoff the fifth and came around to score on an RBI single from Jeremy Arocho.

Cody Sturgeon, Hunter Seay and Christian Boulware each singled to account for the Patriots’ offense. 2016 lefty Jordan Roberts and 2016 right-handers Jacob Salim and Chris Burdine combined on a four-hitter with five strikeouts and four walks.

It was EvoShield here, EvoShield there, EvoShield everywhere on Monday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium, and it’s possible everything turned out the way it was supposed to in the grand scheme of things. Isn’t the older brother always supposed to enjoy sway over their younger brother?

“Here, with this group of guys, we expect to win,” Martorano said. “This is where we expected to be when we came together as a group … and this was our goal. To be able to have a goal and then achieve it is something incredible; it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

2015 WWBA World Championship runner-up: Team EvoShield

2015 WWBA World Championship MVP: Brandon Martorano

2015 WWBA World Championship MV-Pitcher: Matt Manning

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