All American Game | Story | 11/4/2015

All-Americans, World Champions

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

2015 WWBA World Championship: Canes pitch way to Jupiter 3-peat | Matt Manning feature

It's good to go out on top. That's exactly what six 2015 Perfect Game All-Americans did a little over a week ago when as members of the EvoShield Canes they won the WWBA World Championship. That championship marks the third straight in Jupiter, Fla. for the Canes, a program that appears to be building a dynasty on the travel baseball circuit.

And while the Canes entered the event as one of, if not the favorite to win it all, they still managed to do so in impressive fashion.

They finished the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record. Seven of those games were shutouts as they outscored their opponents 51 to 1. Sixteen of the players on the 25-man roster were named to the All-Tournament Team, which includes Brandon Martarano, named the event's Most Valuable Player, and Most Valuable Pitcher Matt Manning.

The roster was about as star-studded as they come, with 23 players committed to a major Division I university and one more committed to one of the best junior colleges in the nation.

As noted above, six of those players – Grant Bodison, Khalil Lee, Nicholas Quintana, Joe Rizzo, Avery Tuck and Manning – participated in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park in mid-August. That group, along with several others, also took part in numerous high-level tournament and showcase events during the course of the summer, including the PG National Showcase held in Fort Myers, Fla. in mid-June.

This is definitely my favorite baseball (memory),” Joe Rizzo, a native of Oak Hill, Va. and the 11th ranked player overall in the high school class of 2016 player rankings, told Perfect Game after winning the 2015 WWBA World Championship. “Especially given the summer that we had. We didn't play (as strong as) we could have in our past tournaments. Now coming out on top in the fall has been huge for us and this is probably my favorite moment in my baseball career so far.”

Rizzo had a particularly busy summer, playing at almost every major notable showcase event, including the PG National Showcase and the East Coast Professional Showcase. He also participated in the 17u PG WWBA National Championship in Emerson, Ga., and the 17u PG World Series in Goodyear, Ariz., prior to his performance in the PG All-American Classic.

In Jupiter, Rizzo was named to the all-tournament team for the second year in a row – the sixth all-tournament team he was named to out of the 10 PG tournaments he has attended – by hitting .364 (8-for-22) with five RBI and seven runs scored.

Playing with the EvoShield Canes you're playing with some of the best players in the country,” he said. “I feel that's made me a better ballplayer because I know that everyone around me is just as strong as I could potentially be, and that I should play to my full potential because I know those guys will as well.”

Last year, Rizzo played for the EvoShield Canes younger team, Team EvoShield, which is effectively the junior varsity version of the Canes. Bodison, Martorano, Michael Bielien, Matthew Cronin and Austin Langworthy were among Rizzo's teammates both years and represent a program that points to many more years of future success.

Joe Rizzo went 1-for-1 with two walks in the 2015 Perfect Game All-American Classic
While Rizzo and his Team EvoShield teammates didn't make the playoffs in 2014, the next wave of talent appears to be bright, not only making the playoffs this past year but advancing to the championship game to face their older brethren. They did so in impressive fashion, as well, beating the Dallas Tigers in the playoff play-in game prior to taking out other notable national programs including Marucci Eite, the Dirtbags and the Dallas Patriots Stout.

Three of those wins were shutouts with a roster comprised mostly of players from the 2017 class. It's a group of players that will represent the Canes' varsity squad during the summer of 2016 and likely a handful of spots on next year's PG All-American roster.

It just shows the future of the EvoShield (Canes) program and how bright it is,” Rizzo said, "because that team mostly consists of the 2017's that were on the National team this past year.

"And the fact that they were able to make it to the championship and compete in a 2016 tournament shows how much they've done in this past year and how bright their future is going to be next year.”

In a feature conducted with Rizzo from the 17u PG World Series in July, he spoke to PG's Jeff Dahn about how proud he was to hold the title of "dirtbag," a player who rarely leaves the field with a clean uniform and one that seemingly wills his teams to victories. Although he trimmed his long-flowing locks and facial hair for the Classic and his time spent in Jupiter, he still personified what a dirtbag is all about.

I do love to hear it because that means I'm getting after it,” Rizzo said of his all-out personality on the baseball field. “I'm not just going to roll over and give you an at-bat. That I'm going to grind everything out and make sure that I'm going to do my best to beat you. That's really my mentality when I play baseball.”

After the 17u PG World Series, Rizzo traveled to San Diego, Calif. to participate in the Classic. He continued to perform at a high level , putting on a show during batting practice and the event's Home Run Challenge while also going 1-for-1 in the game with a pair of walks for the winning East Squad.

For as great as the exposure was playing in a big league ballpark in front of a nationally televised audience on the MLB Network, it was the philanthropic cause of the event that stuck with Rizzo the most.

That trip is going to stay with me forever,” Rizzo said of his time in San Diego. “Playing on TV at Petco was definitely the best experience in my life, especially going to the children's hospital. The hospital (visit) is definitely the one thing that I remember the most. Because really we were playing for a cause, and that cause was tied into the kids that were at the hospital. It was so cool that we were able to go and talk to the children, meet them, and you could see their faces lighten up when we were there.”

Rizzo and his PG All-American teammates were put to the task to help raise money for Rady Children's Hospital in an effort to find a cure pediatric cancer. This year's All-Americans did just that, collectively raising nearly $48,000 and pushing the 13-year total of the event over $900,000.

And despite the pressures of being one of the top players in the nation and the responsibilities that are included with that both on and off the field, Rizzo keeps himself well-grounded when looking to what the future might hold for him.

I've been playing the same game since I was seven," he said. "It's three outs in an inning; three strikes, four balls. So there's really nothing different except the fields you're playing on and the teams that you play. I try to take the mentality that it's just another game and you're going to have more at-bats later in life.”


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