Tournaments | Championship | 5/30/2016

WWBA WMD champs crowned

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

No-hitter lifts AZ T-Rex Baseball Club to 18u WMD championship

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – At a tournament when both of the top playoff seeds used elite-level pitching to advance to the championship game, it was only fitting that the game itself would produce the top performance of the four-day event.

Little known and lightly regarded 2018 right-hander Jacob Stark was unexpectedly handed the ball to make the start for No. 2-seed AZ T-Rex Baseball Club in the title tilt at the 18u Perfect Game WWBA West Memorial Day Classic at Goodyear Ballpark, and promptly threw a six-inning no-hitter at No. 1 All Star Baseball Academy 17u in a 9-0 rout stopped an inning early by the tournament run-rule.

Stark didn’t allow a hit or a run during his six innings of duty, striking out three and walking five. He was never dominant but the ASBA hitters could never knock off him off balance, either. And his performance was particularly noteworthy because he had absolutely no time to prepare himself for the assignment.

“I’m a reliever and they brought me up to this team to pitch in relief,” he said after accepting congratulations from his teammates. “I didn’t find out I was going to start until about 10 minutes before the game. The coaches were, like, ‘Who’s going to pitch?’ and one of our catchers said, ‘Well, Stark hasn’t thrown for a while’ so they said, ‘Throw him on the bump.’

“I just went out there and threw; I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do. Once we started scoring a little bit, I just let the defense do the work.”

This was actually Stark’s third appearance at the tournament but his first start. He threw 8 1/3 innings over the four days and allowed two earned runs (1.68 ERA) on one hit with six strikeouts and nine walks. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder from Mesa, Ariz., was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.

“He’s the kind of guy that we know can usually throw strikes and we know he has pretty good velocity, good command of the zone,” AZ T-Rex BC head coach Rex Gonzalez said of Stark. “We saw him the other night close out a game and I just felt like he was a guy who could at least get us going in the game. He kept his pitch count pretty low so we just kept running him out there, and obviously with no hits, you don’t really want to mess with somebody like that.”

The T-Rexer’s had their bats warmed-up in the mid-90s degree heat Monday afternoon, as well, scoring their nine runs – eight earned – on 13 hits. 2017 Trevor Hauver doubled and tripled, drove in two runs and scored two others; 2017 Andrew Swift singled twice, drove in a run and scored twice; and 2016 Connor McCord (Western Oregon signee) also had a pair of singles and an RBI.

All Star BA 17u (4-1-0) from El Mirage, Ariz., and AZ T-Rex BC (5-0-0) from Scottsdale, Ariz., earned the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds and byes into Monday’s tournament semifinal round because of their dominant pitching staffs. ASBA outscored its three pool-play opponents by a combined 22-0; T-Rex was at 20-1.

The ASBA staff hadn’t allowed a run all weekend until AZ T-Rex scored in the first inning of the championship game. 2017 right-handers Anthony Quattrocchi and Clay Schwaner, and 2017 lefty Michael Sears combined to pitch 15 seven-hit, shutout innings with 18 strikeouts against three walks.

AZ T-Rex’s Boyd Vander Kooi, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander/corner-infielder and an Oregon commit from Mesa, Ariz., ranked No. 114 nationally, pitched a six-inning, two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts in his team’s tournament opener Friday night. He was also 5-for-6 (.833) with a triple, three RBI and four runs scored at the plate and was named the Most Valuable Player.

“The tournament basically came down to good pitching,” Gonzalez said. “ASBA does a great job – they’re a great program – and think both of us have a pretty decent program and we showed it today. They may not have hit the ball today but our pitcher just had a good game. You’ve got to give those guys credit. They’re a good ball club and they have some hitters over there, as well.”

The PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic championship is a first for the AZ T-Rex Baseball Club although many of these players were on the roster that finished third at this same event last year and third at the 2014 16u PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic.

Gonzalez plans on taking his T-Rex show on the road once again this summer with PG national tournament stops at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint in Cartersville, Ga., for the prestigious 17u PG WWBA National Championship July 1-8 and back here in the Valley for the 17u PG World Series, being held for the first time this year at the Chicago Cubs’ Sloan Park spring training complex in Mesa. He’s confident he has not only the best 17/18u team in the Valley but one of the best in the country.

“Anytime we get a chance play PG we strongly encourage it and we love doing it,” Gonzalez said. “I think we can compete on the national scene. Like I tell our guys, every time you step out here it’s a measuring stick. There’s going to be a lot of good ballplayers out there and you’re just another guy; everybody’s working hard and you just have to keep working hard every day and let the chips fall where they may.”

In a pair of semifinal games played Monday morning on the Indians’ side of the Goodyear Ballpark Complex, All Star Baseball Academy 17u wasted no time in eliminating the No. 4 So Cal Halos (3-2-0) from Santa Paula, Calif., 9-0 in five innings; T-Rex out-blasted AZ PROspects 18u (3-2-0) from Litchfield Park, Ariz., 12-6.

ASBA 17u pushed across six runs in the second and added three more in the third and that was enough to secure the five-inning victory over the Halos. The All-Stars had nine hits, with Jesus Aldaz and Nick O’Brien both picking up a pair; Aldaz doubled and tripled, drove in a pair of runs and scored two, and O’Brien doubled and also drove in and scored a pair of runs. Quattrocchi threw a five-inning, two-hit shutout, striking out six without a walk.

Nick Brueser hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth and added a solo shot to lead-off the bottom of the sixth, and Hauver smashed a three-run bomb in the bottom of the second to power T-Rex’s 11-hit attack in the win over the AZ PROspects 18u. Hauver added a single, drove in four runs and scored three runs; Brueser also scored three times.

2016 18u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic champions: AZ T-Rex Baseball Club

2016 18u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic runner-up: All Star Baseball Academy 17u

2016 18u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic MVP: Boyd Vander Kooi

2016 18u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic MV-Pitcher: Jacob Stark

16u WMD slugfest ends in Phenom Signature’s favor

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Monday morning, on the backfields at the Goodyear Ballpark MLB spring training complex, Phenom Signature out of Riverside, Calif., and AZ T-Rex Baseball Club from Scottsdale, Ariz., each won their semifinal games at the 16u PG WWBA West Memorial Classic by identical 3-2 scores. Coincidentally, both teams collected just four hits in those victories. The totals for the two teams: six runs on eight hits.

Monday afternoon, the two teams met inside Goodyear Ballpark proper to face-off in the 16u PG WWBA WMDC championship game. If a casual fan would have formed an opinion based on the morning’s outcomes, that fan may have settled-in expecting to watch a pitcher’s duel like none other. That same fan’s head would have been spinning by the end of the third inning.

Top-seeded Phenom Signature jumped to a 7-5 lead after three, kept pounding away and kept answering every one of No. 3 AZ T-Rex BC’s comeback attempts, and held on during the wild ride to capture a 14-10 victory on another warm and sun-soaked late spring day in the west Phoenix suburbs.

Phenom (6-0-0) scored its 14 runs on 15 hits; T-Rex (5-1-0) plated its 10 on 14 hits. The totals were much different this time around: 24 runs on 29 hits between the two teams. Phenom Signature head coach Joe Keller could only smile when asked to reflect on how the same team could win games by scores of 3-2 and 14-10 in a span of about four hours.

“The biggest thing with this team is the way they fought together, and it took every one of the guys that was here,” he said from an upbeat dugout following the championship game. “It wasn’t a one-man show; it took every guy. We had to pitcher every pitcher that we had with the new rules, but that made it really interesting and fun.

“But what I learned more than anything is that these guys know how to compete. The most impressive thing to me was that they never gave up and they fought the entire time.”

There wasn’t a lot of rhythm to the championship game, unless the steady back-beat of runners’ feet circling the bases was to be considered. The Signature scored a single run in the second, six in the third, two in the fourth and five in the fifth; the T-Rexer’s plated two runs in each of the second, third and sixth innings, and one in each of the first, fourth, fifth and seventh.

2019 Anthony Sortino had three hits, including a double, and was the only player in either lineup to have more than two of the 29 hits (he also drove in a game-high four runs). 2019 Spencer Jones and 2018 Sean Guilbe each had two hits for Phenom (Guilbe doubled and drove in two runs; Jones had two RBI). There were times during the onslaught that Guilbe could only sit back and appreciate what he was a part of.

“I love playing with these guys. Every weekend we come out and we always compete,” he said. “We came in with the mindset that we were going to win and always try to play our best ball. Even in some of the games when we didn’t play our best ball we were still able to compete against everyone else.”

2018s Will Fuenning, Brandon Todd and Luis Canez, and 2019 Sean Rimmer were among the AZ T-Rex BC batsmen to collect two hits in the championship game; Rimmer and Todd each doubled and drove in a run.

The Signature hit .396 and averaged 8.3 runs over the six games. They were led at the plate by Guilbe and Sortino, who ended up with very similar numbers: Guilbe was 9-for-15 (.600) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 RBI and nine runs scored; Sortino finished 9-for-15 (.600) with three doubles and seven RBI. Guilbe, a 6-foot, 175-pound catcher and third baseman from Reading, Pa., was named the Most Valuable Player.

“The first couple of games I was feeling a little uncomfortable with it being my first time back with these guys in a while,” Guilbe said. “But I just tried to hit the ball hard every time and tried to be successful at the plate.”

Six-foot-two, 170-pound T-Rex 2018 right-hander John Neeley was named the Most Valuable Pitcher. He made two appearances and threw nine innings without giving up an earned run, allowing eight hits, striking out seven and walking three. He allowed only two unearned runs on five hits over six innings of work in AZ T-Rex BC’s semifinal victory.

During a conversation on Sunday, Keller told PG he and his coaching staff were treating the 16u PG WWBA WMDC as a sort of “spring training” in preparation for what is going to be a very busy summer on the PG tournament circuit. Spring training went very well.

“It was fun; it was a great run,” Keller said with a laugh. “We’re looking forward to big things this summer and I’m just proud of the boys on and off the field.”

Both 16u PG WWBA WMDC semifinals games were played Monday morning on the Cleveland Indians’ side of the Goodyear Ballpark Complex. Both the Signature and T-Rex escaped with 3-2 victories, Phenom’s coming over No. 5 Wilson Sandlot (4-1-0) from Chandler, Ariz., and T-Rex’s over No. 2-seed and defending tournament champion Warriors Baseball Academy 2018 (4-1-0) out of Glendale, Ariz.

The Signature’s Guilbe blasted a towering solo home run to left field with two-out in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie in the win over Sandlot; Guilbe also tripled and scored two runs. Sandlot’s Nolan Gorman was 3-for-3 with an RBI to cap a tournament in which he produced a surreal slash line of .786/.800/1.286 with a home run and two triples among his eight hits, and with eight RBI and six runs scored.

Garrett Evans had an RBI single and Luke Woods delivered what proved to be a game-winning two-run single as T-Rex rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a three-run top of the seventh to get past WBA 2018. Damien McElroy had an RBI single in the fourth and Dominik Demarbiex a sacrifice fly in the sixth to account for WBA 2018’s scoring. The Warriors had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh when the game’s final out was made.

2016 16u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic champions: Phenom Signature

2016 16u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic runner-up: AZ T-Rex Baseball Club

2016 16u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic MVP: Sean Guilbe

2016 16u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic MV-Pitcher: John Neeley

Strong pitching leads LVR 14u to 14u WMD crown

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The high-rolling kids from Vegas arrived in the Valley of the Sun last Friday and laid their money down, and it seemed like nothing they did over the four-day Memorial Day weekend was really every that much of a gamble. When you’re this dominant from the pitcher’s mound, there is no need to take chances.

No. 1-seed LVR 14u (5-0-0) out of Las Vegas had to work overtime to claim the championship at the 14u Perfect Game WWBA West Memorial Day Classic Monday afternoon, but when the desert dust had settled on its 2-1, 11-ining victory over the No. 2 San Diego Stars (5-1-0) in the championship game, no one seemed much worse for the wear.

“We came into the tournament and after day two we ended up with only nine players able to go,” LVR (Las Vegas Rebels) 14u co-coach Evan Gruesel said after the championship victory. “Those nine guys strapped it on for three games and two extra-inning games, so, yeah, it was a good effort.”

With the score tied at one since the top of the seventh, LVR 14u 2020 catcher Josiah Cromwick stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two-out in the bottom of the 11th. On a 1-1 count, Cromwick lined a sharp single to centerfield to score 2020 teammate Cayden Castellanos – who had reached on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning – and give LVR 14u the walk-off victory.

LVR 14u totaled seven hits in the victory, one an RBI double from Kade Higgins in the bottom of the sixth; Bradley Stone had a pair of singles and scored on Higgins’ double.

The Vegas kids got terrific pitching in the championship game from the trio of 2020 right-hander Emilio Morales – the starter who worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed on one unearned run on one hit – 2019 right-hander Dutch Landis and 2020 righty Zach Hare. They combined on an 11-inning three-hitter, striking out nine and walking four. Eric Nakano had two of the Stars’ three hits, both singles.

That was pretty much LVR 14u’s method of operation over the course of the four-day tournament. It earned the No. 1 seed and a bye into Monday’s semifinals by outscoring its three pool-play opponents by a combined 30-0. Eight LVR 14u pitchers combined to throw 36 innings without giving up an earned run; they allowed 13 hits, struck-out 40 and walked 10.

As good as the pitching was, Gruesel said it all started with the play of his two top catchers, Cromwell and Morales, calling the shots.

“Both of our catchers behind the plate, they call their own games; the coaches don’t call pitches,” he said. “They control the tempo and they throw out a lot of runners, and when you can stop a running game with wood bats, it’s hard to score. It started with them and continued with our pitchers throwing strikes and being able to hit their spots, so obviously out pitchers did great.”

LVR 14u 2020 third baseman/right-hander Jaden Agasse from Las Vegas was named the Most Valuable Player after hitting 5-for-15 (.333) with two doubles, a triple, seven RBI and four runs scored in five games; Jaden is the son of tennis legends Andre Agasse and Steffi Graf.

San Diego Stars 2019 left-handed pitcher Benton Hart from Lakeside, Calif., picked up the Most Valuable Pitcher award after throwing 5 1/3 scoreless, five-hit innings with nine strikeouts and three walks in the Stars’ first-round playoff victory over the Tucson Champs.

LVR 14u got past the No. 5 California Aces (4-1-0) from Los Alimitos, Calif., 3-2 in eight innings, and the Stars downed No. 3 FBC/DeMarini (4-1-0) from San Dimes, Calif., 5-1, in the two semifinal games played Monday morning at Camelback Ranch.

With the PG tournament tie-breaker rule (bases loaded, one-out) in affect in the eighth inning and the scored tied at 1-1, the Cali Aces took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth on an RBI single from Jared Anderson. The lead was short-lived, as LVR tied it at 2-2 with a bases-loaded walk to Cromwick and then won it with an RBI, walk-off single from Agassi.

The Stars scored all five of their runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings against FBC/DeMarini, with the big blow a two-run triple from Nathan Nankil in the bottom of the sixth. 2020 right-hander Raden Perry allowed one run during a complete-game two-hitter, striking out six and walking six.

2016 14u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic champions: LVR 14u

2016 14u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic runner-up: San Diego Stars

2016 14u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic MVP: Jaden Agassi

2016 14u WWBA West Memorial Day Classic MV-Pitcher: Benton Hart

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