Tournaments | Story | 7/4/2016

CBA on right path to defend title

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – CBA Marucci National are the defending champions of the 17u WWBA National Championship. They are full of talented prospects from California, and a few other neighboring states, and are considered a favorite to make it back into bracket play and run the table.

CBA improved to 4-0 after defeating the Jersey Boyz on Sunday night thanks to a combined one-hit shutout and a 5-0 final score. Jeremiah Estrada was outstanding on the mound as he threw five hitless innings, struck out six and showed dominant fastballs and sliders.

Being the defending champion of a tournament can add pressure to a team that is almost a completely new team. Nick Allen, the 19th overall ranked player from the high schoool class of 2017 and a holdover of last year’s team, doesn’t think that this pressure will affect his team negatively.

“Last year our team was a very good team,” said Allen. “This year’s team is very different in many ways, but just as good if not better. Having that pressure is something, but this team knows how to handle it really well.”

Allen is committed to play baseball at USC and was recently selected as one of Perfect Game’s first All-American selections. Allen will be representing his hometown of San Diego and spoke about what being a selection means to him.

“It definitely means a lot, especially since I’m from San Diego,” said Allen. “It’s just a true honor, I hope a lot of my family and friends can come out and watch it. We play against the best in the country and there are some other kids on our team who will be there too so it’s an honor to play against them.

Ben Ramirez, the No. 9 shortstop in the class of 2017 and who is also committed to USC, and Tyler Freeman, the No. 14 shortstop in the class of 2017 who is committed to TCU, spoke about how it’s easy to play together as a team when the level of trust and team chemistry is so high.

“Playing with your brothers, you don’t really have any weight on your shoulders,” said Ramirez. “You just go out there and have fun. The results show when you have fun, you play to your best potential.”

“Coming together to make one team makes a lot of talent to make it a lot of fun,” added Freeman.

Jeremiah Estrada’s outing on the mound on Sunday night under the lights of LakePoint was a culmination of a lot of preparation and training. Estrada is the No. 4 righthanded pitcher in the class of 2017 (41st overall nationally) and is committed to play baseball at UCLA. After transitioning to pitcher, Estrada made sure to work twice as hard in order to be successful.

“I’ve always been a catcher and an infielder,” said Estrada. “Coming into freshman year, there was a Perfect Game tournament in Arizona, and I actually threw pretty well and pretty hard. I decided to work at that and started training and developing as much as I can to get to be a successful pitcher.”

As Ramirez and Freeman mentioned, it’s a lot easier to pitch behind a team that has a tight bond. It makes the life of the pitcher easier knowing if he makes a mistake that his teammates have his back.

“It’s an inspiration to be out here with all the top prospects,” said Estrada. “Everyone on our team is just a top prospect like Nick Allen and Ben Ramirez. Nick Allen is like a brother to me and he’s an inspiration to me just to see him on the field. It’s an honor to be out here in the middle of the field with all the other prospects on the field with me.”

Manager John Paino credits a lot of his team’s success to being selective of who joins the team and overall team chemistry. With as many talented prospects as there are in California, Piano has to be selective in order to find who will fit in best with each other.

“I think we’re pretty fortunate to be in a baseball rich area with a lot of good kids and families,” said Paino. “I think with the staff that we have, we draw some pretty good kids out of the area. The chemistry with these teams just lends itself to being successful. We’re very fortunate. We try to make sure after talking to the players and the families that we ask the right questions and get to know the kids pretty well before they’re on the team. Chemistry pieces are very important, we’re pretty particular about who joins our team. Luckily, the recipe works and you put these kids in this environment where they’re free to make mistakes and challenge themselves they usually rise and become better.”

Pitching and defense are the cornerstones of any championship team and CBA is no exception. Paino and his staff preach defensive prowess and pitching ability as the foundation upon which a team builds and is successful.

“We’re going to pitch and play defense,” said Paino. “Offensively, we have some pretty good hitters in the lineup but we mainly focus on defense and pitching. That’s been carrying us, we haven’t scored too many runs but hopefully that will change. Everyone is going to throw their no. 1 at us. It’s a challenge because when you show up to an event like this you want to succeed, but everyone is looking to somehow, someway beat you. You’ll never be the best until you beat the best and I don’t think our talent makes it anymore easy or difficult.”

CBA has set themselves up in good position to make bracket play, assuming they can sweep the remaining pool play games. In baseball anything can happen, but CBA does a very good job at limiting mistakes and capitalizing on opportunities and so far it looks like that’s the recipe for a championship team.

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