Tournaments | Story | 7/13/2016

Midwest Elite came to win

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Midwest Elite dropped their first game of the 2016 16u WWBA National Championship on Tuesday night with a 3-0 loss to Nokona Baseball. They bounced back on Wednesday with a 3-0 win of their own over the Florida Hardballers and clinched a spot in bracket play. Midwest Elite is the No. 30 seed in bracket play and will open up Wednesday night against the GBG Renegades as they look to advance further in the playoffs.

The Midwest Elite team is built around a strong foundation of hard working players along with an uncanny ability to pull victories out of tight ballgames. Four of their victories in the tournament have had a margin of fewer than three runs and the ability to secure these close games starts with the coaching staff. Manager Rich Hills has very high praise for his team but knows that his team knows what is expected of them on the field.

“This is a pretty well-rounded team,” said Hills. “We scored early in the tournament and then we went up against a couple of big arms. We found a way to win. That’s what this team has been able to do for the last couple of years. They know how to play and they play the game the right way which gives them the opportunity to win those one-run and two-run games.”

“We’ve been coming through in tight games,” said Kade Self, the No. 1 catcher in the state of Oklahoma for the class of 2018. “Our pitchers have been doing a good job at throwing strikes and keeping us in games. We’ve just been getting it done when it counts.”

As with any team that has made it this far in the tournament, Midwest Elite had one goal coming into this event: win. This program has had a lot of recent success in Perfect Game events, most recently with their 17u team advancing to the quarterfinals of the 17u WWBA National Championship and losing to the eventual champion, FTB Tucci. Hills knows that if the team continues to play at a high level they will have a good chance to cause some damage in bracket play.

“Their goal is to win,” said Hills. “They expect to win. They won a lot when they were younger and they won a lot with our program. We teach the expectation of winning. Does it happen all the time? No. But when you have high expectations and know how to play the game like they do, you give yourself a very good opportunity for that to happen. The message is the same. We’re consistent and I tell them to play the whole game and play the right way. Give yourself an opportunity. We don’t treat any one game bigger than any other. We need to do well to secure bracket play and to secure a higher seed. They know how to play and what’s expected of them. I know they’ll do it. If you keep playing the right way and giving yourself an opportunity good things will happen.”

Based out of Oklahoma, the Midwest Elite program has built a name for itself upon the success of their teams in tournaments. They succeed at the regional level and attract some of the best talent from the state of Oklahoma and allow their players to impress scouts and coaches alike. This helps to build the program and the reputation of baseball in the state of Oklahoma.

“This team has won on the regional level two or three times this year and a couple times last year,” said Hills. “That’s good for the area because most of these kids are going to go to regional schools. Events like this gives us an opportunity to be nationwide and if you want to be respected as one of the top up and coming programs, you have to play in these type of events to establish that.”

One of the consequences of basing the program out of Oklahoma is that their team will be inherently smaller than most teams. Some of the top teams based out of elite baseball states such as Florida or California can have rosters with as many as 50 players. Midwest Elite has far fewer players than 50 but Hills argues that their 1-9 lineup would match well against any other lineup in the tournament. He believes that while the depth of talent in Oklahoma might not be as deep as traditional baseball hotbeds that the top talent levels are closer than people might initially think.

“We don’t have the numbers that those states have, but I would say per player we have just as much quality as everyone else,” said Hills. “We have a lot of quality kids who play for us from Oklahoma and there’s a lot of quality kids for some of the other programs around the state. We just happen to be having more success than some of those other programs. I’m originally from California, I grew up playing against Nomar Garciaparra and Aaron Boone and all those guys. Being around Oklahoma for the last 20 years or so, I’ve seen a lot of good kids come out of the area.

“A lot of the time there’s not enough numbers to get scouts up there, they want to go somewhere and that’s the reason we play these types of events. There are a lot of eyes in one central location and if you do well they’re going to come watch you.”

With a large amount of well-coached talent and an aggressive baseball mentality, Midwest Elite is primed as one of the lower seeds that could make some noise in the playoffs. A National Championship going back to the state of Oklahoma would go a long way at continuing to build the Midwest Elite program and the reputation of baseball in Oklahoma.

 Give us your feedback
Copyright 1994-2021 by Perfect Game. All rights reserved. No portion of this information may be reprinted or reproduced without the written consent of Perfect Game.