Tournaments | Championship | 7/15/2016

EC Sox cruise to 16u championship

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – After 343 teams were defeated, the East Coast Sox Diamond stood tall as champions of the 16u WWBA National Championship. The Sox defeated FTB55 Elite 11-2 in the championship game to clinch the title.

The Sox scored early and often in their five inning run rule of FTB. The scoring started in the first inning as they put three runs on the board. After back-to-back singles to start the frame, Tyler Kersh, the No. 3 catcher in the state of Mississippi for the class of 2017, brought two runs home with a single. Shortly after, Kersh was able to come all the way around to score on an error by the shortstop. After just one inning, the Sox were up 3-0.

Richard Fitts started on the mound and provided solid innings for the Sox. He pitched a complete game for the Sox and finished with a line of only two earned runs while striking out three batters. Fitts was provided plenty of run support so he made sure to be efficient with his pitches and let his defense do the work.

The second inning was home to more scoring for the Sox offense. The first run of the inning was scored on a squeeze bunt that ended up being an RBI single. Ben Van Cleve, the No. 1 first baseman in the state of Mississippi for the class of 2017, stepped up with two runners on and was able to add some more runs to the lead. Van Cleve brought home two runs on a two-run double and increased the lead to six. Van Cleve was able to score after the next batter and after two innings FTB found themselves in a 7-0 hole.

“We wanted to get on guys early and hit it middle of the way,” said Van Cleve. “We were barreling balls pretty well and we just stuck to it. We loved playing in this tournament, it was a great tournament, and we thank you all.”

FTB was able to get a run back in the top half of the inning, but the Sox offense went right back to work in the bottom of the third. Luke Hancock, the No. 1 catcher in the state of Mississippi for the class of 2018 and a Mississippi State commit, brought home a run on an RBI single. Kersh added to his RBI total by bringing in another run on a single. After a third run came home to score, the Sox went to the fourth inning with an 11-1 lead.

FTB would get a run back in the top of the fifth inning. Nander De Sedas, the No. 17 overall player for the class of 2018, launched a home run to left-center field that left the bat at 97 mph. Unfortunately for FTB, the solo home run would be the last run they would score. Fitts shut down FTB the rest of the way and helped the Sox clinch the championship.

Manager Thomas Wilson was emotional as he discussed how proud of his team’s efforts he was. The Sox played exceptionally well throughout bracket play and the culmination of their hard work and effort was seen in their championship performance.

“So excited, with the caliber of players that are here at this tournament, I’m so excited for our guys and the whole East Coast organization,” said Wilson. “Words are hard to describe right now. It’s very exciting. There’s no domination in this at all. There were two great teams that were playing. We scratched some runs across but the caliber of competition is extremely high. We’re just glad to be here and we got some timely hits and good pitching today.”

Pitching was a key asset to the Sox today. Fitts gave the team solid innings in the championship game and Chad Bryant, the No. 2 righthanded pitcher in the state of Alabama for the class of 2017 and a Mississippi State commit, tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the semifinal round. Wilson noted that pounding the strike zone and having pitchers working ahead was a point of emphasis during their preparation for this tournament.

“We’ve preached all week, and Coach Fitts is our pitching coach, that we want to pound the strike zone,” said Wilson. “We want to work on getting ahead with strikes and just consistently throwing strikes. When you work ahead you can pitch off your fastball and that’s what they did. They stayed aggressive, pounded the strike zone, and pitched ahead.”

A national championship can be a pivotal milestone for any organization, especially for one as new as the East Coast Sox. The Sox have increased their organizational total over the past five years and after this championship they have back to back titles in consecutive years, they took home the 14u National Championship last year.

“The East Coast Sox: Joe Caruso, Eric Dubose, and Greg Sykes are the directors of this organization,” said Wilson. “This organization has grown from one team to 18 teams in five years. Last year the 14’s won it with Chris Snopek. It takes this and builds and expands on this organization.”

The Sox are a religious-based organization. After the game they gathered on the mound to pray and to revel in their championship title.

“I would like to thank Perfect Game for the opportunity to play against the best competition in the country,” said Director Joe Caruso. “For us this is our mission field, we come and pray on the mound after every game. We thank God for bringing all this talent together and Perfect Game does it better than anybody. We’re truly blessed, not only to play against the best competition, but to have an opportunity to share how great God is. That’s our purpose and our passion and we love playing baseball too.”

The MVP of the tournament was Ben Van Cleve of the Sox. Van Cleve finished the tournament with a .478 batting average, eight RBI, seven runs scored and two home runs. The MV-Pitcher award went to Jack Anderson, the No. 36 righthanded pitcher in the state of Florida for the class of 2018, of FTB. Anderson had a 1-0 record and led the team with nine innings pitched; he also collected nine strikeouts and only allowed one earned run.

FTB reached the semifinals after a run-rule victory over Golden Spikes Baseball Club. Jonathan Gates, the No. 29 overall player for the class of 2018 and a Miami commit, was the big contributor on offense as his two-run moonshot to right, which landed in the bed of a truck, was the offensive headline. The game was contested for the majority of the game but FTB broke it open with a five-run sixth inning to secure their comfortable 9-1 victory and a spot in the championship game.

The Sox defeated Knights Baseball Platinum 6-0 to advance to the championship game. The aforementioned Chad Bryant was the star of the semifinal game. He was able to keep hitters off balance all day and sat at 87-89 with his fastball. He only allowed four hits on the day while walking no one and striking out eight in the victory. J.T. Ginn, the No. 2 shortstop in the state of Mississippi for the class of 2018 and a Mississippi State commit, led the way offensively as he went 2-for-3 with two RBI to help the team advance from the semifinal round.

2016 16u WWBA National Championship runner-up: FTB55 Elite

2016 16u WWBA National Championship MV Player: Ben Van Cleve

2016 16u WWBA National Championship MV Pitcher: Jack Anderson

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