Tournaments | Story | 7/20/2016

BPA shows heart, gains experience

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – BPA Rawlings closed out pool play with their first loss of the tournament. They fell in a game where the comeback effort was just short and resulted in a 7-6 loss to EvoShield Canes Mid-Atlantic. BPA still won their pool with a 5-1-1 record and headed to the first round of bracket play with some negative momentum, and some bad luck.

Six of the top players for BPA will not be playing in the games to come. They lost three arms before the tournament started as they are playing with Team USA’s 15u National Team. Their top player coming into this tournament was Cooper Benson, the No. 33 overall player for the class of 2019 and an Arizona State commit, and he had to leave the team. The top hitter for BPA was Ryan Flaherty, a middle infielder and a Cal Poly commit, and Flaherty sprained his wrist early in the tournament. The starter for their final pool play game was Hunter Cranton, the No. 9 righthanded pitcher in the state of California for the class of 2019, and he also would not be with the team on Wednesday night as he got sick.

Manager Jared Sandler is now down to just nine players for bracket play, but he is not discouraged. He knows that he has a solid core of players and that they will continue to work hard and try to win.

“To be honest we’re just trying to play the game as hard as we can,” said Sandler. “Three of our pitchers are at the 15u Team USA and our best arm that was here, Cooper Benson, left yesterday. He’s an Arizona State commit and a two-way guy. Probably our best hitter, Ryan Flaherty, a Cal Poly commit, swung and hurt his wrist two days into the tournament and he went home. One of our best players who threw last game, Hunter Cranton, got sick and was throwing up so he’s also not here.

“We have nine players for this game so we’re just trying to grind it out. It’s nice to win these kind of things but it’s a great tournament. We come every year and it’s good to play for the week and see good competition.”

BPA was able to work hard and come out to win their first playoff game with a 5-3 victory over the Mid-Atlantic Red Sox. Cutter Clawson dominated the Red Sox hitters as he allowed only one run and two hits over 6 2/3 dominant innings. The offense scored thanks to some timely hit and runs, two-out base hits, and good baserunning.

However, BPA would end up losing in their next game as they faced the No. 2-seeded EC Sox Prime Snopek and lost a close contest, 2-1. BPA did mount a comeback in the top of the seventh inning, scoring their only run of the game, but that would be all they could muster as the 8-0 Sox move on while BPA will head home.

One of the reasons why Sandler enjoys bringing his team to Perfect Game events is the level of competition they play against and the length of the schedule. Playing so many games in a short amount of days is extremely tough, but it exposes players to the realities of playing baseball at a collegiate and professional level. It teaches players that sometimes they will play games where they may not be at 100 percent, are in the heat the whole game or when they’re tired.

“Most people that play in this tournament have the aspiration to be a Division I college baseball player or want to have a chance to play in professional baseball,” said Sandler. “The reality is that college baseball season is really long, minor league season is even longer and the major league season is longer than that. Tournaments like this puts these guys in situations where they have to play every day whether they be a little banged up, or tired or experiencing a rain delay. That’s one of the reasons why we like coming up, besides the good competition, because this is a good learning tool what life in baseball is really like if you want to pursue it.”

BPA is a California-based team that has been competing successfully in Perfect Game events for around a decade now. Sandler focuses on exposing his players to the realities of what it’s like to play baseball for a career and to showcase his players and help them obtain scholarships for collegiate baseball.

“We’re out of Orange County and now we’ve expanded into San Diego,” said Sandler. “We’ve been around for about 10 years now and we won this tournament two years ago. We normally have pretty good success out here, we’ve only missed the bracket once or twice and we do come out here a lot. We have three players at the 15u Team USA and we have some pretty good kids in our program. We’re just trying to develop kids and get them to college to give them a chance.”

Before their first bracket play game, Sandler talked about once bracket play begins, it’s a new slate for every team. Teams theoretically enter bracket play with a 0-0 record and anything can happen in the game of baseball. Look no further than what happened each of the last two weeks during the playoffs at the 17u and 16u versions of the WWBA Championship to know that even the highest rated seeds can be knocked out early in bracket play.

And while Sandler and his BPA team won’t have the opportunity to play spoiler, he made sure to keep his team prepared and poised.

“The focus is good,” said Sandler before BPA’s game against the EC Sox. “Everyone is trying to win every inning. They just keep playing hard and trying to win every inning. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball is that it’s not over until the last out. For all the 34 teams that won their pool everything starts over. We’re going to play as hard as we can for as long as we can.

“It’s been a great experience and you get something different out of it every time. A couple years ago when we won it, it was a little better feeling than now when we’re limping into it. But it’s about the kids and them learning and getting better. You can learn something and get better from all your experience so we’ve had another great week here. We’ll play this tournament every year here, we love it.”

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