Tournaments | Championship | 7/22/2016

Banditos win 15u championship

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Banditos Black captured the 15u WWBA National Championship crown after taking down EC Sox Prime Snopek 6-2 on Friday in the championship game. The Banditos led early and never lost the lead while the Sox fought the entire way but could not overcome the depth of the Banditos pitching staff.

The Banditos struck first in the top of the first inning after the Sox starter Adam Hudson suffered some control issues. After two singles and a walk to load the bases, Hudson issued a walk to bring home a run for the Banditos. The Sox would strike back in the bottom half of the inning. After a single to lead off the inning, Caleb Ragland brought home a run on an RBI triple to knot the score at one apiece as they headed to the second inning.

The offense kept rolling for the Banditos as they plated two more runs in the top of the second. Consecutive RBI singles from Cameron Godfrey and Jared Thomas, the No. 63 overall player for the class of 2019 and a Miami commit, to bring the lead to 3-1. The inning also saw the Banditos chase the Sox’ starter from the game.

In the top of the fourth the Banditos were able to pile on some more thanks to some timely hitting. Thomas brought home a run on an RBI triple and then was able to score during the next at-bat to increase the lead to 5-2. Thomas was on fire in the championship game as the MVP of the tournament finished 4-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored.

Bricen Lucas, the No. 3 lefthanded pitcher in the state of Texas for the class of 2019, was solid for the Banditos as he held the Sox offense at bay for four innings. His final line would be two runs, only one earned, over four innings and he struck out four. After Lucas’ departure the Banditos would turn to their talented and deep bullpen.

The Banditos bullpen was built to secure leads as they came out with two fireballers to hold the lead. Both Aaron Nixon and Derrick Cherry, the No. 5 middle infielder in the state of Texas for the class of 2018 and a Houston commit, came out of the ‘pen throwing in the upper-80s, touching 90 multiple times. The Sox were able to get some baserunners on in the later innings but Cherry was phenomenal over the final two frames. He did not allow a baserunner to reach and finished with two perfect innings, striking out one.

The aforementioned bottom of the seventh was uneventful. Cherry was dominant on the mound and was able to induce weak contact en route to the Banditos securing the championship.

Coach Ross Santos was proud of his team’s efforts. He spoke highly not only of the talent of this team but the bond that they created during this week to finish atop the mountain.

“The emotions are high for the kids,” said Santos. “They played as a team, we had a lot of guys with arms come in the game. During pool play we only gave up two runs and then they started hitting the ball on us. After that the pitching came through, the defense played well, and we had great timely hitting. As you saw the last three games the kids were up the entire time and had each other’s backs.”

“It feels awesome,” said Thomas, the event's Most Valuable Player. “So many teams come out here and compete and to know we’re the ones standing on top is unbelievable.”

The pitching staff was a strength for the Banditos during the entire tournament. As a team they allowed a mere two runs during pool play, and during the championship game, when most teams are depleted of pitching, they were able to bring out two upper-80s to low-90s arms to help secure the lead.

“The depth of the pitching is unreal,” said Santos. “Depth carried us through pool play and gave us an opportunity. That’s all you can really ask for is an opportunity and once that happened the sticks started coming alive. You saw Jared (Thomas) just crush the ball this game and you saw Cam Godfrey leading off and always putting the ball in play. We ran well, played defense well, and in the last three four games we showed why we’re the best team in the country.”

Santos was particularly impressed with his team’s ability to zone in on baseball once the first pitch is thrown. Being young athletes, it is very easy to get distracted even on the baseball field. The Banditos never blinked and never flinched, they’re sharp focus was undoubtedly a key asset to helping them win the championship.

“This team showed me that it doesn’t matter what is going on that they’re always going to be in the game,” added Santos. “It doesn’t matter what team they’re playing and we’ve played some very good teams. This team has won this tournament before and the teams that they beat in the entire tournament just show that the best team is always ready.”

The Banditos are one of the many elite programs who attend Perfect Game events often and this championship is just the most recent example of the organization’s success. In addition to winning the championship, the experience of showcasing their talents and performing in front of huge crowds – including scouts and college coaches – is something this team will never forget.

“Out of this going forward we are always going to bring a lot of good talent because this is a great opportunity at this facility and this function,”  continued Santos. “With this many scouts we were able to showcase not only our pitching depth but our timely hitting, coaching, and the boys backing each other up. It was truly a good job by the boys.”

Thomas had a very successful tournament, including his monster championship game, and finished with a .438 batting average including five RBI and 12 runs scored. The MV-Pitcher of the tournament was Joshua Hill of the Sox. Hill finished with a 1-0 record in 11 2/3 innings pitched while allowing zero runs and striking out 11.

“It feels awesome,” said Thomas. “So many teams come out here and compete and to know we’re the ones standing on top is unbelievable.”

Thomas was honored to receive MVP honors. He was glad to receive recognition for his achievements and that his team was able to win the championship. Definitely a name to look out for, Thomas should get used to receiving MVP honors as this will certainly not be his last award given the caliber of his play.

“Never give up,” said Thomas. “In the start of the tournament I had tough at-bats and I struggled through them and in the end it paid off. Just learn to never give up.”

The Sox reached the championship game after throwing a no-hitter against the East Tennessee Crusaders. Cole Schroeder was able to dice up the Crusaders lineup as he allowed no hits and no runs over five innings while racking up five strikeouts.

Offensively, Amani Larry led the way for the Sox. Larry finished 2-for-3 with two RBI to help his team score eight runs. After Schroeder and the offense’s dominant effort, they defeated the Crusaders 8-0 and headed to the championship.

The Banditos defeated 643 DP Jaguars Montgomery 7-0 to advance past the semifinal round. Both pitchers for the Banditos performed admirably, but Oscar Moralez, the No. 2 righthanded pitcher in the state of Texas for the class of 2019, was particularly impressive. The starting pitcher, Moralez finished with four innings pitched while allowing zero runs, only one hit and he struck out seven batters.

The team had a loaded offensive box score as they received contributions from the whole lineup. All seven of the runs were scored by a different individual player as were each of the runs batted in. After that impressive effort, Rene Ramos was able to come in to pitch the final three innings and secure the championship berth for the Banditos.

2016 15u WWBA National Championship runner-up: EC Sox Prime Snopek

2016 15u WWBA National Championship MVP: Jared Thomas

2016 15u WWBA National Championship MV-Pitcher: Joshua Hill

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