Tournaments | Story | 7/25/2016

AZ's T-Rex wins 17u PGWS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MESA, Ariz. – The 17u Perfect Game World Series celebrated its fifth birthday over the last five days here in the Valley of the Sun, and for the first time in that five-year history the championship trophy and banner will not be loaded up and taken across the Arizona state line.

No. 3-seed T-Rex Baseball, with its base of operations in nearby Scottsdale, pulverized No. 1 CBA Marucci from Temecula, Calif., with eight runs on 15 hits while simultaneously holding the SoCal powerhouse to three harmless singles in an 8-0, six-inning rout, winning the championship game played Monday afternoon at beautiful Sloan Park on the grounds of the Cubs Baseball Riverview spring training complex.

The victory left T-Rex with a 7-0-0 record over the course of the five-day PG national championship event, during which all but the 8 a.m. games were played in plus-110 degree temperatures. CBA, which has firmly established itself as one of the top two or three programs in the entire state of California, finished 6-1-0.

“I’m extremely proud of these boys,” T-Rex Baseball founder/head coach Rex Gonzalez said from out on the Sloan Park field after the game. “We had a couple of guys that were out due to injury but it’s next man up, and I think a lot of guys stepped-up for us. That’s basically been our motto the whole time. We played some pretty tough competition … and I’m just really proud of these young men. We’ve been trying to get to this point since we were 14 years old and it’s a big stepping stone for us.”

The championship was the first for a team from Arizona at the exclusive, invitation-only, 24-team 17u PG World Series, with previous titles being won by two Florida teams (South Florida Elite Squad, 2012; Orlando Scorpions, 2015), a team based in Virginia (the EvoShield Canes, 2013) and one from Texas (the Houston Banditos, 2014). This T-Rex roster includes only two non-Arizonians, and the players take a lot of pride in being able to keep the championship trophy at home.

“This is an unbelievable experience, especially being the hometown team,” T-Rex standout corner-infielder Jacob Gonzalez said. “With all these powerhouses coming in like CBA and EvoShield (Canes), we just wanted to come out here and compete with them and show that a group of boys from Arizona that have been together since they were 12 years old can compete with those programs.”

T-Rex wasted little time unleashing its offensive onslaught in the title game, scoring four runs on four singles, two walks and one hit batter in the top of the first inning. It then added single runs in each of the second and third innings and basically won it by the run-rule when Jacob Gonzalez turned on a pitch and delivered a one-out, two-run double down the leftfield line to make it 8-0.

Gonzalez finished the game 3-for-4 with the double, three RBI and a run scored. Jake Holmes (an Arizona State commit) was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run; Andrew Swift (Arizona State) was 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs, and Scott Mehan finished 3-for-3 with two runs. Those four prospects all hit in the top-six of the T-Rex lineup.

2017 right-hander Boyd Vander Kooi worked five, three-hit, shutout innings with six strikeouts and two walks to pick up the win; 2017 righty Matt Schroer (Louisiana State) needed only 15 pitches in a 1-2-3 sixth inning to finish things off.

“Usually, before the game starts, I’ll talk to my catcher (Donovan McMullen), and we get a game-plan going,” Vander Kooi said. “Our game-plan today was to just attack (with fastballs) those first couple of innings and if necessary then start mixing it up. I think we did a pretty good job of that today.”

There wasn’t much to cheer about in the CBA Marucci dugout, other than the fact its prospects had played lights-out the entire tournament while earning the four-team playoffs’ No. 1 seed. Tyler Hardman (Oklahoma) had two of CBA’s three singles and Perfect Game All-American Tyler Freeman (Texas Christian) capped off an amazing tournament by delivering the other single.

Jacob Gonzalez, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound, 2017 primary third baseman from Scottsdale, is another TCU commit who also happens to be the son of former Arizona Diamondbacks MLB All-Star and current D-backs front office executive Luis Gonzalez; Rex Gonzalez is Jacob’s uncle.

The younger Gonzalez, the No. 52-ranked national prospect in his class who will be playing at next month’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego alongside Freeman, enjoyed a phenomenal tournament. He finished 12-for-24 (.500) with two doubles, a triple, a home run, eight RBI, eight runs and a 1.312 OPS to lead T-Rex in just about every offensive category. He was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

While Gonzalez led the team with 12 hits and five extra-base hits, Swift, Holmes and Mehan each had 11 hits, and combined for six extra-base hits. All four were instrumental in helping T-Rex beat both the No. 2-seeded EvoShield Canes and No. 1 CBA Marucci by a combined score of 13-2 on Monday.

“We always have a little bit of confidence whenever we go out on the field because we’ve played together for so long and we know what everyone is capable of,” Jacob Gonzalez aid. “We had confidence coming into today that we could beat anybody that lines up on the other side of the field.”

Vander Kooi, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound Oregon recruit from right here in Mesa, pitched earlier in the tournament but wasn’t quite as effective as he was Monday, giving up two earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

But those numbers, combined with his strong championship game outing, left him with tournament totals of 10 innings pitched, two earned runs (1.40 ERA) on 10 hits with 11 strikeouts and four walks. He was named the Most Valuable Pitcher only two months after being named the Most Valuable Player at the 18u PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic, where T-Rex Baseball also won the championship.

“Basically, we don’ try to do too much when we’re out there; we just try to go and play our own game and let it happen,” Vander Kooi said of the team’s success.

Freeman and elite right-hander Jeremiah Estrada were the only two PG All-Americans with CBA at this event – Nick Allen usually plays with the team but was unavailable – and both were outstanding. Freeman, the TCU commit from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., finished 9-for-20 (.450) with three doubles, two triples, seven RBI and three runs. Estrada, a UCLA commit from La Quinta, Calif., made one appearance on Saturday and worked five, three-hit, shutout innings, striking out 11 and walking three.

In the two semifinal games played on backfields at the Cubs Baseball Riverview complex Monday morning, T-Rex Baseball held on to get past the No. 2 EvoShield Canes (5-1-0) out of Virginia, 5-2, and CBA Marucci downed the No. 4 CCB Elite (4-2-0) from Northern California, 4-1.

2017 right-hander Jonathan Stroman allowed one earned run on two hits with five strikeouts and four walks to help CBA to its win; 2017 righty Raul Salazar worked the seventh, striking out one and walking one. Donta Williams (Arizona) tripled and scored a run and Hardman drove in a run with one of his two singles to lead CBA’s eight-hit attack. Dylan McPhillips and Drew Williams (UC Santa Barbara) both singled for the Elite.

The T-Rexers scored five runs on 13 hits against a trio of Canes’ pitchers and 2016 left-hander and Western Oregon signee Connor McCord threw a complete game six-hitter – he took a shutout into the seventh inning – in their win.

Jacob Gonzalez hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the first to get T-Rex quickly out of the box. Holmes doubled, singled, drove in a run and scored one; Mehan had three singles and scored twice; Gianni Tomasi singled twice and drove in a run, and Vander Kooi and Swift both singled twice. The Canes didn’t get to McCord until the bottom of the seventh when Mikey Polansky (Virginia Tech) smacked a two-run home run with nobody out.

As previously noted, T-Rex started out the summer by winning the championship at the 18u PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic which seemed to set the tone for the next two months. The 17u PG World Series put a cap on the summer season, but we haven’t seen the last of this T-Rex Baseball team.

It will play at the PG/EvoShield Upper-class National Championship in September and then set sail for Jupiter, Fla., and the program’s first appearance at the PG WWBA World Championship in late October.

“Everyone here plays unselfish baseball, and you can really tell that by the demeanor of our players,” Rex Gonzalez said. “Now we’ll just start focusing on the fall and get the kids ready for their high school seasons (in the spring of 2017). After that, hopefully some of these guys will get a chance to play some college baseball and/or some of these guys might get the call in June (MLB Amateur Draft).”

2016 17u Perfect Game World Series runner-up: CBA Marucci

2016 17u Perfect Game World Series MVP: Jacob Gonzalez

2016 17u Perfect Game World Series MV-Pitcher: Boyd Vander Kooi

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