Tournaments | Story | 7/20/2017

Riggio leading GBG in WWBA

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Day two of the playoff started Thursday morning, and GBG Marucci 2020 continued their torrid start in the 15u WWBA, winning their first two playoff games and moving on to the quarterfinals. Garcia Baseball Group coach and former Major League shortstop Jack Wilson expressed coming into the day that his team needed to treat each game the same.

“This morning’s the championship game, that’s the way you have to look at it,” Wilson said. “You go all out trying to win this morning game and then see how it goes, can’t be thinking to the next team or the next possibility or the next game, it doesn’t matter unless you win this one, so this morning is championship game No. 1. Hopefully we can get it done and move on to the next one.”

The first matchup of the day for the Los Angeles, Calif.,-based team was against the SBA Canes Marucci Simmons, who had to win on Wednesday night just to play on Thursday. The Canes jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, scoring on a wild pitch to put the pressure on GBG. Nothing fazed GBG, as they scored two runs of their own in the second inning on a sac fly by Diego Baquiero and an RBI single by Tyler Stromsborg to take the lead.

Three more would cross the plate for the team in the bottom of the third, with Roc Riggio getting the scoring started with an RBI double to left field. A passed ball would score Devan Ornelas, followed by a sac fly by Lucas Gordon to put GBG up 5-1.

That would be more than enough run support for Connor Skertich on the mound, firing six innings, giving up six hits and one run, striking out six. Jack Costello would throw a scoreless seventh to send GBG to the next round.

They would face the Scorpions 2020 Prime in the round of 16, and although they were down early again, with the Scorpions scoring a run in the second and third innings. A sac fly by Gordon in the bottom of the fourth put GBG on the board, cutting the Scorpions lead in half. They would continue to show resiliency, scoring in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game 2-2.

Brandon Madrigal shut down the Scorpions for the rest of the game, giving his team a chance to win it in the bottom half. The first two runners would reach on a single and an error. After two straight outs, that brought up Stromsborg with runners on first and second. GBG’s extra-hitter would hit an RBI double to walk his team off, sending them to the quarterfinals.

GBG came in as one of the hottest teams in the tournament, going 7-0 in their pool and collecting the No. 5 seed spot in the playoffs. Both the pitching and the hitting turned in stellar performances in pool play. On the pitching side, only eight runs were scored against them, with all three of games that they were scored upon being blowouts. The staff combined for 49 strikeouts over 42 1/3 innings, but even with those high strikeout totals, Wilson said that the team is focused on letting their defense play, rather than on strikeouts.

“We stress strike one and we stress throwing strikes, don’t give them any free passes,” Wilson said. “Our defense is a really good defense out here, so any time you’ve got a defense like ours, you don’t have to strike all the guys out. Get us a groundball with a man on first, don’t give them any free passes, let them earn what they get, so that’s really the philosophy on our pitching, and they’re been doing a really great job.”

Offensively, the team scored 67 runs in pool play, including two back-to-back 18-run performances. The team seemed to be destined for a slow start after starting their first game of the tournament at 12 a.m., but Wilson said that his guys did a nice job of keeping it simple even though they could have been easily overwhelmed by their circumstances early on.

“The first game we played at midnight, it was our first day in, we had been here a long time since our game was supposed to start at 7:15 p.m., so that kind of day and usually in that first game of a tournament usually is pretty slow as it is, but we just told them you know, just have an approach, go up there, not try to do too much,” Wilson said. “A lot of these kids are playing for a lot of scouts for the first time, so they kind of put some pressure on themselves, and so it was our job as coaches to relieve that pressure a little bit and give them that ease of mind not trying to do too much, and so what you’re seeing over the last couple games with them playing more free, more just fun baseball rather than them worrying about what other people are thinking behind them.”

Roc Riggio has been a key cog in the lineup for GBG so far, benefitting from that relaxed approach, having gone 7-for-17 with two doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. The UCLA commit added an RBI double in their first game of the playoffs and another RBI on a sac-fly in game two.

“Normally I just stick to my approach. My approach, I have a really complicated approach, but I just go up there, do my thing and see the ball, hit the ball,” Riggio said. “My teammates are awesome. They’re part of the key to my success. They’re always picking me up, picking each other up, so it’s great. They always got our back, so [we] just play for each other.”

GBG will take on the winner of the Banditos Scout Team and SBA Marucci in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. on field 12 at LakePoint. Both teams have been solid in the tournament so far, but even with the tough task ahead, they are looking to continue what they have set out to do since the beginning.

“It would be awesome, because GBG, not just our team, but all the other teams, we’re a family, so it’s like a win for each other, not just a win for ourselves,” Riggio said. “So, it’s real big for not just our group, but for our whole organization to get a win for our family.”

The Playoff Landscape

Five other quarterfinal teams have been decided, with the Dirtbags 15s Daly, Midwest Elite 15u, Roadrunners Baseball, Team Elite 15u Prime and the Evoshield Bombers Texas winning their round of 16 games.

The No. 3-seeded Dirtbags 15s Daly came into the day 7-0, posting similar numbers as GBG in pool play as they outscored opponents 65-7. They notched four shutouts and would no-hit the Kings 15u in their final pool play game, albeit in a 16-0, three-inning game. That success would carry into the playoffs as they won their first game against CR Baseball 5-1. Nolan McLean continued his success at the plate in that game, hitting an RBI single to add to the offense. McLean is the tournament leader in RBIs, having 18 of them out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup, while going 12-for-25 with four doubles and two home runs in the tournament so far.

“Think middle, backside,” McLean said. “I’ve been facing a lot more faster pitching in this tournament, so I’ve been used to more velocity, so I’ve been trying to think middle, backside.”

A pitcher’s duel would emerge against the San Diego Show in the round of 16, as Koen Moreno of the Dirtbags and Griffin Zamora of the Show matched each other pitch for pitch. The Dirtbags managed to push across a run in the bottom of the first via a sac-fly by McLean, and that would be the only run that would score in the game. Moreno would pick up the win, going six innings, giving up two hits and five strikeouts.

“All summer long we’ve dominated the strike zone, that’s the main thing,” Daly said. “If we can limit the walks, especially with a wood bat at this age, if you can limit the walks and the pitchers pound the zone, you’re going to be successful. You can’t defend walks at this thing.”

The team will play Midwest Elite 15u in the quarterfinals, and are ready for the challenge after showing tremendous poise in the first two rounds. McLean said they just need to do what has got them to this point.

“Not change anything,” McLean said. “Just keep doing what we’re doing, play hard and just keep our heads straight, not try to do too much and win one game at a time.”

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