Tournaments | Championship | 10/2/2017

Cangelosi claims Kernels crown

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Cangelosi Sparks 2018 Black decided to waste little time in winning what would be the Cangelosi Baseball organization’s first title at the Perfect Game WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship. Why exhaust yourself over seven innings of work to complete a task that can be accomplished in a little over three?

The Lockport, Ill.-based and No. 2-seeded Cangelosi Sparks squad pushed across seven runs in the bottom of the second, added four more in the third and tallied a single run with no one out in the fourth to run-rule the No. 8 Minnesota (MN) Blizzard Blue 2018 out of Vadnais Heights, Minn., 12-0, in the championship game played Monday afternoon at Perfect Game Field-Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The victory completed a 6-0-0 title run for Cangelosi, which was in the championship game for the second time – it finished as runner-up in 2015 – and in the tournament’s final-four for the fourth time since 2007. The MN Blizzard Blue 2018 finished 5-1-1 after trying to adhere to the same script as the 2016 Blizzard team: fight back from a tie during pool-play and then go on to win the championship.

“We threw strikes, we picked up the baseball, we had some timely hitting and we ran the bases well all tournament; that’s what it was,” head coach Tyler Thompson said what he thought his team did particularly well over the past four days.

“We’ve got some underclassmen – one sophomore and three or four juniors – on this team, and they just showed up and played,” he added. “These kids just really meshed well together.”

The Kernels Championship rewards its champion with a paid invitation to the upcoming PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. Cangelosi Baseball had already received an invitation to the exclusive, blockbuster upperclass scouting event but now the organization will be able to save a little money while the players, coaches and their families enjoy everything there is to like about Jupiter.

“I went down there last year and it was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” Cangelosi Sparks top 2018 shortstop prospect Branden Comia said. “We want to go down there and do the exact same thing that we did here. We want to show everyone that Midwest ballplayers can hang with anyone; we’re just trying to prove ourselves.”

After a scoreless first inning and top of the second, a spark was produced in the Sparks’ bats and they began going to town in the bottom of the frame. Jack Peyton stroked a two-run double, Dylan Port smacked an RBI triple, Comia drove in a run with a double and Cam McDonald and Christian Knaczyk delivered RBI with a single and a sacrifice fly, respectively.

Those usual suspects were back at it in the four-run third: Post had a two-run single, Peyton a run-scoring single and Comia a sac fly. Oddly, the Sparks 2018 Black pushed across the game-ending run in the fourth on the strength of an error, a hit batsman, a walk and a wild pitch. 2019 right-hander Collin Witzke held the Blizzard Blue in check with a four-inning two-hitter.

“Honestly, it was just everyone doing their job,” Comia said. “No one was really trying to do too much – we all trusted the guys behind us – and we really just believed in ourselves. As teammates, we all had each other’s backs and that was the biggest thing.”

Comia, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill., is an Illinois commit ranked as a top-500 national prospect. He went 9-for-19 (.474) with three doubles, nine RBI and four stolen bases in six games and was named the Most Valuable Player. Not unexpectedly, he deferred to his teammates’ efforts.

“Most of these guys, we’ve played all summer together and it’s been a great experience overall,” he said. “We came in here knowing we could do some damage. We lost in the semifinals last year, so we came in here with a purpose; we just got it done.”

The Sparks 2018 Black blanked No. 3 Iowa Select Black (4-1-0) out of Cedar Rapids, 3-0, and the MN Blizzard Blue 2018 dropped the Racine, Wis.-based No. 4 Hitters Baseball (4-1-0) in the two semifinal games played earlier Monday at PG Field.

2018 left-hander Ryan Palmblad was nothing short of brilliant, delivering a complete-game, one-hit shutout with four strikeouts and two walks in the Sparks 2018 Black’s victory. Knaczyk, a 2020, singled, drove in a pair of runs and stole two bases, and 2018 Comia singled and drove in a run. Based on that outing alone, Palmblad was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.

No. 101-ranked 2019 and TCU commit Will Frisch dropped a long three-run bomb over the top of the tall wall in left field to break a 4-4 tie in the top of the sixth to lead the Blizzard Blue past Hitters. Frisch also had an inside-the-park home run in the fourth and finished 3-for-3 with five RBI and two runs scored.

Tommy Springer was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, aiding the Blizzard Blue’s eight-hit attack. The Hitters’ Nick Adams was 2-for-2 with two RBI and a run scored as part of their seven-hit effort.

The next stop for the Cangelosi Sparks 2018 Black is Jupiter on Florida’s Atlantic Coast at the end of the month where the elite field at the PG WWBA World Championship will await their arrival. They should be ready.

“We’ve been working up to his all fall long, just preparing for Jupiter; that’s our big thing. Hopefully we can continue this into the next two weekends prior to Jupiter,” Thompson said. “A lot of these guys went down there last year, and the experience is incredible. … There is not a higher profile event in the whole country than what they’re about to go down to.”

2017 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship runner-up: MN Blizzard Blue 2018

2017 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship MVP: Branden Comia

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