For all Red Flag Tournaments all entry gates and merchandise kiosks are now cashless. All purchases can be made by Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover. Thank you.
Tournaments | Story | 7/5/2018

TE 14u looking elite again at BCS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: J. Henry Hobson (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Simply stated, Team Elite 14u is an elite 14u team that came into this week’s Perfect Game 14u BCS National Championship with a bit of an ax to grind and a sense that it had something to prove. It wasn’t so much unfinished business because to the players’ and coaches’ way of thinking, they never really got their business started.

This all goes back to last week when the Elite 14u’s were one of five teams from the Winder, Ga.-based Team Elite organization competing at the PG 14u WWBA National Championship in the north-Atlanta suburbs.

The Elite 14u’s finished 4-3-0 at the mega-tournament and failed to reach the playoffs, which by Team Elite standards isn’t quite up to par. It was a bit of a grind up there in north Georgia, where inclement weather forced teams to deal with delays and postponements and make adjustments to their schedules on the fly.

TE 14u head coach Mike Gearhart felt like his team got a little out of sync on its way to that 4-3-0 pool-play record that wasn’t good enough to advance to the playoffs, but the Elite 14u’s did win its final game up in Georgia by a 13-1 count back on June 27.

Five days later on July 2 they stormed past Team Beast Black, 10-1, in their 14u BCS National Championship opener, and then they were off to the races the rest of the week; they won their first five pool-play games here this week by a combined count of 46-4.

“Towards the end of the WWBA I thought we started to figure some things out and jell a little bit, and brought some intensity down here with the team, and with that some momentum,” Gearhart told PG Thursday morning, speaking from the jetBlue Player Development Complex. “We refocused and now we’re playing at the level we should be playing at.”

Teams from the Team Elite program have a history of performing well at the 14u BCS National Championship with Team Elite 14u Nation winning the championship here last year, two years after Team Elite Prime 14u finished as runner-up in 2015. The total dominance TE 14u exhibited over the first four days of this week’s event seemed to have everyone associated with the program saying, “That’s more like it.”

“I definitely feel like after the rough week we had (at the 14u WWBA) we’ve kind of meshed together, came together and really starting playing together as a team,” 2022 outfielder/infielder/left-hander Devan Kodali (New York, NY) told PG on Thursday. “We’ve been working together and we established our goals.”

One of the challenges the coaching staff has faced with this group this summer is that it’s newly assembled team with players that haven’t really played together for very long. They come from all over the country – the states of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are represented on the roster – and the last two weeks were the first time they’ve had everyone accounted for.

The high level at which Team Elite 14u has played this week certainly seems to indicate that team chemistry is no longer an issue. And the team is bound to become an even closer unit if it can charge to the championship here this week before heading back to Georgia to play in the PG 15u WWBA National Championship July 13-20 and the 14u PG World Series July 20-26.

“I would say it’s one of the most important things a baseball team can have,” Kodali said of team chemistry. “When you’re down and things are not going your way, one thing like that can change it all; if your team is working well together, that can change the game for you.”

2022s Tyler Wave (Panama City, Fla.), Brent Baughcum (Snellville, Ga.), James Thorpe (Newnan, Ga.), Chandler Klein (Hoschton, Ga.) and Jaden Anderson (Duluth, Ga.) have been swinging hot bats for TE 14u throughout pool-play.

2021 right-hander J. Henry Hobson (Fort Myers, Fla.) made two starts for Team Elite this week and won both games, giving up only two earned runs on seven hits in 11 innings (1.30 ERA); he struck-out eight didn’t walk a batter. He threw a real gem in TE 14u’s 7-1 win over the NBA Nationals Thursday morning, allowing one earned run on four hits with six strikeouts in a complete-game effort.

Team Elite 14u is one of five teams the organization has competing at the PG 14u BCS National Championship; TE 14u American, 14u Futures, 14u Premier and 14u Prospects are the others. The teams combined for a 10-5-0 record in the first three-game set of pool games (TE 14u and 14u Futures were both 3-0-0; 14u American went 0-3-0).

With the sterling reputation the Brad Bouras-led organization has now achieved, it is not difficult for the program to attract many of the best young prospects from across the country, which means many teams at all age groups.

The teams are formed based on tryouts and a certain amount of recruiting so that the organizations directors can find not only top-end players but also top-end character kids. Once the tryouts are completed, the staff takes the players through a testing and evaluation process, and rosters are constructed bases on those tests and evaluations.

“There is a lot of discussion about pride, playing for Team Elite and what type of person it takes to play for Team Elite,” Gearhart said. “It has as much to do with the character of the player – how hard they’re going to work and how hard they’re going to compete.

“There’s a history here now,” he added. “We’ve had successes and the expectations for this team are high because in the past we’ve been successful at this (age) level.”

Several hundreds of players who went through the Team Elite program went on to play high-level college baseball and several dozens more were MLB draft picks right out of high school.

During last month’s 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft eight former Team Elite prospects from the class of 2018 were selected including Ethan Hankins (1st Rnd comp), Will Banfield (2nd Rnd), Parker Meadows (2nd Rnd) and Ryder Green (3rd Rnd).

“All the guys that came before us, they set the goals (high) and we’re trying to achieve or do even better with our goals,” 2022 middle-infielder Hayden Murphy (Chula, Ga.) told before commenting on how it feels to slip on the Team Elite jersey. “It means everything; it’s a one team-one fight kind of thing; it’s the best organization in the country.”

Gearhart explained that he and the other coaches of the Team Elite 14u teams that are here are doing a “tremendous” amount of teaching; that’s their focus. But they also want to win PG national championships; that’s just part of the deal.

“We expect to win it,” he said without the slightest hint of hesitation. “Every tournament we go into, we expect to win every game.”

But he also said he wants the game of baseball to be fun for these teenagers, so when they leave here in a couple of days and ask themselves, “Did I have a good time?” the answer will be a resounding “Yes!” But there’s one more thing to address.

“Did they leave everything on the field? If we left everything on the field and that team beat us, then I’m good with that,” Gearhart said. “If we walk away and we didn’t leave it on the field and we didn’t do what we needed to do, then we have to be unsatisfied and work harder to get to that level going forward.”

Kodali, the New Yorker, is playing his first summer with Team Elite, and he said the association has been “great” and he’s especially impressed with the professionalism the organization puts forth. “I definitely think that long-term it’s only going to do great things for me because I have very high hopes for myself and for this team.”

The Team Elite 14u’s arrived in Southwest Florida and went about the task of trying to right a ship that was listing badly in the wrong direction when they left north Georgia. They got down to business and this time they will do everything in their power to finish that business.

“At WWBA, it was a learning experience,” Murphy said. “We didn’t play how we were expected to and how we knew we could play, but this week we just came in with a better mindset and we knew we just had to get the job done.”

 Give us your feedback
Copyright 1994-2019 by Perfect Game. All rights reserved. No portion of this information may be reprinted or reproduced without the written consent of Perfect Game.