Tournaments | Story | 7/7/2018

Two left standing at 14u BCS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: James Layman (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – After five days of pool-play and early round playoff games, four teams gathered at Terry Park Saturday morning on day-six to determine which two would meet in the championship game of the Perfect Game 14u BCS National Championship on Sunday. No one wanted to go home a day early and no one ducked sheepishly out the door.

And by the time the parking lot was starting to empty it had been determined that Five Star-14u King (8-0-0) out of Jacksonville, Fla., and the East Cobb Astros 14u (9-0-0) out of Kennesaw, Ga., would be the teams that would duke-it out in Sunday’s championship contest, set for a 9 a.m. start at jetBlue Park.

No. 2-seeded 5 Star earned entry into the title tilt by getting past the No. 11 upstart NBA Nationals, 9-4, in one of the semifinals played at Terry; No. 5 East Cobb rolled past No. 1 Team Elite 14u, 7-1, in the other semi.

The Nationals (5-3-1) jumped on Five Star-14u King with three runs in the top of the first, but the Stars came right back to score four in the bottom half of the frame and two more in the bottom of the seventh to take a 6-3 lead. NBA, based in Norfolk, Va., got within 6-4 with a run in the third but Five Star out three across in the bottom of the sixth to salt the win.

“Once you reach the final-four, you’re always going to expect a dogfight out of every single team; it’s crazy,” Five Star-14u King top 2022 James Layman told PG in postgame comments.

Layman singled three times, walked, drove in two runs and scored three to lead 5 Star’s eight-hit attack. Nick Wrubluski was credited with four RBI in the official box score without the benefit of a hit or a walk, with two of those coming on one sacrifice fly, one on a fielder’s choice groundout and another when he reached base on an error; Evan Rodriguez doubled and drove in a run.

2022 right-hander Hunter Russell scattered seven hits over six innings of work, gave up three earned runs and struck-out five to pick up the win. Brandon Artis singled twice and drove in two runs and Matthew Phillips singled twice and had one RBI to lead the Nationals.

The NBA Nationals were the surprise team of the tournament. They opened pool-play on July 2 with a 13-0 loss to the NW Futures and settled for a 7-7 tie with the Elite Squad 14u Palm Beach in their second game. They finished the first set of pool games with a 1-1-1 record and the second set at 2-1-0, just getting into the 12-team playoffs as the No. 11 seed.

But they beat No. 6 Elite Squad 14u American, 10-2, in the playoffs’ first round and then turned the tables on the No. 3 NW Futures, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.

“I’ve got 10 of these guys I’m driving around in a van with me and we’ve done a lot of bonding,” NBA Nationals head coach Brandon Hairston told PG Saturday morning. “After we lost that first game and then we tied, we back to the hotel and we talked about some things.”

What makes their story even more interesting is that the Nationals – who last week went 2-5-0 at the PG 14u WWBA National Championship up in the Atlanta area – are registered with the Perfect Game Baseball Association as a 13u team.

The East Cobb Astros 14u held a 5-0 lead over Team Elite 14u before the Elite 14u came to bat in the bottom of the fourth, and two more runs in the top of the seventh made it 7-0; Team Elite scored its only run in the bottom of the seventh.

2021 right-hander Trey Sanders gave the Astros 14u their second straight outstanding start, allowing just the one earned run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings; he struck-out four and walked two. Benjamin Hamacher singled twice, drove in two runs and scored another, and Caleb Nix singled twice to lead the Astros 14u at the plate.

“We got great pitching from our starter, Trey Sanders, and we played good defense behind him,” Hamacher said postgame. “And our bats are always there.”

Team Elite 14u (7-1-0) earned the playoffs’ No. 1 seed by combining to outscore its six pool opponents, 54-8.

And, so, the championship game pairing at the PG 14u BCS National Championship is set, and players from both teams are looking forward to settling this thing once and for all on the field.

“We need to throw strikes and play defense behind our pitching and that’s it; I’m sure our bats will come around,” the Astros 14u’s Hamacher said.

“All the hard work we put into this, all the practices, all the blood, sweat and tears we put into this game, it’s just amazing to feel what we’ve accomplished to get here,” 5 Star-14u King’s Layman added. “We just have to keep playing our game. Five Star Baseball, that’s what we represent and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

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