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Tournaments  | Story  | 7/10/2018

Super25 Nat'l champs crowned

Bryan Cooney     
Photo: Steelsharks Baseball (Perfect Game)

SANFORD, Fla. – At the Boombah Sports Complex in Sanford, Fla, on Tuesday the Steelsharks Baseball organization based out of Lehigh Valley, Pa. and the Motor City Hit Dogs from Rochester Hills, Michigan outlasted all challengers to take home the titles of the 15u and 13u Super25 National Championships. Each club did the necessary things that usually win games; pitchers working deep into games, moments of brilliance defensively and lineups that churn together at-bats that wear down the opposition.

For the Steelsharks, their path to the title culminated with a final obstacle that they had already faced once before in pool play action earlier in the week as they looked for redemption against the Mountainwest Marshalls, the only team to have been able to fight off the Steelsharks during the week with a 2-1 win on Sunday.

Despite both teams having offenses that could put runs on the board in a hurry, it was evident from the start that the matchup on the mound would ultimately factor in the most with the question being, who could keep each other’s lineup at bay the longest before one would blink. For the Marshalls, Raidyn Steele (2020, Nephi, Utah) got the nod and his counterpart was Jack Rothenhausler (2021, Bethlehem, Pa.). In the first inning each righthander had to deal with one of the few times that either would have to navigate traffic on the basepaths.

With two outs in the inning, Wyatt Marshall (2021, Bethlehem, Pa.), who had reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second base and moved over to third as Rotherhausler legged out an infield hit. Eric Ludwick (2021, Bethlehem, Pa.) followed with a groundball that found its way into right field to score Marshall and put the Steelsharks ahead 1-0.

In the home half of the first, Rotherhausler issued back-to-back one-out walks and clipped a batter with a pitch to load the bases. He was able to coax a ground ball to the right man as Brayden D’Amico (2021, Bethlehem, Pa.) fielded the ball from his shortstop position by the bag at second and threw to first in time to keep the Steelsharks in front.

D’Amico displayed his fielding prowess again in the third as he charged a high chopper and fielded with his bare hand before firing a strike to first to negate a potential baserunner. It would not be the only defensive highlight turned in by a Steelshark defender as in the sixth inning, Rotherhausler had not allowed a hit and with one out, center fielder Matthew Klipple (2020, Bethlehem, Pa.) laid out to snag a line drive that could have gone for extra bases if it had eluded him, keeping the no-hit bid intact.

For the Marshalls, Steele was equally stingy on the mound as he piled up zeroes on the scoreboard to keep his team within striking distance going into the seventh. However, on this day Rotherhausler was not to be denied as he would collect a fly out to right, a strikeout and completed his no-hitter on another fly ball to right field to finish off a tremendous effort on the hill and culminate a victory for the Steelsharks that most did not anticipate heading into the week.

“I think a lot of people underestimated them but as the week went on, I had a lot of coaches asking me, ‘Who are you guys’?” Steelsharks head coach Charlie Raineri said. “They hadn’t heard of us and it was nice that the kids proved themselves to come away with the title.”

Raineri was adamant that the rematch with the Marshalls was a possibility after their defeat in pool play, but knew that going through the playoff bracket would be a challenge in itself for his team to find a second chance at finding themselves on the right side of the scoreboard.

“They are a great team and we knew after we played them the first time that there was a good chance that we could see them today,” Raineri said. “We were fortunate to have our No. 1 pitcher in Jack go today, and our kids battled and didn’t give up. We couldn’t get Jack any insurance runs, but he was able to keep them at bay and to throw a no-hitter in the championship game is pretty good stuff. Our M.O. has always been to play defense, throw strikes and if we can do that, we think we can win any game.”

Throughout the week, the Steelshark offense was spearheaded by the MV-Player of the tournament, Sam Raineri (2021, Bethlehem, Pa.), as he collected hits in all seven games and finished the tournament with a .579 average with 11 hits in 19 at-bats. He was not the lone Steelshark to post a strong week at the plate as Ludwick finished with a .364 average (8-for-22) and a team-leading nine RBI.

For the Marshalls, Cameron Day (2021, Layton, Utah) was chosen as the MV-Pitcher for the tournament after his sensational performance Monday in a semifinal victory against Dig In Baseball in which he struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings and surrendered just one hit. He finished the week with 10 scoreless innings and 13 strikeouts over three appearances. Offensively, Tyler Nelson (2021, Salem, Utah) led the Marshalls with a .389 average (7-for-18) and drove in four runs. 

2018 15u PG Super25 National Champions: Steelsharks Baseball

2018 15u PG Super25 National Championship runner-up: MountainWest Marshalls

2018 15u PG Super25 National Championship MVP: Sam Raineri

On the 13u side, the championship game had yet to be decided with two semifinal morning games to be conducted before the last two teams standing duked it out for the title. In the end, FTB Resmondo was a 6-2 winner over the Bell Ringers and the Hit Dogs broke out the bats in a big way with a convincing 13-0 win over Mid Atlantic Show, setting the stage for what amounted to be a highly competitive championship game.

With each team entering the playoff rounds as the top-scoring team in their respective pool, both teams put up a crooked number right out of the gates in the first inning. FTB picked up a leadoff double from Rafael Betancourt, Jr. (2022, Deltona, Fla.), and he would eventually come around to score on a fielder’s choice. With two men aboard, Jayce Blalock (2022, Grantville, Ga.) lined a triple into the right-center field gap to bring across two more runs to make it a 3-0 FTB advantage.

They threatened for even more in the frame as they had the bases loaded, but Hit Dogs starter Tyler Goddard (2023, Ball Ground, Ga.) prevented further damage by getting a groundout to short and bring his team to the plate.

The Hit Dogs were able to generate a rally for free as a walk and hit batter brought Luke Lisko (2022, Marine City, Mich.) to the plate with two outs. Lisko grounded a slow chopper to second and his speed forced a throw in the dirt that was not dug out at first, and the ball went to the fence and allowed both runners to race home to cut the gap to 3-2 for the Hit Dogs.

FTB answered with a run in the second as their pitcher Anthony Schatz (2023, Winter Haven, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk and scored on a two-out Hit Dog error to make it a 4-2 FTB advantage.

The Hit Dogs would have a response in the home half of the inning as Blake Grimmer (2023, Spring Lake, Mich.) drove a fly ball deep enough to center to score Parker Brzustewicz (2023, Rochester Hills, Mich.) from third to make it a one-run game again.

From there, each starter settled into a rhythm on the mound as Schatz and Goddard matched each other with zeroes over the next three innings. After Goddard worked a scoreless sixth, his teammates generated a rally against Schatz without the help of a hit.

Ryan Mooney (2023, Rochester Hills, Mich.) worked a leadoff walk and Brzustewicz was grazed by a pitch, bringing up pinch hitter Ryan McKay.

McKay (2023, Clarkston, Mich.) laid down a perfectly placed bunt down right inside the third base line, and the throw to first was down the right field line, allowing Mooney to score and tie the game at four-all.

With the top of the Hit Dog order due, Tyler Stepek (2022, Commerce, Mich.) attempted a suicide squeeze to try and put his team ahead, but the pitch he tried to offer at went high over the FTB catcher and Brzustewicz raced home from third to give the Hit Dogs a 5-4 lead.

After Stepek lined out sharply to third, Nolan Schubart (2022, Durand, Mich.) drove a fly ball to left that was deep enough to bring home an insurance run and send the game to the seventh with the Hit Dogs ahead 6-4.

Goddard picked up a strikeout to start the seventh on his final batter of the game, and Lisko was tasked to get the final two outs for the Hit Dogs. After allowing a two-out double, Lisko was able to retire the possible tying run at the plate with a fly ball to center, putting the bow on a championship game that saw neither side willing to give in.

“For us to come back and fight back and win the game was awesome,” Hit Dogs head coach Joe Mooney said. “Tyler did an awesome job of keeping us in the game, my hat’s off to him and we did what we had to do in the last inning to manufacture runs with some small ball.”

With the organization based out of Michigan, Mooney’s team had put in a lot of work offensively with the ability to use their indoor facilities heading into the tournament. With an offense that averaged over 10 runs a game in their week that saw them go 6-0-1, they showed that they could slug with the best of the best and needed to do so in a field deep with talented lineups.

“They’re a very confident group of hitters, I don’t think that there was any pitcher we faced that either throws too hard or has a nice breaking ball,” Mooney said. “We usually can get on pitchers and the guy for FTB today was mixing it up pretty good but I always felt confident in this group that they’d find a way. This team didn’t play its best at the start of the week, but we stayed in every game and got better as the week went on.”

Offensively, Schubart was a terror for opposing pitchers all week as he batted .478 (11-for-23) with four doubles, a triple and two home runs and finished with 13 runs batted in and was named the MV-Player of the tournament.

His teammate Sebastian Jaimes (2023, Lincoln Park, Mich.) matched him with 11 hits and sported a .500 average with 10 RBI while handling the pitching staff behind the plate all tournament long for the Hit Dogs.

FTB’s Joel Enriquez (2023, Pembroke Pines, Fla.) tossed 6 1/3 innings in their morning semifinal victory with five strikeouts and finished the week with a 1.60 ERA in three appearances and was selected as the MV-Pitcher of the tournament. Enriquez also batted .643 (9-for-14) with seven RBI offensively as he was surrounded by many of his teammates who had great tournaments at the plate.

Betancourt, Jr. and Manuel Beltre (2022, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) each had 10 hits and batted over .400 and Blalock finished with two home runs and 10 RBI for the week for FTB.

2018 13u PG Super25 National Champions: Motor City Hitdogs 13u

2018 13u PG Super25 National Championship runner-up: FTB Resmondo

2018 13u PG Super25 National Championship MVP: Nolan Schubart

2018 13u PG Super25 National Championship MV-Pitcher: Joel Enriquez