Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, July 12, 2018

GBG flies into Sweet 16

Nate Schweers        
Photo: Connor Skertich (Perfect Game)

EMERSON, Ga. – GBG Marucci 2020 advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 16u WWBA National Championship on Thursday with a 4-1 win over the Georgia Bombers 16u. With the victory, GBG improves to 7-0-1 in the tournament.

In what was one of the best playoff performances you will see, GBG starter Connor Skertich tossed a complete game on Thursday. Skertich struck out four Bombers and allowed just three hits and one walk. Skertich is not an overpowering lefty, but his ability to make big pitches for strikes was very impressive.

“My changeup looked the best today and I could throw it any count,” said Skertich. “It is probably my best pitch overall since I began throwing, and it’s my go-to pitch for sure.”

Skertich was able to throw just 93 pitches in his seven innings of work, and after allowing the one run in the second inning he was able to come back and fire five consecutive scoreless. GBG head coach Mike Garciaparra had only positive things to say about the toughness of his starter.

“Connor isn’t a flamethrower by any means, but the kid throws strikes and he’s super confidence in what he’s doing out there,” said Garciaparra. “We put our best defense behind me because we know they’re always ready to play behind him.”

GBG Marucci got on the board early on Thursday, plating the first run of the game on just their second at-bat of the game. After Daylen Reyes was hit by a pitch, Devan Ornelas drove a pitch down in the corner in left for a run scoring triple. Two batters later, Eli Paton hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Reyes, giving GBG the early 2-0 lead.

Paton’s sacrifice fly was not his only influence on the game Thursday. Paton finished the game 1-for-3 with three RBI and a long solo home run over the wall in right field.

“I saw the pitcher was in the upper-80s, so I knew I had to load up early and try to explode on a ball,” said Paton, who thinks he and the other bats in the lineup need to stay hot to win the tournament. “Our pitchers are great and our defense is great, so if we just out-hit the other team we will be here tomorrow.”

Paton, who is a native of La Canada, California, is ranked as the 33rd-best player in the state of California’s 2020 class. The primary third baseman is also committed to playing his college baseball at UCLA.

“My family has gone to UCLA. My uncle and grandpa played football there, and I absolutely love the coaches and the staff there. I also have a guy on my team Daylen Reyes who is also committed there, so I am really excited for that.”

Players like Paton and Reyes are common in this always successful GBG program. Coach Garciaparra believes these kids are some of the best in the country, and he is always excited about bringing them to the WWBA tournaments.

“We are blessed with a lot of really good players and really good families,” said Garciaparra. “As far as developing these kids, some of these guys are committed and a lot of these guys will be in the next couple months. Our job is to help them develop against the best players. That is why we come to these Perfect Game events because that is what they’re going to get at the next level.”

Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) has been around since Mike and his father Ramon started the program in Southern California. Since 2012, GBG has won eight national titles in different age groups. One notable alum is J.P. Crawford who is a standout shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies.

When speaking of the success of this group, coach Garciaparra couldn't be more excited for this group to be on the great run they are on.

“Luckily these kids have all known each other for two years now, and this has been really fun to see.”

Scouting the Next Opponent

GBG Marucci 2020 will play either Team GA Baseball Gold/MBA 16u or Hitters Baseball in the next round. Hitters Baseball enters the round of 32 after a big win late Wednesday night, and Team GA is the No. 1 seed in the bracket after allowing just five runs in their seven pool play games.

Hitters Baseball is lead by Louisville commit AJ Vukovich, and Team GA has Mississippi State commit El Rico Riley. Riley has hit .444 during this week’s tournament.

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