Tournaments | Story | 7/14/2018

Burn, Squad set for BCS clash

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Stephen Schissler (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Perfect Game 17u BCS National Championship opened last Monday, July 9, when 100 teams from across the country arrived in Southwest Florida hoping to be fitted for PG national championship rings at jetBlue Park sometime late Sunday morning.

Over the first four days of the event, those 100 teams combined to play in 600 pool games in an attempt to earn a berth in the 26-team championship playoff bracket. On Friday and Saturday, those 26 teams combined to play 24 more games, culminating with Saturday’s two semifinal contests.

When the morning dawns on Sunday, with those 624 games involving those 100 teams already in the books, the final two teams will get together at jetBlue Park with only one last game to play. And No. 625 will shine the spotlight on two of Florida’s most prominent and most respected travel ball organizations.

The No. 6-seeded Elite Squad 17u American (8-0-1), based in Pembroke Pines, and the No. 9 Florida Burn 2019 Platinum (9-1-0) out of Sarasota will meet in the PG 17u BCS championship game; the first pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m.

The matchup was set after both teams won quarterfinal and semifinal games at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex Saturday morning.

The ES 17u Americans blanked No. 19 SWFL Nation 2019 (6-3-0), 4-0, in the quarters before beating No. 7-seed 5 Star National Weaver (8-1-1) by the same score in the semis. The Burn 2019 Platinum smacked the No. 17 Midwest Dodgers 17u (7-2-0), 12-1, in the round-of-8 and continued the onslaught with a 12-2 victory over No. 5 Diamond Elite 2019 (7-1-1) in the final-four.

“This tournament is a grind and we’ve been playing a lot, a lot of baseball,” Elite Squad 17u American head coach Onel Garcia told PG Saturday morning. “We’ve been playing great all summer and now making this run (into the championship game), it basically caps off a great tournament for this team.”

Elite Squad 17u American pitchers combined to throw five shutouts in their first nine games here this week and even the only blemish on their record was a 1-1 tie with the Scorpions 2019 Select in the team’s fourth pool-play game; they gave up only 10 runs in those nine games.

In Saturday’s semifinal shutout of 5 Star National, 2019 right-hander Stephen Schissler threw a complete-game three-hitter, striking out six without a walk. In the quarterfinal victory over SWFL Nation 2019, ’19 righty Jack Ronan threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing four hits while striking out four and walking four; Schissler, by the way, came in and needed only two pitches to record the last out in that game.

“This is a very gritty group; they come to play,” Garcia said. “They know that games are won in different types of ways, and our pitching has been phenomenal (this week). You don’t see the 90 (mph) type arms on this team but they’re strike-throwers, they execute pitches, they hold runners well, and they’re tough; you’ve got to go out there and beat them.”

5 Star National Weaver head coach Matt Weaver was pleased with the way his team played over the last six days, coming right on the heels of their participation at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship up in Georgia last week: “Coming down here, I knew it was all about … moving out of the pools,” he said. “Once you get into the championship bracket like this, it’s every team for themselves; anything can happen.”

Being seeded ninth, the Burn 2019 Platinum had to play both first- and second-round playoff games on Friday before playing the double-header on Saturday. After scoring 35 runs in their six pool-play games earlier in the week, the Burn plated 37 in those four bracket-play games.

They scored 12 runs on 12 hits in the quarterfinal win, with Parker Messick going 2-for-2 with a triple and three RBI. Kevin Conway, Kyle Machado, Denzel Drumright and Aaron Martins each had two hits – Drumright and Martins doubled – and they all drove in a run. Machado, a 2019 righty, threw a five-inning four-hitter, allowing one earned run while striking out six and walking three.

The Burn needed nine hits to score their 12 runs in the semifinal, with Joshua Rivera and Cameron Wademan each delivering two hits apiece; Rivera tripled and drove in a pair of runs. Machado, Messick and Tanner Kelly also drove in two runs apiece.

With that backdrop, will Sunday’s championship game feature another sterling pitching performance from someone on the Elite Squad’s staff or it will it be a slugfest dominated by the Burn’s hitters? It should be interesting, if nothing else.

“We’ve still got pitching and we’ve been hitting, too,” Garcia said. “We’ve just got to keep playing the way we’ve been playing and hopefully everything goes well.”

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