Tournaments | Story | 7/15/2018

Squad 'walks' off at 17u BCS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Elite Squad 17u American (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that the Perfect Game 17u BCS National Championship title game between two of Florida’s – and the country’s – most highly respected travel ball programs would be a high-energy affair accented with great overall play throughout. What did come as a surprise was the way it ended.

The Elite Squad 17u American took advantage of a two-out, bases-loaded walk-off walk in the bottom of the eighth inning, and escaped the Florida Burn 2019 Platinum, 4-3, at the championship game played Sunday morning at jetBlue Park.

The No. 6-seeded Squad 17u Americans capped an impressive 9-0-1 run to the PG national championship, topping the No. 9 Burn 2019 Platinum (9-2-0) in a contest that wasn’t decided until the last pitch was called a ball.

"It was as dog-fight all the way,” the Elite Squad’s Stephen Schissler told PG during postgame comments. “It was a pitchers’ duel for the whole game, and when they went ahead in the top of the seventh, we didn’t give up; we just kept fighting.”

This was a catch-me-if-you-can type of game from the beginning, with the Squad scoring a single run in the bottom of the second and the Burn answering with one of their own in the top of the third. The Burn took a 3-1 lead by plating two in the top of the seventh, only to see the Squad answer with two runs in the bottom half. JM Fay delivered a two-out, two-run single for the Squad that sent the game into an extra frame.

Schissler reached on an error with one out in the bottom of the eighth and soon found himself standing on third base, but with two outs. Zachary Neto and Xavier Moronto both ended up being intentionally walked to load the bases before Daniel Labrador was walked to force-in Schissler with the winning run.

Neto tripled, doubled and scored a run, Moronto had a pair of singles and a run scored and Labradore doubled and scored a run – in addition to his game-winning RBI – to pace the Squad at the plate.

2019 right-hander Knickolas Billings got the start for the Squad and allowed one run on five hits in three innings. Neto, also a ’19 righty, pitched the last five innings, giving up two runs on three hits with six strikeouts and picked up the win.

Florida Burn starter Nolan Hudi, a 2019 lefty and a Texas Christian commit, was very good over his first six innings of work before being touched for a pair of runs in the seventh; he finished with a line of seven innings pitched, three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts. Kevin Conway singled twice and scored a run and Denzell Drumright singled and drove in a pair for the Burn.

The Elite Squad 17u American’s pitchers performed brilliantly all week, posting five shutouts in the 10 games.

"We’re always working hard to get better,” Schissler said of the staff. “We don’t have the guys that will light up the radar gun but we always spot-up, we hit the zone, we make them (put the ball in play) and we just execute our pitches to the best of our ability.”

Schissler, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound, top-500 right-hander from Pembroke Pines, Fla., made three appearances on the mound over the past week, and allowed just one earned run on four hits while striking out six and walking one in 8 1/3 innings (0.80 ERA). And oh, by the way, he was also 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles, a triple and five RBI at the plate.

His best outing on the mound came on Saturday when he threw a three-hit, six-strikeout, complete-game shutout at the 5 Star Nationals Weaver 17u in a 4-0 semifinal round victory. That performance figured in prominently when he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher

“It was a grind the whole week,” Schissler said. “We knew we had to make it out of the first pool, first and foremost, and then in the second pool we knew we were going to have a good chance to make a run at the playoffs. Once we were in the playoffs, we were just going to keep fighting until we made it to the championship.”

The Burn’s Conway, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound 2019 third baseman/catcher/right-hander and Florida Gulf Coast commit out of Port Charlotte, Fla., was a hit-machine all week. He finished 18-for-31 (.581) with two doubles, 16 singles, nine RBI and a nifty on-base percentage of .618; he was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

This is the ninth year Elite Squad 17u American head coach Onel Garcia has been with Richie Palmer’s Elite Squad Baseball organization and he’s had a front-row seat as the program has emerged into one of the best and most respected in the country. Winning PG national championships is just all part of the deal.

“I’m very proud to wear the Elite Squad uniform. We talk to the boys a lot about that; they just love playing for Elite Squad,” he told PG. “This American squad has done great, and it basically shows how deep the organization is when (this team) can be doing so well.”

2018 17u BCS National Championship runner-up: Florida Burn 2019 Platinum

2018 17u BCS National Championship MVP: Kevin Conway

2018 17u BCS National Championship MV-Pitcher: Stephen Schissler

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