Tournaments | Story | 7/23/2018

NorCal front, center at 17u WS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: NorCal 2019 (Perfect Game)

PEORIA, Ariz. – What’s a baseball team to do when it finds itself already down by three runs with only the first inning in the books? The simple answer is also the most obvious one: start scoring some runs of your own.

Trailing 3-0 when it came up to bat in the top of the second, NorCal 2019 responded by putting a six-spot on the board, and eventually turned that three-run lead into a 12-4, five-inning victory over USA Prime Elite 17u Gowins in the championship game at the 17u Perfect Game World Series.

The victory capped a memorable five days of play for the venerable Pleasanton, Calif.-based NorCal Baseball organization and for this particular NorCal 2019 team, as well.

The NorCal 2019s entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed after finishing pool-play at 3-1-0 and finished 7-1-0 after their run to the championship. That run was highlighted by a 6-4, come-from-behind victory over No. 1-seeded CBA Marucci in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

“These guys showed great character, great camaraderie and great teamwork,” NorCal Baseball general manager/manager Rob Bruno said Monday. “I don’t want to slight any teams out there but I expected to win this tournament. I knew that we were talented but I also knew that we were the tightest group here. When it comes right down to it in tough situations they can always count on each other.”

NorCal 2019 scored its 12 runs on 12 hits and production came from up and down the order. Ethan Cloyd doubled, singled twice and drove in a run, Carter Benbrook doubled, singled and scored a run and Brady Hormel contributed a three-run single and scored a run; Brandon Lawrence, Jonathan Winn and Brayden Tester each doubled and recorded RBIs.

“Every time we got down we just knew that we’d bounce right back,” NorCal 2019’s Cloyd said. “There was never any doubt; we knew the entire time we were going to win this tournament.”

No. 6-seeded USA Prime Elite 17u (6-2-0) out of Carrollton, Texas, had only 11 players in uniform for the championship game but those 11 gutted-out the 110-degree heat that engulfed the Peoria Sports Complex Stadium and, at the risk of going all corny here - played with grit right until the end.

The Prime Elite 17u rapped-out eight hits with Caeden Trenkle contributing three singles and driving in a run; Ryan Stohr singled twice and had two RBI. Their official roster to start the tournament included Perfect Game All-Americans Logan Britt, William Rigney and Bryce Osmond but none of them played.

NorCal’s Cloyd, a 6-foot, 195-pound 2019 catcher from Bakersfield, Calif., a top-500 national prospect and a California-Berkeley commit, and USA Prime’s Trenkle, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound outfielder from Hillsboro, Texas, who is ranked No. 252 nationally and has committed to Oklahoma State, were named co-Most Valuable Players.

Cloyd went 10-for 24 (.417) with four doubles and four RBI and Trenkle was 13-for-22 (.591) with 12 singles, a double and four RBI.

“This is an unbelievable experience,” Cloyd said. “We play for each more than any team I’ve ever (been a part of); we’re a brotherhood. Barty (William Bartlett), he’s pretty much our unspoken captain and he’s been saying the whole time that we play for each other. (The other teams) here might have a better 25 players but nobody here is going to play like a team like us.”

NorCal’s Peter Hansen, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound 2019 left-hander out of Eldorado Hills, Calif., made two appearances at the 17u PGWS – including a very solid outing in the semifinals – and gave up two earned runs on eight hits with 13 strikeouts and four walks. A top-500 national prospect and a Texas commit, Hansen was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

Both NorCal 2019 and USA Prime Elite 17u produced top-of-the-seventh rallies to win their semifinal games Monday morning.

NorCal got key one-out singles from Eamonn Lance and Hormel as part of a three-run seventh that broke a 1-1 tie and let them slip past the No. 4 Playa Vista Orioles (5-2-0) out of Los Angeles, 4-1. Hansen threw a complete game four-hitter without allowing an earned run, striking out seven and walking two.

“Peter just threw a gem this morning and that’s what he’s going to the University of Texas; he’s special,” Bruno said.

Ryan Stohr delivered a three-run double and Hank Bard drove in a run with a double of his own, and USA Prime erased a 2-1 deficit for a 5-2 victory over the No. 2 Trosky National Team 17u (4-2-0), also based in Los Angeles. Trosky National had the bases loaded with two-outs in the bottom of the seventh but was unable to score.

While the players, coaches and family members gathered on the PSC Stadium field for photos and hugs postgame Monday afternoon, it became obvious that NorCal 2019 is an extremely close group, almost like one big extended family. There three words “I love you” were heard time and time again.

“Rob Bruno, our coach, I can’t say enough about him unless you want this interview to be about 30 minutes (long),” Cloyd said through a smile. “He just has our backs and we have his 100 percent of the time.”

Bruno called the leadership exhibited by several members of the team the best he has seen in more than 25 years of doing this. Some of the players have been on the team for three years but most have been around for just two, and they all came together and put forth one giant concerted effort that resulted in a PG national championship. Or, as Bruno put it, they always peaked at the right time.

“For me, the Perfect Game World Series is the most special one of the bunch at the 17u level because the quality of the teams is unlike anything else,” he concluded. “These are the top teams in the country and that’s why it’s special.”

2018 17u PG World Series runner-up: USA Prime Elite 17u Gowins

2018 17u PG World Series Co-MVPs: Ethan Cloyd (left), Caeden Trenkle

2018 17u PG World Series MV-Pitcher: Peter Hansen

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