Tournaments | Story | 10/22/2018

Jupiter feels the Burn

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Florida Burn Platinum (Perfect Game)

JUPITER, Fla. – The Canes National came into Monday’s championship game at the 20th annual Perfect Game WWBA World Championship looking for their outstanding organization’s fifth title in the last six years. The Florida Burn Platinum, representing another prideful and respected organization, were looking for their first.

And, as everyone knows, there is a first time for everything.

The Sarasota-based Burn Platinum pushed across single runs in each of the first and sixth innings, counted on a trio of pitchers to do their part, and held off the mighty Fredericksburg, Va.-based Canes National, 2-0, in the title game played at Roger Dean Stadium on yet another beautiful day along Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

The Florida Burn organization, under the direction of founder Mark Guthrie with a lot of help from Craig Faulkner, last advanced to the Jupiter championship game in 2013, where it was beaten by a team called the EvoShield Canes. That was the Canes’ first of three straight WWBA World championships; the program added another one last year.

“You just always come here and do the best you can,” Guthrie told PG not long after his players had doused him with a cooler full of ice water. “Every year you get a tough draw, and some years you come here and it doesn’t work out if you’re not on your game; that’s just the way baseball is.”

The No. 3-seeded Burn Platinum (8-0-0) were on their game Monday and, for that matter, so were the No. 5 Canes National (7-1-0). It’s just that the Canes had a tough time getting anything going with the bats, managing just two hits, but in all fairness, the Burn had only four themselves.

The key for the Platinum was their ability to effectively bunch their safeties. In the first inning, Austin Brinling hit a one-out, groundball single to the left-side and soon after was standing on second with a stolen base. One out later, William Bartlett hit a groundball single into right field, good enough to chase Brinling home.

That was the extent of the scoring until the bottom of the sixth when the Burn’s Danny Rodriguez received a two-out walk, stole second and scored on a pop-fly single into center off the bat of Mac Guscette.

In between the two runs, 2019 right-handers Braden Halladay and Cameron Wademan, and the 2020 righty Guscette combined to shut-down the powerful Canes; the trio forced them to put the ball in play while relying on their defense to do the rest.

Halladay worked 1 1/3 hitless, shutout innings (he walked four), Wademan 3 1/3 two-hit shutout innings and Guscette 2 1/3 hitless, shutout frames; they recorded only one strikeout between them.

The Canes’ used Casey Green and Will Smith – a pair of2019 right-handers – and both worked three very effective innings. Green allowed an earned run on three hits, striking out three and Smith an earned run on one hit, striking out four. The entire 6½-inning game took only about 90 minutes to complete.

“Every tournament we’ve played in we’re usually the underdog,” the Burn’s standout shortstop Joshua Rivera said postgame. “Coming up big in a tournament like this kind of showed everybody that Florida Burn is a good organization and we do have a good enough team to play with the best of the best like Canes National. We come out here and do what we’ve got to do and the cards fall in our favor.”

Rivera, a senior (2019)  at IMG Academy and a Florida commit ranked No. 83 in his class, went 7-for-16 with a home run, six RBI, three runs and two stolen bases, and was named the co-Most Valuable Player. He shared the award with 2020 catcher Kevin Parada from GBG Marucci who enjoyed a tournament for the ages: 11-for-23 (.478) with four doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI.

Guthrie pointed to the play of his top-of-the-order guys like Guscette, Rivera, Kyle Machado and Kevin Conway as difference makers and he also mentioned the addition of Bartlett as pivotal.

A 2019 first baseman, Bartlett is from California but got hooked up with the Burn because he is now attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “Adding Will Bartlett, he blended in right away and really provided some great energy for us,” Guthrie said. He also called his three catchers – Guscette, Aaron Martins and Matthew Powell “amazing.”

“This has been amazing, experiencing this as a team,” Rivera said. “We’ve always played together since we were about 13, and with a couple new additions every guy stepped up. We all played as a team in the biggest tournament in the fall, we all took everything serious, everybody played a big role every game, so this whole experience has been amazing for us.”

Guthrie called this team “very gritty” and pointed out that the nucleus of the roster has played together since their pre-high school years. Back in those youth days, they did constant battle with a program called the Iron Pigs, and once all those kids became freshmen they banded together.

“They’ve been together or playing against each for six years now, and I think that’s huge,” Guthrie said. “I always say that our guys may go a little under the radar but they are talented, but when they get on campus or they go to where ever they’re going to go, they get it done.”

The Most Valuable Pitcher Award went to the Canes’ 2019 right-hander Tyler Nesbitt, and he earned the honor on the strength of just one outing. Facing No. 4-seeded CBA Marucci in the quarterfinals, Nesbitt threw five scoreless, two-hit innings while striking out 10 of CBA’s formidable hitters. Monday afternoon, not long after the conclusion of the championship game, Nesbitt announced that he had committed to Florida.

Guthrie talked about how his players showed up ready to play from the first inning of the first game at this most demanding of all of PG’s national championship tournaments. They were, he said, outstanding from the first pitch on and somehow managed to figure out how these championships are won. Rivera seems to have figured out the secret, anyway,

“To put a Burn uniform on you’ve got play the game the right way (and) respect everybody on the team, respect everybody on the other team; you’ve got to play with a lot of class,” Rivera said. “You’ve got to go out there and give it all you’ve got – if you make an error, it’s the next play; if you strikeout, it’s the next at-bat. You’ve got to control what you can control.”

The Burn and the Canes National reached the championship game by winning their semifinal games Monday morning, played on practice fields in the Marlins quad.

Machado tripled, singled and drove in three runs, Conway doubled and drove in one and Bartlett scored three times to lead the Burn past the No. 18 East Coast Sox Select (5-1-1) in one of the semis. Burn 2019 right-hander Austen Kessler tossed six innings of one-hit ball, allowing one earned run and striking out six.

CJ Rodriguez lined a two-strike, two-out single to center field that scored Patrick Alvarez from second base and the Canes National slipped past No. 8 GBG Marucci (6-1-0), 2-1 in nine innings in the other semi. The single was Rodriguez’s second of the game; Andrew Compton doubled and drove in a run.

Canes starter Jack Jasiak, a 2019 right-hander, worked the first five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six. GBG starter Cole Kitchen, a 2019 righty, allowed one earned run on three hits in five innings, striking out seven. GBG scored its only run in the top of the seventh on an RBI single off the bat of Devan Ornelas.

But this championship belonged to the Burn, and not just this current group of players.

“I had some of our old players texting me on my phone during the game, and that’s really neat,” Guthrie said. “Guys that lost in the championship game (in 2013) and other guys who maybe didn’t make it to the championship game, and they take a lot of pride in this. Especially beating a great, great group like the (Canes) and, you know, you don’t really every beat them very often.

“This is good for all the guys that have come before them and have developed a reputation for what we call ‘Burn Baseball’ and these guys followed suit and bought in. … I’m just unbelievably happy for this group of guys; what a way to go out.”

2018 WWBA World Championship runner-up: Canes National

2018 WWBA World Championship co-MVP: Joshua Rivera

2018 WWBA World Championship co-MVP: Kevin Parada

2018 WWBA World Championship MV-Pitcher: Tyler Nesbitt

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