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Tournaments | Story | 6/23/2019

Next Level aims for three-peat

Autumn Jones        
Photo: Next Level Baseball 18u (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Next Level Baseball is literally on another level, opening the 3rd annual 18u Southeast Championship with back-to-back shutouts and 27 total runs to complete their third pool-play game. This organization is a legitimate title threat considering they’ve finished off as champions two consecutive years in this tournament, and this year’s team look to bring home a three-peat.

Next Level opened with a shutout victory against Florida Elite 9-0, followed by another on Sunday against GameTime Prospects Gray 8-0, and continued their momentum right after in their third game of pool play, defeating Scorpions Dynasty 10-2.

Abraham Baldwin College commit Pace Mercer (2019, Thomasville, Ga.) started off Saturday’s opener allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out five batters in his five innings. Lake Sumter commit Shawn Snyder earned the win in Sunday’s earliest matchup against Prospect Gray, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out seven batters in his five-inning game. Righthander Ben Gurley pitched the following game against Scorpions Dynasty allowing five hits and a walk while striking out four in his four innings.

Dilan Lawson (2019, Madison Fla.) led the way in Sunday’s later matchup against the Scorpions Dynasty, going 2-for-3 with a double, a scored run and two RBIs. The primary third baseman who committed to playing college ball at Tallahassee CC, was recently drafted in the 2019 MLB draft in round 37 by the New York Mets.

After three games here the last two days, Bryce Dilmore (2019, Bristol, Fla.) is leading his team with four hits, a pair of doubles and a triple; he’s scored three runs and driven in an another three. Jaden Rudd (2021, Lynn Haven, Fla.) and Tyler Borges (2019, Tallahassee, Fla.)  each have three hits and four RBI. Rudd, who is also ranked as a Top 500-ranked player nationally, has doubled and tripled with three scored runs.

Quite a few of the guys that are on this Tallahassee Fla.-based Next Level 18u roster were also rostered on last year’s team that won the PG 18u Southeast Championship. Eastern Florida State commit Dawson Fietsam was named the Most Valuable Player at last year’s 18u Southeast Championship and was joined on the All-Tournament team by his teammates Tyler Borges, Victor Castillo, Jace Dunsford, Dawson Erbacher, Ben Gurley, Jaden Rudd and Shawn Snyder.

Next Level 18u are coached by former collegiate and current high school coach Justin Bruce. Bruce has been with Next Level Baseball for five years and he reflects on how adding some new pieces to the 18u team last summer has made this core group of returners a special one.

They have set the bar for this organization very high and it’s their main focus to keep it that high as they graduate out of the program,” said Bruce.

Bruce believes these players are driven to pass the torch the right way to the younger up and coming Next Level Baseball players. Especially Borges and Castillo, who have been a part of NLB for as long as he can remember.

“With having a senior driven team comes experience and a group that plays with a chip on their shoulder," added Bruce. "They all have a mindset to make this one of the most successful groups NLB has had. The opportunity to win the Perfect Game tournament is a way for this group to keep the bar high and continue their run of success.”

Other players who are also committed on this Next Level 18u squad include Victor Castillo and Cade Parker, who are both committed to Florida Atlantic and are ranked among the Top 500 in the country. High follow Jace Dunsford is committed to Tallahassee CC and Duncan Lutz, who also ranks Top 500 nationally, is committed to Georgia State.

The key goal for the team the remainder of the tournament and the summer season is to focus on pitching and trying to win the game on the mound. Coach Bruce says NLB have been blessed with great pitchers and the group they have this summer has continued that run.

Along with pitching, they strive to focus a lot of their efforts on being good teammates and playing the game the right way.

“This group is a special group because every player on this team has bought in to the culture we have tried to create," Coach Bruce concluded. “They each have a role they have accepted, and they understand the importance of accepting accountability as well.”

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