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Tournaments | Story | 7/9/2019

Beast Mode is the best mode

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Sean Gibbons (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The teams scheduled to begin their second three-game set of pool-play on the fields at the Terry Park complex mid-morning on Tuesday were instead forced to play those two most-dreaded of games: “Hurry Up and Wait” and “Dodging Raindrops.” At least “Sitting Out a Lightning Delay” wasn’t on the morning docket.

But the games at the Perfect Game 17u BCS National Championship were finally underway by early afternoon at the sauna formerly known as Terry Park, and to a man the players came out excited and ready to rumble. It could be said that one team, in fact, came out in total “Beast Mode.”

The Beast Mode Prime 17u are a first-year outfit under the management of a 20-year-old head coach that has raised eyebrows over the first three days of play by winning all four of its pool-play games and, in fact, winning them pretty decisively (37-9 run differentially). Getting the day started a little later than planned didn’t seem to faze head coach Pete Sass or his dugout full of top class of 2020 prospects.

“We woke up early to make sure we were prepared to play an early game and everything,” Sass told PG about a half-hour before the first-pitch between the Beast Mode Prime and the Colorado Recruits 17u at TP Stadium.

“Then we all rushed out here and there was the rain delay so it was kind of crazy, but it’s what you get when you play travel baseball. It’s fun, but you’ve definitely got to adjust to those kind of things.”

All indications are that the Atlanta-based Beast Mode Prime 17u are adjusting quite well down here, just three days into what they hope is an eight-day stay.

The Prime 17u were at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship up in Atlanta before moving the 17u BCS venue and really did quite well there, finishing 4-3-0 in pool play but missing the playoffs. They had a couple of days to regroup and then arrived here feeling like a fast start would give them the best chance at winning this PG national championship.

They skated past their first three opponents by a combined 28-7, were reseeded as a No. 1, and dropped the Castle Rock-based Colorado Recruits, 9-2, Tuesday afternoon. Beast Mode collected seven hits in the win over the Recruits, but also showed great patience at the plate by collecting eight walks, as well.

Middle-infielder Malik Young, a top-1000 prospect who has committed to Winthrop, was the only batter in the lineup with multiple hits, collecting a pair of singles.

Top-500 Middle Tennessee commit Bryce Symlar doubled, drove in two runs and scored two; top-500 Corbin Shaw doubled, drove in a run and scored one; Vincent Gallo doubled with two RBI and two runs, and top-500 Jim Brown singled and drove in a pair.

2020 lefty Sean Gibbons made the start and threw four innings of one-hit ball without giving up an earned run, striking out two and walking two.

“It’s a lot of fun playing with this team; it’s the best team I’ve played for,” the uncommitted Shaw told PG. “We feed off each other’s energy. If the energy is down, everybody’s down; if the energy’s up, everybody’s up. And it just seems like the energy is always up, yessir.”

This team won the championship at the PG Super25 17u Georgia Super Qualifier held in the Atlanta-area June 14-17, which provided a nice springboard in the PG 17u WWBA National Championship held June 28-July 5. And even prior to that event it had reached the semifinals at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship Qualifier in Marietta, Ga.

“We were going in there (to the WWBA National Championship) really confident and then we lost to a couple of teams that I feel we shouldn’t have lost to,” Sass said. “That kind of builds confidence, too, and we were like, listen, we can’t take anything for granted. …

“But we played the same way we’ve played all summer: fun, relaxed, loose. It humbled us a little bit and now we’re looking to keep it rolling.”

“Loose” is the operative word when the Beast Mode Prime 17u’s players describe the team’s collective personality. This team’s plan from the beginning was to be something different, and to that end the Beast Mode Prime’s jerseys are certainly distinctive. The color combination is anything but staid, featuring purple, black and very eye-catching neon green.

“My coaching staff is very young, probably one of the youngest out here,” Sass said, noting that he’s 20 years old and his assistants come in at 23 and 33. “We’re just trying to keep it fresh, keep it loose and that goes with the jerseys – purple and neon green, everyone sees that. And we’ve got purple pants, too, yessir.”

The official Beast Mode Prime 17u roster for the 17u BCS National Championship lists 36 players from nine states and a quick dugout head-count on Tuesday determined that 19 of them are here this week; all had batted or pitched in the first four games.

Nobody really knew each other at first and the team doesn’t practice, getting together only for the tournaments.

“That was the craziest thing,” Sass said. “Right off the bat we jumped into it playing some pretty good teams and we’re expecting to play good teams; you have to play the best to be the best and we want that. But, at the end of the day, it’s still a baseball game and it doesn’t matter who you play. You’ve got to go play seven innings hard, and these guys know that.”

Chase Allen is a 6-foot-5, 205-pound 2020 right-hander from Lakewood, Colo., a Michigan commit who PG ranks as the No. 472 national prospect in his class. He’s been with the team all summer and was actually feeling a little separation anxiety in the days between the 17u WWBA and the 17u BCS.

“This is just a special group of guys and after (a break) I just kind of realized how much I really miss these guys,” Allen said. “So when we got back here, everyone was glad to be with each other and we’re staying in one house, so we just make it work; we all have each other’s back.”

Sass started the Beast Mode program in the fall of 2018 and he went in knowing he wanted to get it right from get-go. He wanted to recruit players who not only loved baseball but wanted to have fun while they were out on the field competing.

He assembled this roster in the spring and knew going into it that other more established programs weren’t likely to give this team a second thought.

“We’ve been playing like the underdogs everywhere we go, but we do have some pretty good guys,” Sass said. “We’ve got some D-I commits and we’ve got some higher-ranked guys but the most important thing is these guys are just having fun.

“A lot of these other (programs) have all these teams in their organization but this is it,” he added. “This is our team so we’re putting everything into it and trying to build something pretty cool.”

Top-500 2020 right-hander/middle-infielder Hayden Summers has committed to North Carolina; middle-infielder Cameron Hassert to Villanova; top-500 2020 outfielder/right-hander Parker Stallard to Virginia Tech and top-1000 outfielder/first baseman Ryan Sonnier to Florida A&M.

Sass, class of 2017, played high school baseball at Decatur (Ga.) HS and was rostered at 11 PG tournaments from 2014-16 with programs like the Atlanta Blue Jays, Chirp Baseball, East Atlanta Tomahawks and the Baseball Genius Academy Bombers.

He didn’t play college baseball, having decided he wanted to get right into coaching. He’s done some of that at the high school level and last summer had the opportunity to coach alongside of Todd Fitz-Gerald, the head coach at Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla.

Sass told PG he’s also coached with Jeremy Beckham, the brother of Tim Beckham, who was a 2007 PG All-American and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft.

“I kind of got in with the right people right away and it’s just been right place, right time,” he said. “I just wanted to get into coaching right away and so I’ve been doing that.”

The experience at the 17u WWBA provided these players with lessons that just keep on giving as they make their way through the rigors of the 17u BCS. Allen and Shaw readily agreed to share what they felt they took away from the mega-event in Atlanta and how it can benefit them here.

“We really took to heart the idea that you have to come out and you have to try to 10-run every single team no matter who they are,” Allen said. “You can’t underestimate teams; you’ve got to come out and do what you do (best).”

Shaw was quick to add: “We learned that we’ve got to play as a team, which we’ve been doing the whole summer. Everybody became real close, which makes us play better. We stay positive and now we’ve got to keep moving through this tournament.”

Allen went on to tell PG that this is by far – he couldn’t think of a close second – the “most loose” team he’s ever played on. It’s a team that never feels like it’s playing with its collective back up against the wall, and that feeling would be the same if its playing the championship game of a PG national championship tournament or if it’s playing in a first-round pool-play game a more regional event.

These are exactly the type of players Sass was looking for when he started the Beast Mode Prime 17u program. In other words, it’s time to crank it on up to “Beast Mode”, rain delays be damned.

“These guys have the common goal of wanting to win, wanting to be seen,” he concluded. “They’re personalities match, which is loose, fun, energetic. They’re just dogs that want to go out there and compete every day … and every single one of them has a big heart and wants to go win, and if you get a team full of those guys, it’s makes my job easy.”

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