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Tournaments | Story | 7/14/2019

Pitching, small-ball lift Burn 17u

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Florida Burn 2020 Platinum (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The ball got small during the championship game at the Perfect Game 17u BCS National Championship Sunday morning, and that suited the Florida Burn 2020 Platinum just fine.

The Burn Platinum pushed across single runs in each of the fourth and sixth innings and got yet another stellar start from its rock-solid pitching staff to outlast the East Cobb Astros 17u Navy, 2-0, in a snappy, 1½-hour matchup at jetBlue Park that featured the playoffs' top-two seeds.

The championship was the second in the last 3½ weeks for this Burn team – it won the PG 17u WWBA National Championship Qualifier-Florida on June 20 – and it finished this run to a PG national championship with a 10-0-0 mark; the Astros 17u Navy bowed out at 9-1-0.

And what a remarkable run it was for the Burn 2020 Platinum at this 17u BCS National Championship. They outscored their six pool-play opponents by a combined 41-3 and then won four playoff games by scores of 1-0, 2-1, 2-1 and, finally, 2-0.

“I’m really proud of our pitching,” Burn 2020 Platinum head coach Craig Faulkner told PG after the championship victory. “It’s just throwing a bunch of strikes and having great defense. I can’t say enough about our catching all the way to our infield and outfield. It’s a really special group of guys, beating some of the best teams in the nation.”

They got a great outing from starter Daniel Vassallo on Sunday. The 5-foot-9, 145-pound 2020 right-hander threw five one-hit, shutout innings, striking out six and walking one; 2020 righty Jason Englert worked the last two shutout innings in relief, allowing one hit, striking out one and walking two.

The game was scoreless through 3½ innings before the Burn Platinum was able to manufacture a run in the bottom of the fourth. Bayron Acevedo got the ball rolling with a one-out bunt single, PG All-American catcher Mac Guscette followed with a groundball single up the middle and then both runners moved up a base on a passed ball.

Matthew Barnhorst, the team’s cleanup hitter, then came through with a bunt single of his own, which chased Acevedo home with the game’s first run.

“This whole tournament we’ve been manufacturing runs however we can, whether it’s bunting or using our wheels on the bases,” Barnhorst said. “We knew (East Cobb) was going to be a good team and we knew our pitching was going to do well and it was going to be a close game, so however we could get runs we were going to try to; that’s how it worked out with the small-ball.”

The Burn Platinum pushed across an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth with Acevedo and Guscette once again playing big roles, this time with more big-ball than small-ball. Acevedo got it started with a one-out double, moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a sac fly from Guscette.

“That’s the kind of team we have,” Faulkner said. “We have unselfish players that give themselves up to get people to the next base; move them up 90-feet. … I was really happy with how these guys played small ball and did the little things right. It’s great to play In Perfect Game tournaments because they’re always competitive and they always have the best players in the country, and you’re going to rise from playing here. …

“Obviously, the East Cobb Astros are a top team, really talented, and they play with class. That’s what was impressive to me is how much class they have as a team and they’re very talented.”

2020 lefty Josiah Siegel was very good for the Astros 17u Navy, allowing the two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was Siegel’s third appearance at the tournament. He worked 12 2/3 innings, allowing only seven hits with 19 strikeouts, one walk and a 0.60 ERA. Dalton Pearson and Andrew Bennett both singled to account for the Astros’ only two hits.

Burn 2020 Platinum 2020 right-hander Trace Goforth was named the event’s Most Valuable Pitcher. He finished 2-0 in three appearances, allowing only five hits in 8 2/3 shutout innings, striking out 18 and walking three. The Burn had lost three one-run games at the 17u WWBA up in Georgia before coming here for the 17u BCS, and that was still on the players’ minds.

“Coming here from Atlanta, we didn’t finish how we wanted to, so we knew we had something to play for, for sure,” Goforth said. “The pitching definitely stepped up; it was lights-out. Giving up (five) runs through the whole tournament is pretty impressive and we got the timely hitting when we needed to. … It was whole team effort, for sure.”

Astros 17u Navy 2020 third baseman John Anderson, a Georgia Tech commit ranked No. 276 nationally, was named the Most Valuable Player. In 10 games, Anderson went 10-for-25 (.400) with a home run and three doubles, an event-high 14 RBI and five runs scored.

The long summertime grind is over for this Florida Burn 2020 Platinum squad, but they’ll be able to look back on this summer fondly for years to come. They’ll be able to show their PG National Championship rings to their sons and grandsons one day and remember how all the hard work was worth it.

“It’s as close to playing pro ball as you can (get),” Faulkner said. “You go from one tournament to the next … and you’re playing 14, 15, 16 days in a row, almost. It’s such a good experience for them … and when you play that many games in a row and you come to play every game, that speaks volumes for these young men.”

2019 17u BCS National Championship runner-up: East Cobb Astros 17u Navy

2019 17u BCS National Championship MVP: John Anderson

2019 17u BCS National Championship MV-Pitcher: Trace Goforth

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