For all Red Flag Tournaments all entry gates and merchandise kiosks are now cashless. All purchases can be made by Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover. Thank you.
Tournaments | Story | 7/19/2019

TE 16u Prime slides into semis

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Matthew Buchanan (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Anticipation always fills the air when the quarterfinal round of the playoffs presents itself at a Perfect Game national championship tournament.

And that anticipation is often heightened when a victory in the quarters means a team’s working vacation gets extended because the semifinal and championship games won’t be played until the following day.

Now add to this mix an elite-eight matchup between two next-door neighbors and what you’ll end up with is not only a whole lot of anticipation and expectation, but a whole lot of fun to boot.

Such was the scenario late Friday morning at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex when the Winder, Ga.-based Team Elite 16u Prime and the Alpharetta, Ga.-based Georgia Roadrunners went toe-to-toe in the quarters at the PG 16u BCS National Championship; a spot in Saturday’s semifinal-round on the line.

“They’ve got a good program; that’s a good baseball team we’re about to play,” Elite 16u Prime head coach and PG alumnus Landon Anderson said pregame, acknowledging his team’s opponent on this day.

Eight very good baseball teams were in action at the jetBlue complex during the Championship Bracket quarterfinal-round play Friday, and by the time the last dugout had been cleared-out, the PG 16u BCS National Championship had its final-four.

No. 3-seed Team Elite 16u Prime (7-0-1) picked-up a walk-off win against the No. 11 Georgia Roadrunners and will face the No. 2 Florida Rebels (8-0-0) in one of the two semis Saturday morning at the CenturyLink Sports Complex; the No. 5 Dulins Dodgers-Godwin (7-1-0) takes on the No. 1 Hit Factory PRO (8-0-0) in the other semi.

“Obviously, the summer is a really long season,” Anderson said, both looking back and looking ahead to Saturday’s closing games. “The turnover rate is quick and you really have to set-up arms and bullpens the right way.

“The guys have done a really, really good job as far as being efficient on the mound, allowing us to get them multiple outings. And keeping the pitch-counts down per inning, they’ve done a really job of that.”

The Elite 16u Prime and the Roadrunners were tied at 3 heading into the bottom of the seventh in Friday’s quarterfinal before the Prime managed to win the game in a very unconventional manner.

With one out, Harry Ford was hit by a pitch and then preceded to steal both second and third. While Ford was scampering around the base paths, Kevin Blowers was walked and then Matthew Buchanan was intentionally walked, loading the bases. The game ended when Timothy Simay was hit by a pitch, giving the Elite 16u Prime the walk-off win.

David Wiley singled twice, drove in a run and scored another to lead the 16u Prime at the plate. Louis Stallone (an Arkansas commit), Adam Ebling and Buchanan combined on a six-strikeout seven-hitter, walking two.

“Our hitters have done a really good job as far as having the big hits in the big moments when you needed those,” Anderson said. “That allows our pitchers to kind of dial-in, pitch with a lead and get ahead. … The guys have really bought-in into what we’ve been preaching as far as starting fast and winning the back-half of the game, and I think that’s really what has gotten us here.”

Connor Sampers collected two of the Roadrunners seven singles in the game. 2020 right-hander John Kirchner threw six solid innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and striking out nine.

Team Elite 16u Prime sported a little bit of a different roster at last week’s PG 16u WWBA National Championship up near its home base I the Atlanta area than it came here with this week.

The 16u Prime finished 4-1-2 in pool-play and missed the playoffs a fine showing considering many of the top players were with the Team Elite 16u Scout Team, which won the whole shebang.

2021s Cole Wagner (No. 54-ranked, Georgia commit); Kenneth Mallory, Jr. (No. 79); Benny Montgomery (No. 153, Virginia); Matthew Buchanan (No. 279, Virginia) and Mason Cooper (top-500) were all rostered with the champion TE 16u Scout Team.

Other highly regarded 2021s playing with the 16u Prime this week include Harry Ford (No. 123); Adam Ebling (No. 459); Preston Steele (top-500, Virginia Tech) and Coby Wilkerson (top-500).

When the players were first brought together for the 16u BCS opener last Sunday, there may have been a few “getting-to-know-you” jitters  and they ended up settling for a 6-6 tie with the Florida Burn 2021 Callan; the 16u Prime beat the Burn 2021 Callan, 8-3, in a Friday first-rounder.

“The guys have jelled really well together,” Anderson said. “The first game they hadn’t played together and it was a little bit of a slow start, but that’s baseball. You’ve got to kind of get a feel for your teammates, and they understand that, but they’ve come together and played really well. We’ve got a lot of good personalities on this team and the key pieces we need to make a run.”

The last two weeks have certainly been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride for the Roadrunners, but they persevered and pushed the Elite 16u Prime to the precipice of elimination.

It started last week back in familiar territory when they also competed at the PG 16u WWBA. The ‘Runners were slow coming out of the blocks at the event, going 0-1-2 in their first three games. They then won four straight to finish 4-1-2 but that wasn’t a good enough mark to reach the playoffs.

“We had been playing good the last (several) weeks so we felt like we were ready to get into this tournament,” Roadrunner head coach Todd Howard said Friday. “We’ve really been jelling and we’ve won 10 out of our last 11 games so we feel pretty good about it.”

History did not repeat itself at this event. They won their first two pool-play games last Sunday and then faced the Beaver Valley (Pa.) Red 16u in their third game on Monday.

Looking snake-bit again, the Roadrunners went into the bottom of the seventh trailing 3-0 but rallied for a 4-3 win on the power of a two-run double from Brady Wilson, an RBI triple from Jean Carlos Medina and finally a walk-off RBI single off the bat of Aaron Corbin.

“We played good on Sunday but I think that game was the turning point in our attitude towards getting to this point, was coming back and winning this game,” Howard said.

Now it’s off to the 16u BCS National Championship final-four for the Team Elite 16u Prime, a big stage that quite a few of these 16u Prime players have occupied previously.

Anderson admitted that the format the BCS national championships use – three pool-play games, re-seeding, and then three more pool-play games – can be a grind but it’s a grind for every team.

But he’s not worried about this guys. They not only embrace the grind, they love it, and making a deep playoff run is really just a whole lot of fun. At the end of the day, there can be a lot of luck involved with this game but he feels like his players have bought-in; their effort and attitude has been “phenomenal” according to Anderson.

So, what’s his message to the team heading into Saturday?

“Don’t change anything that you’ve been doing; you’ve got to do what you’ve done to get here,” Anderson said. “Stick to what you’ve bought into, the philosophies we’ve talked about throughout the summer. Play your game, try to win every pitch and see what the results turn out to be.”

 Give us your feedback
Copyright 1994-2019 by Perfect Game. All rights reserved. No portion of this information may be reprinted or reproduced without the written consent of Perfect Game.