Tournaments | Championship | 9/30/2019

5 Star Claims Awaited Title

Blake Dowson        
Photo: 5 Star National 2022 Burress (Perfect Game)
Semifinal Game 1 Recap: 5 Star National 2022 Burress/South Charlotte Panthers | Semifinal Game 2 Recap: Tri State Arsenal Scout Team 2022/FTB Tucci 2022

Championship Game Recap: 5 Star National 2022 Burress/FTB Tucci 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. - In a rematch of last year’s WWBA Freshman World Championship matchup, 5 Star National 2022 Burress and the South Charlotte Panthers were again in opposite dugouts for the semifinal game of the 2019 WWBA Sophomore World Championship.

Last year, South Charlotte got the best of 5 Star. This year, Sal Stewart had different plans. His 5 Star team came away with a win to push them into the championship game, 2-0.

Stewart just seems to be in the middle of everything. He was in the middle of the one half inning of scoring in the semifinals, starting the top of the second inning off with a single, one of his tournament-leading 12 hits.

He came around to score on a Tag Williams groundout, which proved to be enough run support for Garrett Mackowiak, who threw a complete game shutout on three hits.

5 Star head coach Andy Burress said he knew they would meet up with South Charlotte at some point during this tournament.

“We lost [last year at the Freshman World Championship] to the South Charlotte team, we lost in the World Series to the South Charlotte team,” he said. “This year, this group had a little something to prove. Garrett Mackowiak stepped up and had a heck of a game against them. We talked about making the most out of your opportunities. He made the most of it.”

Mackowiak was great for 5 Star, which was the only team in the semifinals that had to play three games the day before. With pitching at a premium, Mackowiak going the distance saved Burress from going to his next option.

Lane Essary was first in relief for the semifinal matchup, but didn’t need to be used. He got the ball to start the championship game, and nearly gave his team a no-hitter. His final line of five innings, one hit and no runs helped earn him Most Valuable Pitcher of the tournament.

Behind his arm, 5 Star beat FTB Tucci 2022 in five innings, 8-0.

If it weren’t for Essary, 5 Star might not have made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Essary entered 5 Star’s first round playoff game inheriting a 5-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning against Richmond Braves 16u National. He also inherited a bases-loaded, no-outs situation. All he did was strike out the first two hitters he faced and got the third to ground out. No runs allowed.

“I’ve been in that situation before, in my first tournament with 5 Star,” Essary said. “I just felt really comfortable with my catcher, Jaxson [West], and I was really confident in my team. I just had to put it in the zone and know that if they hit it, our defense would back me up.”

It was a lot more smooth sailing in the championship game.

Essary had a lead before he even threw a pitch, thanks to RBIs from Blaydon Plain and Stewart in the top of the first inning. It was Stewart’s 11th RBI of the tournament, which paced the field. He scored his tournament-leading 10th run in the third inning.

Stewart was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament for his efforts, although he said it’s mostly due to his teammates.

“I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “It’s all about my teammates, honestly. They are the ones helping me out, getting in scoring position and allowing me to get RBIs. I can’t put it on myself. I put it on my teammates because they give me everything.”

Stewart did the majority of his damage to the right side of the field, a really mature approach for a kid his age.

He was more than happy to lace ball after ball to right field and rack up RBIs to help his team win.

He said he knew that’s probably what would happen to him when the tournament started.

“Coming into the tournament, I figured hitting fourth on a great team like this, I needed to do my job,” Stewart said. “Every time I came up to hit there was a runner on second, so I just tried to move them over to help us win. I was just looking middle-away to move them over.”

He added a double down the right field line in the fourth inning, but by that point the game was well in hand.

After the two-run first inning, Carlos Elian Martinez singled and scored to start the second inning, while Parker McDonald walked and scored later in the inning on a Nicolas Perez RBI groundout.

Plain, Stewart, and Jaxson West all walked and scored in the third inning to push the lead to the final of 8-0.

While FTB moved through four pitchers in the game, it became more and more apparent just how valuable it was for 5 Star to get complete-game performances from both of its starters on championship Monday.

“When you come to these tournaments, you’ve got to throw strikes…This game is so funny, but you’ve just got to go out and play every day,” Burress said. “The biggest thing is that, we start this early when they are 13 and 14, they knew they need to throw strikes. When you throw strikes, you can win these tournaments.”

2019 WWBA Sophomore World Championship runner-up: FTB Tucci 2022

2019 WWBA Sophomore World Championship MVP: Sal Stewart

2019 WWBA Sophomore World Championship MV-Pitcher: Lane Essary

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