Tournaments | Story | 10/7/2019

Canes walk-off at WWBA Under

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Canes National 17u (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Even the most classic, trademark pitching duels have to come to an end at some point, and they usually conclude in dramatic fashion. No need to look any further than to what transpired at jetBlue Park early Monday afternoon for proof of that.

The Canes National 17u and the Scorpions 2021 Founders Club got outstanding efforts from their starting pitchers before the Canes were able to push across a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk-off with a 1-0 victory in the championship game at the Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship; the snappy affair took only about 1 hour, 40 minutes to complete.

“Not always,” Canes National head coach Mike Petty said when asked if this was the type of championship game he’s come to expect at PG national championship tournaments, “but when you’re facing the Scorpions, yes.”

The Virginia-based Canes National 17u completed the five-day tournament with an 8-0-0 record, just a notch ahead of the Florida-based Scorpions 2021 Founders Club’s 8-1-0 mark; the 14th-seeded Scorpions played a first-round playoff game while the No. 4 Canes did not.

The finish to the championship game came right down to the final pitch, with both starters – the Canes’ 2021 right-hander Gage Ziehl and the Scorpions’ 2021 righty Preston Wetherell – done for the day.

Daylen Lile led-off the bottom of the seventh with a walk for the Canes, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher from Kurtis Reid, and then advanced to third when Garrett Madliak hit a pop-fly single into shallow right field; JD Suarez was then intentionally walked to load the bases.

Gavin Kash followed with a hard ground ball to the Scorps’ first baseman and Lile was able to beat the throw home for the walk-off win.

“We had a lot of two-out RBIs throughout the weekend and kind of our whole lineup has been hitting (pretty well),” Petty said. “They were hitting all weekend, so it wasn’t just timely hitting, but when we needed it they did it.”

Ziehl got the start for the Canes and worked six, three-hit shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one. He ended up with a no-decision but he kept his ballclub in the game until they could find a way to pull out the win.

“Basically, I want to go out there and just throw strikes, you know,” he told PG postgame. “I’ve got the best defense in the country behind me so I just want to get them the ball and see what they can do. … I try not to miss pitches because if you miss pitches (the hitters) can capitalize on that.”

Ziehl, a Miami commit ranked No. 243 nationally, turned-in a three-inning outing earlier in the week and ended up throwing nine innings of scoreless, three-hit ball, with 15 strikeouts and one walk; he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

Petty is all-in on this kid: “Gage Ziehl (joined us) during the summer and when he stepped on the mound it was like a video game,” he said. “The kid, he’s a competitor, he’s lights-out, he throws all three pitches for strikes – one of the best breaking balls we’ve ever seen as a staff. And he’s an unbelievable kid, as well.”

Wetherell, a top-500 Florida State commit, was better than good himself. After a 1-2-3 first inning, he plunked the Canes’ Kurtis Reid with a pitch to leadoff the second and then induced the next batter to hit into a double-play. That was the first of 11 straight retired by Wetherell, who faced the minimum 15 batters in his five innings on the hill.

“This whole tournament we were good at getting early leads, but this game we had to fight and battle back,” the Canes’ Suarez told PG. “Their pitcher (Wetherell) was throwing good the entire game but we found a little opening and we took advantage of it (in the seventh).”

Added Petty: “There were some hard-hit balls everywhere right at people. That’s kind of the way the whole day was for us, just hitting the ball hard and trying to make things happen. But when you play a team like the Scorpions you kind of know it’s going to be dogfight for sure.”

Suarez, an uncommitted top-500 2021 middle-infielder was named the Most Valuable Player after enjoying a really fine all-around tournament. He went 9-for-18 (.500) with two doubles, seven singles, four walks (.591 OBP), two RBI, eight runs scored and five stolen bases.

“I had a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I had a heck of a team and we fought all week, and I could give this award to three or four of our guys. I just had a ton of fun.”

2019 WWBA Underclass World Championship runner-up: Scorpions 2021 Founders Club

2019 WWBA Underclass World Championship MVP: JD Suarez

2019 WWBA Underclass World Championship MV-Pitcher: Gage Ziehl

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