Tournaments | Story | 11/1/2019

GBG's September to remember

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: David Case (Perfect Game)

The three premier Navy teams representing the Los Angeles-based Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) didn’t go into September’s three Perfect Game WWBA Fall National Championships Protected by G-Form looking to make history. But when the final curtain fell, that’s exactly what they had done.

Over a four-day span in the middle of the month (Sept. 13-16), the GBG Marucci 2020 Navy and the GBG Marucci 2023 Navy went a combined 12-0-0 while winning championships at the Upperclass Fall NC and the Freshman Fall NC, respectively.

Not to be outdone, the GBG Marucci 2021 Navy went to work the following weekend and completed a 7-0-0 run to the title at the PG WWBA Underclass Fall NC. It marked the completion of a special championship trifecta that no other organization had achieved at the Fall Nationals, events that have now been staged in the west Phoenix suburbs for more than a decade.

“It obviously means a lot,” GBG founder/general manager/manager Michael Garciaparra told PG during a telephone conversation this week. “It speaks volumes about the coaches we have in our program because, obviously, it’s not just me, it’s our staff and the people we attract.

“We’ve attracted these type of players that are competitive, good academically and have the same goals,” he added, “so for us to sweep those tournaments, that was actually a very big deal.”

Garciaparra recalled that he and his father, Ramon, sat back at the conclusion of the Under Fall NC and figuratively asked themselves, “How the heck did that just happen? Did that really just happen? We won all three?” Maybe they had to pinch themselves but sure enough, it had happened right there in the desert for everyone to see.

While the accomplishment is certainly noteworthy it was just as certainly no aberration. GBG teams have enjoyed a lot of success at the WWBA Fall National Championships since the organization got up and running seven years ago and GBG Marucci 2020 Navy won the Underclass Fall NC in 2018.

Winning is in the program’s DNA. Any time a GBG team competes at a PG national championship tournament it does so with the expectation of getting fitted for national championship rings shortly after the championship game’s final out is made.

“This shows you the strength of the players in our program, and that’s what makes it exciting,” Garciaparra said. “When the freshmen stepped up – and they were missing some key players – and showed that, hey, they deserve to be on the big stage, that’s kind of what it’s all about.”

It can be argued that the GBG 2020 Navy received a boost at the Upperclass Fall NC from a somewhat unlikely source. It happened at the 17u PG World Series played in Scottsdale, Ariz., in late July when the 2020 Navy won a championship without winning a championship at all.

Competing against a field that included another 31 of the top 17u teams in the country – Garciaparra calls it a “mini Jupiter” – the 2020 Navy went 1-1-1 during pool-play, good for only third place in their four-team pool. That finish relegated them to the Silver Bracket (the consolation bracket) while the top 16-seeded teams battled for the championship in the Gold Bracket.

There were some off-handed comments made about how the 16 teams in the Silver Bracket were really playing for 17th place, but that’s not the way the GBG players and coaches approached it.

They got out of the gates on July 28 by beating Ostingers Baseball Academy 2020, 3-1, in a first-round matchup before escaping the Playa Vista Orioles, 8-7, in the quarterfinals later in the day.

They began the next day by dropping the US Elite 17u National, 2-0, in one of the semifinals, setting up a Silver Bracket championship game pairing with Sticks Baseball Academy/North East Baseball.

Both teams’ pitching staffs had been stretched over the event’s five-day run, and they combined to plate 23 runs on 24 hits in GBG’s 15-8 victory. PG All-American Kevin Parada led the 2020 Navy’s 14-hit attack with a home run, two singles, six RBI and four runs scored; Brett McCauley doubled, singled and drove in four.

Parada had the type of tournament he’d become known for while playing with GBG the last three years, hitting 11-for-21 (.524), with a home run, three doubles 13 RBI and six runs scored.

“It was disappointing (not making the Gold Bracket) but we said, hey, that doesn’t mean anything, we’re here to play and we’re here to win (so) let’s roll,” Garciaparra said. “… That group has always been very, very special to us. It’s the most winning group that we’ve ever had in our organization and it just shows you how special they are.”

When the GBG Marucci 2020 Navy returned to the desert two weeks later for the PG WWBA Upper Fall NC they were still riding high, even though they were without Parada.

They went 3-0-0 in pool-play and earned the playoffs’ No. 2 seed, and then stopped No. 10 MountainWest 7-1 in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Wilson Sandlot 3-2 in the semifinals. That set-up a championship game matchup with No. 4-seeded So Cal rival CBA Marucci 2020.

The showdown was a baseball purists’ delight. GBG 2020 right-hander Brandon Madrigal, a top-500 Columbia commit, twirled a complete-game, three-hit shutout, striking out six and walking two in the 2020 Navy’s 2-0 victory; he was named the MV Pitcher. Diego Baqueiro doubled and drove in a run and McCauley contributed a single and an RBI, accounting for the game’s only two runs.

“In the seventh inning I was gassed; in between pitches I was laboring quite a bit and I was tired,” Madrigal told PG during postgame comments. “I kind of got this surge midway through the inning and I was like, I’ve just got to finish this, I’ve come this far and I don’t want to stop now – I’ve got to finish what I started. I was exhausted but the adrenaline kind of kicked-in and gave me the chance to finish it.”

Garciaparra called the 2020 class a “special group” and one that has succeeded with a core group of players that have been together since they were 14 years old. It was the first GBG team that lobbied to travel to Georgia for the PG WWBA 15u National Championship in 2017, and all it did was reach the semifinals, GBG Marucci 2020 returned to Georgia for the PG WWBA 16u NC the next year, and again reached the semis.

The GBG Marucci 2023 Navy capped a 6-0-0 run to the Freshman Fall NC title by beating MBA Utah 2023 6-2 in the championship game. Caden Abraham singled and drove in a pair of runs, and Henry Leipart and Tyler Shulman each singled and had an RBI; 2023 righty Zach Mora pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings in relief, allowing five hits and striking out six.

GBG’s Julien Cojulun and Charlie Greenleaf were named the MVP and MVPi, respectively.

With the Upperclass Fall and Freshman Fall championships decided during play from Sept. 13-16 and the Underclass Fall championship not being contested until Sept. 20-23, the GBG 2021 Navy had the spotlight to themselves when they finally took the field.

They also came into their event will full knowledge of what had transpired the previous weekend and just how high the bar had been set. They might not had needed any extra motivation to perform at the highest level possible but the 2021 Navy got it anyway.

“They were like, hey coach, we got this; there’s no way we’re going to let the other two age groups win and we’re not,” Garciaparra said. “It was super cool to see. … They literally said, hey coach, we’re going to sweep this damn thing, and without me saying anything it was awesome to see.”

The 2021 Navy beat the AZ Athletics 2021 Founders Club 9-1 in five innings in the championship game. Austin Dudas doubled twice and drove in three runs, Justin Powell singled twice and added three RBI and Josiah Chavez singled twice and scored twice.

The singles were Chavez’s 10th and 11th of the tournament and the runs scored were his eighth and ninth and he was named the MVP; 2021 right-hander Griffin Stark, playing in his first PG event, was the MVPi.

The success the GBG 2021 and 2023 Navy teams enjoyed at their respective WWBA Fall NCs will serve those players well as they head into their 2020 high school seasons as underclassmen or freshmen. They had just played on a bustling national stage against elite competition and had emerged not only on top but brimming with confidence.

“We love the high schools that we deal with and the coaches, and we’re lucky that they let their kids come play for us,” Garciaparra said. “But I think that definitely helped launch them into a confidence mode … knowing that they can compete with anybody.”

The GBG organization didn’t need those three PG national championships to add validity to the program because Garciaparra believes it is validated in another way. Getting these young players committed to a college and ultimately selected in the MLB draft is the top priority, and GBG has an excellent history of doing just that.

“The thing we talk about with the kids is colleges are recruiting you to help them win; they’re not just recruiting you to play well,” he said. “So we want to try to put some type of pressure on these kids where it’s not win at all costs, but play with a purpose to win and compete, and I love that that’s what our kids did this year.”

Along with the endless contributions Garciaparra’s dad, Ramon Garciaparra, brings to the program, Michael also raves about his coaching staff. The core, each with a different role and responsibility, consists of Zak Krislock, Jack Wilson, Tony Gonzalez and Ari Zagaris.

Now well into the offseason, Garciaparra said he and his staff will try to keep these younger teams together as best they can but there will inevitably be some shakeup with the rosters. Tryouts will be held and no roster spot is guaranteed, not with new players coming into the program looking to challenge for playing time.

The 2020s have moved on and the 2021s, 2022s, and 2023s can now start to look ahead into the 2020 PG summer and fall seasons (with their respective high school seasons being played in the spring, of course). Regardless of what happens next year, GBG will always have September 2019 to look back upon with wide smiles and true sense of accomplishment.

“For us to go to an event in the fall which is obviously the biggest event we have on the West Coast and to put our stamp on that with all of our teams doing so well, it just means a lot,” Garciaparra said. “It just tells everybody that, hey, we’re here, we’re still relevant and we’re going to keep coming.”

 Give us your feedback
Copyright 1994-2020 by Perfect Game. All rights reserved. No portion of this information may be reprinted or reproduced without the written consent of Perfect Game.