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Showcase  | Story  | 9/6/2020

7-run rally carries East at 13u Fest

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Michael Torres, 13u Select Fest

OKLAHOMA CITY – They weren’t exactly the greatest odds you’d take even if you were playing with house money and, quite frankly, house money was in short supply for the East squad late in Sunday afternoon’s Perfect Game 13u Select Baseball Festival All-Star game.

Here’s what the East was looking at: They were trailing 4-2 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the fifth inning of a seven-inning game knowing that whichever pitcher the West sent to the hill was going to be among the best age-eligible hurlers in the country.

The East hitters had a choice: go down mildly or go up wildly. They chose the latter.

Down to their last out in the frame, the East rallied to put a seven-spot on the board and charged to a 9-4 win over the West at the 2nd annual PG 13u Select Fest played on a beautiful late summer afternoon at the downtown Chickasaw Brickyard Ballpark.

“We’ve just got to win this game and represent it for the East squad,” the East’s Aiden Harris told PG postgame when asked about the team’s mindset in that situation. “It’s just great that we got it (done) for the East squad.”

The East’s Michael Torres, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, was totally onboard with his teammate.

“We were just trying to get as many players as we can to score,” Torres said. “We were trying to get the ball in play, get the kids to score. … We were just ready to win. We didn’t have our minds on losing; we were not going to lose.”

The West struck first in this one, scoring three runs in the top of the second inning with a leadoff triple from Dean Moss serving as the table-setter. Moss eventually scored on a wild pitch and after two-out walks to Sean Gamble and Jack Ruckert and a flurry of activity capped by a two-out RBI single from Nolan Traeger, the West had a 3-0 lead.

In short, the West got those three runs thanks to two hits, two walks, three stolen bases, a passed ball and wild pitch. In other words, just a typical day at the ballpark. OK, maybe not.

They took a 4-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Travis Friend led-off with a pop-fly single that landed in shallow center field. He moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored when the throw to get him at third sailed into left field. Torres made a spectacular diving catch in shallow center field to bring the inning to an end.

As the baseball gods would have it, Torres led off the bottom half and drilled a double down the left field line, only to be thrown out at home while trying to score on a fielder’s choice ground ball a couple of plays later. But the East still managed to plate two runs thanks to a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a passed ball and single from Harris.

And all that led to the dramatic seventh with the East doing its damage after their first two batters in the frame were retired. The rally started with three walks, a hit-by-pitch, an error and a wild pitch, but then Torres stepped to the plate and delivered a bases-loaded triple down the left field line that gave the East a 7-4 lead it would never relinquish.

Carter Smith and Micah Matthews singled after Torres’ triple, so the East scored its seven runs on three hits, four walks, two hit batsmen and three wild pitches; the West wouldn’t recover.

“I think we all feed off of each other’s energy,” Harris said. “That’s how team camaraderie works.”

Torres finished with a triple, double, three RBI, a run scored and the defensive gem of the game to earn the MVP recognition. Smith singled, doubled and scored twice and also pitched an inning, giving up one hit and striking out one.

Harris singled and drove in a run and also threw a hitless half-inning, striking out two and walking one. Starter Samuel Cozart gave up one hit and struck out two in his inning of work.

Moss finished with the triple, an RBI and three runs scored to lead the West; Traeger singled and drove in a pair. West starter Kibru Pam struck out two and walked one during his inning and Paul Dominguez-Walker allowed a hit and struck out two in his.

Truth be told, this PG 13u Select Baseball Festival was pretty good stuff all around.

"It was just really good here, just meeting all the top 32 kids,” Torres said. “We were making a lot more friends and that’s really good. It’s not all about baseball, it’s about making friends, having good teammates and having a great time.”

Harris was on exactly the same page:

“Hanging out with all these kids, all these guys that I’ve been playing in tournaments with and seeing them here, it’s just amazing. … I feel really special; it’s like I’m an MLB star right now.”

The finals of the PG 13u Select Festival Home Run Challenge were held just before first-pitch and the two bombs he dropped over the left field wall were enough for Konnor Griffin from Florence, Miss., to take home the title.

Venezuelan Jose Perdomo and Boston Kellner from Woodbury, Minn., each had one home run apiece.

IT WAS ANNOUNCED ON SATURDAY THAT THE PLAYERS from both teams had combined to raise $65,230 to benefit the PG Cares Rise campaign for underprivileged children and its continued support for pediatric cancer research. PG Cares partnered with the Toby Keith Foundation’s OK Kids Korral in fund-raising efforts this year.

The top four fund-raisers were Jack Ruckert (Baton Rouge, La.), $11,235; Dean Moss (Atherton, Calif.), $10,050; Ethan Murray (Buford, Ga.), $6,140; and Dillon Adkins (Leonardtown, Md.), $5,945.

THIS YEAR’S PG 13U NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS were also announced while the game was being live-streamed on Perfect Game.TV Sunday afternoon and eight players heard their names called.

Among them were 2025 infielder Carter Smith from Cape Coral, Fla., who was named the PG Player of the Year, and 2025 righthander Samuel Cozart out of High Point, N.C., who was recognized at the PG Pitcher of the Year.

Smith is a 6-foot-1, 155 pounder who has started his travel ball career with the Gulf Coast Monarchs. It was noted in a PG scouting report this summer that the primary shortstop “moves plenty well in the dirt, showing advanced glove skill” and that his “quick hands generate big bat speed already … with backspin and carry to all parts of the yard.”

The 6-foot-6, 225 pound Cozart was the only player at this year’s PG 13u Select Fest that was also at last year’s event held in nearby Norman. His summer scouting report that Cozart “doesn’t look like your typical 13u arm nor does he throw like one” citing his 89 mph fastball. He has also already shown a feel for a pair of breaking balls and a changeup, throwing all three for strikes.

Here is the complete list of the 2020 PG 13u award winners (home state/country in parentheses):

PG Player of the Year: Carter Smith (Florida)

PG Pitcher of the Year: Samuel Cozart (North Carolina)

Diamond Kinetics Offensive Player of the Year: Ethan Murray (Georgia)

Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year: Luis Almeyda (New Jersey)

Re-Play 5-Tool Award: Jose Perdomo (Venezuela)

PG 2-Way Player of the Year: Konnor Griffin (Mississippi)

K Motion Award: Jacob Kendall (Florida)

Augusta Impact Award: Michael Torres (Florida)