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Tournaments | Story | 9/23/2020

WWBA Soph World invades Ft. Myers

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Cam Collier (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It’s cliché, to be sure, but here it goes anyway: “Let the games begin!”

This city on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast becomes the epicenter of the amateur baseball world beginning on Thursday, Sept. 24 with the start of play at the 3rd annual Perfect Game WWBA Sophomore World Championship.

This PG national champion event welcomes 104 teams from across the country – including squads from as far west as California and Colorado – and will be contested on fields in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. They include the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex, the Lee County Player Development 5-Plex and the Terry Park Complex in Fort Myers.

The WWBA Sophomore World Championship is the first of four PG WWBA national championships that Southwest Florida counties will host over the next three weeks.

The 197-team WWBA Underclass World Championship is slated for Oct. 1-5 at fields in Lee and Sarasota counties on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The blockbuster 96-team WWBA World Championship, relocated from Jupiter, Fla., will be played Oct. 8-12 on fields in Fort Myers; the 88-team WWBA Freshman World championship will also be contested Oct. 8-12 and played on fields in Lee and Sarasota counties.

The prominent and rapidly expanding 5 Star National organization has eight teams that are based in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina at the WWBA Soph World this weekend; it will have a couple dozen more at the next three WWBA Worlds moving forward.

5 Star National 16u Burress won last year’s Sophomore World Championship – Florida-based Elite Squad teams won in 2017 and 2018 – and 5 Star teams have a history of winning PG BCS National Championships played on Lee County fields over the last several years.

“Obviously, with the success that we’ve had in Fort Myers, it’s always good to get back there,” program founder/owner/coach Andy Burress told PG on Wednesday. “We’ve just always had a lot of success there across the board as a program; I think our guys kind of enjoy the trip.”

The 5 Star 16U White team may find a lot of ways to enjoy this weekend based on the terrific 2023s that populate its roster. Seven of the prospects are ranked in the top-39 nationally, and eight rostered players have already committed to prominent SEC and ACC college programs.

5 Star 16U White’s top prospect list is headed by third baseman/righthander Cam Collier (No. 2, Louisville), righthander/corner-infielder James Hays (No. 13, Georgia), outfielder Drew Burress (No. 14, uncommitted), and catcher/corner-infielder Riley Jackson (No. 16, Florida State).

Catcher/outfielder Brady Neal (No. 26, LSU), shortstop/third baseman Stone Russell (No. 34, Florida) and righthander/infielder Connor Crisp (No. 39, Georgia) can also be difference makers for the team; Collier, Burress, Jackson and Neal were all at the 2019 PG 14u Select Baseball Festival.

“With my son (Drew) being on the team and him having a huge role in putting that team together, it’s just a really close-knit group of guys,” Andy Burress said. “Obviously, they’re really good players and everybody can see that but what people don’t see is just how good of friends they are; a lot of the families are super close.”

5 Star 16U White will be challenged, of course, by dozens of teams that also come in boasting rosters filled with elite prospects.

The Florida-based Top Tier Roos American 2023 feature the talents of third baseman Aidan Miller (No. 3, uncommitted), middle-infielder Cade Kurland (No. 14, Florida), middle-infielder Steven Milam (No. 29, LSU), catcher/outfielder Colton Wombles (No. 33, Auburn); those four also performed at the 2019 PG 14u Select Fest.

The Georgia-based Team Elite 2023 Scout Team enjoys the services of catcher/outfielder Zion Rose (No. 11, Louisville), outfielder Justin Best (No. 25, Florida State) and five other 2023s ranked between Nos. 60 and 165. Rose was at the 2019 PG 13u Select Baseball Festival and at the PG 14u Select Fest a couple of weeks ago in Oklahoma City.

Novato, Calif.-based Meta National 23 has headed east looking to flex its West Coast muscles. Five Meta National 23’s from the 2023 class are ranked in the top-350 nationally including outfielder Owen Egan (No. 19, UCLA), catcher Raffaele Velazquez (No. 23, Arizona State) and shortstop Kai Caranto (No. 68, uncommitted).

Egan was at the 2019 PG 14u Select Fest and Velazquez, like Team Elite’s Rose, was at the 13u Select Fest in 2019 and the 14u Festival this year.

Other highly ranked 2023s in attendance include Dirtbags Signature outfielder TayShaun Walton (No. 5, Miami), Power Baseball 2023 shortstop Braden Holcomb (No. 9, Vanderbilt),  South Charlotte Panthers outfielder Walker Jenkins (#10 North Carolina), Texas Twelve Maroon 2023 lefthander Jakob Schulz (No. 32, uncommitted), Meta Prime 2023 first baseman Nolan Stevens (No. 37, uncommitted) and National Scout Team 2023 outfielder AJ Gracia (No. 41, Duke).

The top 2024s in attendance include Eagles Baseball third baseman Anthony Tralongo (No. 17), 5 Star 15U White righthander Bailey Thorne (No. 40), catcher Brooks Wright (No. 41, Tennessee) and outfielder Camdon Frier (No. 61), and Canes American-Scott catcher Joshua Agriesti.

“I think for us and for everybody in general this is kind of the end of a hectic, to say the least, summer,” Burress said. “We’ve got several groups this week and several groups next week, and for us the excitement (comes with) being in Fort Myers where the weather is nice this time of year. …

“But the biggest thing is being able to go and kind of finish up the last two or three weeks in one place; that’s the most exciting part of it.”

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