FORT MYERS, Fla. – By the time the 19th annual Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship reached its conclusion late Monday afternoon, one of the many lessons learned over this PG national championship’s five-day run was indeed a profound one: Eight proved to be more than enough for the Texas Twelve.
The College Station-based Texas Twelve Maroon 2022, down to just eight players in their semifinal (co-championship) game at Terry Park on Monday, outlasted the Top Tier Roos American 2023, 2-1, to make their claim as co-champion at the WWBA Under World.
On the other side of the bracket, the Fredericksburg, Va.-based Canes 17u American squeaked past the Stars Baseball 17u Sisk, 3-1, in their semifinal to share championship honors with the Texas Twelve.
PG tournament officials made the decision to tighten the schedule and name co-champs at the conclusion of Monday’s semifinals due to the logjam of games that needed to be played Monday after weather woes postponed 14 games on Sunday.
Second round, third round and quarterfinal games played Monday were shortened to five innings with the semifinals (co-championship) games allowed to go seven.
Naming co-champs isn’t always a perfect outcome but everyone agreed it was the right thing to do under the circumstances presented this weekend. And when all was said and done, no one could argue that two very worthy ballclubs were being fitted for PG national championship rings as the sun began to set to the west.
THE NO. 24-SEEDED TEXAS TWELVE MAROON 2022 (8-0-0) played third round and quarterfinal games on Monday before meeting the No. 37 Top Tier Roos American 2023 (6-1-1) in their co-championship game at Terry Park.
With only eight players at their disposal, the Texas Twelve Maroon 2022 coaches used two outfielders to back-up a full infield and were still good enough to hold on to the 2-1 victory.
The tournament’s original schedule called for only semifinal and championship games to be played Monday morning so quite a few of the Texas Twelve players had scheduled flights home for the mid to late afternoon, which left the team short-handed.
“We realized that we still had eight so we said get on your flights and go home if that’s what you want to do,” Texas Twelve 2022 head coach Zach Dillon told PG, referring to the players that departed and doing so in an understanding manner.
“Obviously, people have missed a lot of school and there’s a lot of stuff going on back home, and they got their fill of baseball. But I couldn’t be more proud of the eight guys that are here that stayed.”
The story of the game was the effort put forth by 2022 primary outfielder but efficient right-hander Trey Duffield, who is ranked No. 438 overall (No. 48 Texas) as an outfielder. He was handed the ball and gave Dillon 4 2/3 superb one-hit, scoreless innings, striking out one and walking four.
It was his second outing of the event and his final line read 6 1/3 innings pitched, no runs on two hits with three K’s and seven walks; he was named the MV Pitcher.
“The guts and the determination of Trey Duffield – that’s a huge moment for that kid. He’s got a future in baseball … and that was just a really big moment for him,” Dillon said. “Not because his stuff was good, not because he really played great, all he did was just grind and gut through a hip-flexor strain and pitch 4 2/3 scoreless (while) giving up one hit against one of the best offenses in the country.”
The Texas Twelve (eight?) scored both of their runs in the bottom of the fourth when Kaeden Kent had a leadoff single and moved to third after Ronald Benavidez followed-up with a double. Two outs later, Nicholas Fernandez chased both of them home with a two-run double.
The Top Tier Roos American 2023 scored their only run in the top of the seventh when PG 2019 14u Defensive Player of the Year Steven Milam delivered a two-out double, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
Milam, an elite 2022 shortstop and LSU commit ranked No. 29 nationally (No. 1 New Mexico) went 8-for-21 (.381) with five doubles, three singles, seven walks, two RBI and 10 runs scored and was named the MV Player.
“All the respect in the world for that club over there,” Dillon said, speaking of Top Tier. “There were a lot of tired guys on the field and it was kind of like whoever was going to crack even a little bit for one inning there. We were able to take advantage with a couple of big knocks and that was it.”
It was a great five days overall for the Texas Twelve program and the effort of the eight guys who gutted it out until the end left a big impression on their head coach. He noted that in today’s day and age it seems like it’s just easier for a lot of people to shut it down and not go out and compete for anything.
“These guys did the absolute opposite and I’m fired-up for them,” he said. “What a great day, to win five games in less than 24 hours and just really battle and grind. It was not perfect, it was not really even good at times, but we won.
“And at the end of the day the team with the most runs gets to keep playing and we were able to do that eight times this week. And that’s why we’re 8-0 and co-champs, I guess we call it.”
THE NO. 19 CANES 17U AMERICAN (8-0-0) WERE ONE of seven teams in the 48-team playoff field that weren’t able to play their second round game on Sunday so they had to play it Monday morning. They were at the field until nearly 11 p.m. Sunday when the game was postponed and had to return for an 8 a.m. start on Monday.
Once at the Lee County Player Development 5-Plex they settled-in and beat the No. 14 Gamers Underclass, 4-0, in the second round before topping the No. 35 Northeast Pride Scout Team Underclass, 7-3, in the third round; they then blanked the No. 38 Banditos Scout Team 2022/23, 6-0, in the quarters.
The 3-1 semifinal win over the No. 34 Stars Baseball 17u Sisk was their fourth game of the day which made the possibility of playing a championship game out of the question.
“We knew going into the day it was going to be a long day, man, and I said we’ve got to go one at a time,” head coach Bryson Massey told PG at the conclusion of the co-championship game. “I knew the guys were going to go to battle because they have all summer and this fall.
“It was a long, hot day and when you get to this last game it’s just who’s got more heart in them and I felt like this group, they had it.”
The Canes American needed their starting pitcher to give them as many innings as possible in the tournament finale and they received an outstanding performance from Travis Camp. A 2022 right-hander, Camp threw a complete game three-hitter, allowing just the one run while striking out one and walking one,
They scored their first run in the bottom of the second when Cameron Burgess and Blain Simonich came through with back-to-back one-out singles and Burgess was chased home by a two-out RBI single from Brad Gregory.
Two more runs were pushed across in the bottom of the fourth, the first coming when Eli Serrano smacked a leadoff single, Burgess followed with another single of his own and Serrano eventually scored on a one-out sac fly from Caleb Crain; Austin Younce reached on an error which scored Burgess.
“They had the heart and they had the want and I challenged them at the beginning of the game,” Massey said. “I said, you’ve got seven innings left (so) empty it all out there, and they did. We had some guys go down in this game that were getting a little tired and having some heat problems but they (pulled) through it and we found a way to do it.”
The Canes 17u American Connor Rasmussen, a 2022 shortstop and top-500 East Carolina commit, went 7-for-21 (.333) with a triple, four RBI and nine runs scored and was named the bracket’s MV Player.
Unheralded Stars Baseball 17u Sisk 2022 right-hander Logan Darrow was named the MV Pitcher based primarily on an exceptional third round playoff outing against the powerhouse East Cobb Astros 16u Texas Orange.
Darrow threw a no-hit, no-walk five inning shutout at the Texas Orange, with a hit-by-pitch keeping him from a perfect game; he faced 16 batters, just one over the minimum. He made one other appearance at the event and his final line was no runs on two hits with six strikeouts and no walks in 6 2/3.
“You always say, hey, it is what it is and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do whenever the time comes,” Massey said. “The weather delays and all that we had to do with the (postponement Sunday) night, I just told them we’ve got to come out and play the game (Monday).
“It’s baseball and anything can happen and they did it. This group right here is amazing and they had one goal and they achieved it coming down here.”