FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Los Angeles-based Garciaparra Baseball Group (GBG) organization has spent much of the past decade establishing itself as one of the premier programs on the West Coast. In the last half-decade, it’s taken things a step further and is now recognized as one of the premier programs in the entire country.
Want proof? When program founder/owner/head coach Michael Garciaparra woke up here Monday morning he did so knowing he had a team playing in the final-four at the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship (Jupiter) for the fourth time in seven years. That’s a record of success very few programs – regardless of the locale they identify as their base of operations – can match.
There is a caveat, however. Those outstanding GBG teams of the past had never taken the next step. All three of the previous semifinalists were beaten in that round and never played for the championship.
“We’ve taken third three times at this thing,” Garciaparra told PG on Monday afternoon, speaking from the Terry Park Sports Complex. “I told the guys we need to get to the damn final. Just get us to the final and I know we’ll figure it out.
“So that’s what they did and this is a very, very special group. … They competed together like champions and that’s what they deserve to be; it was a total team effort for sure.”
GBG Navy 2021 listened to their coach and won a semifinal game for the first time Monday morning, then left nothing for chance in overwhelming Power Baseball 2021, 9-1 in six innings, in the championship game on a steamy Monday afternoon at Terry Park Stadium.
The No. 13-seeded Navy 2021 (7-0-1) totaled 13 hits in the blitz, one a three-run home run from Josiah Chavez in a seven-run second. They also got four innings of no-hit, six-strikeout work out of 2021 lefthander Anthony Joya, a top-500 Cal State Fullerton recruit.
The No. 10 Power 2021 (7-1-0) were never able to mount much of a charge in the championship game after playing very impressively over the previous four days.
“Our coach was on us the entire tournament; he really wanted us to win this thing,” tournament Most Valuable Player Carson Williams told PG postgame. “He was confident in us the whole way and he (told us to) keep the energy up the whole time. We’re a big momentum team. Once we had those first (four) runs we were just going to roll; that’s what happened and it was amazing.”
That top of the second inning in which GBG Navy plated seven runs was nothing short of a clinic on how to make contact and proved for the umpteenth time that hitting can be contagious. It started innocently enough with a lead-off walk to Matt Clark which was followed by a single from Aaron Reyes. William "Dub" Gleed then stroked a single to right field which plated Clark and tied the game at one.
That brought Chavez to the plate and he hit a laser shot 375-feet over the wall in right-center that gave the Navy 2021 a 4-1 lead. Two outs were recorded back-to-back and it looked like the Power 2021 might be out of the woods when in fact GBG’s fun was just getting started.
Caleb Lomavita, Williams, Jackson Castillo and Clark all hit two-out singles with Castillo’s driving in a run and Clark’s bringing in two. It was 7-1 at that point and when GBG added an eighth run in the fourth on an RBI single from Gleed the Navy 2021 was entering run-rule territory.
That came to be in the sixth when Williams led-off with a single – his third of the game – Clark walked and Reyes singled to load the bases. Williams came around to score GBG’s ninth run on an RBI fielder’s choice groundout from Gleed which meant game-over if the Power 2021 didn’t score in the bottom half; they didn’t.
What’s almost forgotten in this is that the Power 2021 actually led this game 1-0 at the end of the first inning. Joya was shaky at the outset and issued leadoff, one-out and two-out walks to Marcus O'Malley, Justin Colon and Noah Sullivan with a run finally scoring on a two-out wild pitch.
Williams, a 6-foot-1, 175 pound 2021 shortstop from San Diego who is a Cal commit ranked No. 148 nationally, went 10-for-24 (.417) with three doubles, a triple, 10 RBI and eight runs scored to earn the MVP recognition. Hitting third in the order, he was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two stolen bases in the championship game.
“Half of us here, we didn’t even know each other (pre-tournament) and we came together so well,” Williams said. “We’re all pretty much from California … and we came together so well. We worked as a team, we played well and we minimized errors. We just had a mindset of win, win, win and we came out and we did what we were supposed to.”
GBG Navy 2021 right-hander Dennis Colleran, a 6-foot-3, 220 pound righty from North Attleboro, Mass., - a Northeastern University commit ranked No. 126 nationally - was brought in from the GBG Northeast program and pitched absolutely lights-out and was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.
Colleran made three appearances, all in relief, and was dominant in each outing. He came in against the Rawlings National ST/Sticks Baseball during pool-play and worked 2 2/3, two-hit, scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and a walk – eight outs, eight strikeouts.
He worked another 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dirtbags Scout Team in the playoffs’ second round, allowing one hit and striking out two. Garciaparra went to him again in the semifinals on Monday against the Canes 17u Prospects and this time it was 1 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings with another strikeout. Tournament total: 6 2/3, no runs, three hits, 12 Ks and two walks.
“I take every single pitch and every single at-bat trying to get every single batter out,” Colleran said. “I focus on trying to throw as hard as I can and as accurate as I can and I never try to throw out of my shoes. … I’m more about trying to get the outs and trying to get the team to the next game.”
This is the first time a team from the West Coast has won a Jupiter championship since the SoCal-based, Christian Yelich-led ABD Bulldogs ’13 captured the crown back in 2008. GBG and other West Coast programs had absolutely nothing to prove here this weekend but there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with finishing on top of the most competitive high school-aged amateur baseball tournament in the world brings.
“It’s hard for me right now because my dad (Ramon) is back home and I’m just thinking about him being here and (enjoying) this, too; he’s always here with me,” Garciaparra said. “But it’s hard for West Coast teams to come out here. You run with what you bring out here and you can’t just pop guys in and out.
“I’m proud that 98 percent of our team is California boys … and that’s what I think makes it super special,” he added. “We’re just one of those teams that’s going to play with what we’ve got and that’s what they did.”
The 2020 spring, summer and fall seasons have been challenging for every travel ball program from every state in the union due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions but it has been especially difficult for the players from California.
Garciaparra said they still aren’t able to play organized games with umpires and this team has had to travel to Arizona just to get out on the field. “For these guys to compete at the toughest level in all of amateur baseball through a long grind, I just couldn’t be more proud,” he said.
“All the hard work that we put in this summer and even the years before just to get here, it’s just such an honor to be at this tournament,” Williams said. “It’s like nothing I’ve (experienced) before; it’s amazing.”
Colleran, the kid from the Boston area can totally relate: “Without having a spring season, to come out here in October and being able to win this, it’s huge. It’s a great way to end the year.”
Both finalists won semifinal games at Terry Park Monday morning to move into the championship by building early leads and then holding on for tense victories.
The Power 2021 enjoyed a 4-0 lead with six innings in the books and outlasted the No. 22 Scorpions Marucci Franchise Team for a 4-2 win.
Power Baseball 2021 righty Noah Sullivan got the start and threw four, four-hit shutout innings to pick up the win. Ben Barrett singled and drove in a pair of runs, and Greg Pettay and Mason Wilson both singled and drove in a run.
The Navy 2021 scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning and added a single run in the second for an early 6-0 lead against the No. 16 Canes 17u Prospects and then held on for an 8-5 win; the Prospects scored five runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to get within 6-5 but GBG Navy prevailed.
Matt Clark singled twice, drove in three runs and scored another for GBG; Aaron Reyes tripled, singled and scored and Josiah Chavez delivered a two-run single.