Tournaments | Story | 6/14/2021

SWFL 2022 Grinding Out Florida Select

Sam Warren        
Photo: Logan Waldschmidt (Perfect Game)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The game of baseball is always easier when your team can put up a lot of runs. It’s even easier when your pitching and defense can shut down your opposition between the lines.
For SWFL 2022 Nation, neither have been an issue this summer. In their first three games of the 2021 Perfect Game 17u Florida Select Championship, the local squad from Fort Myers has posted a +25 run differential, the highest in the tournament, en route to three dominant victories to begin pool play. 
SWFL kicked off their first Perfect Game tournament of the summer on Saturday by defeating Victus Elite Fl 17u 16-1. Jonathan Negron led the way for SWFL’s offense, picking up two hits and five RBI on the day. Nolan Shamoun carried his weight on the mound as well, striking out three and allowing just two hits through three innings in SWFL’s shortened mercy-rule victory. Heading into their first game on Sunday against South Florida Bullsharks Grey, SWFL coach Greg Dombrowski knew his players were ready from their composed demeanor.
“Our guys have done a great job preparing before the game being locked in mentally,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a high-energy group that likes to play together, and that’s helped us put together a great output.”
SWFL opened up scoring on Sunday with an eruption of offensive production in the bottom of the second against the Bullsharks. After Negron singled on the first pitch he saw, starting pitcher CJ Bussell provided some run support for himself, smashing a triple to the center field wall on the next pitch and plating the game’s first run. Jake D’Altrui promptly scored Bussell with a sacrifice fly to center, giving SWFL a two-run lead.
Bussell said that he finds his job on the mound working advantageously for him at the plate.
“I feel like I hit better when I pitch,” Bussell said. “I feel like I’m more into the game, watching the other pitcher. I feel like my game is better when I’m adding on both sides.”
The SWFL bats continued to mash as William Wiltshire lined a single and quickly scored after Logan Smith drove a double to left field. After Marcos Torres walked and Smith scored on a wild pitch, Shamoun drove another single to center field but was thrown out trying to get to second. By the end of the second, SWFL had already built a 5-0 lead.
The SWFL onslaught continued in the third, as the squad strung together a series of base hits for another big inning. Aiden Nolasco and Kevin RisCassi began the inning with back-to-back singles. Negron then smacked a single to score Nolasco, and Bussell then shot another single over second base to score RisCassi. Wiltshire then continued the pattern as he poked a single up the middle, scoring Negron. As the inning came to a close, SWFL had mounted an 8-0 lead.
While the SWFL bats were hot, Bussell needed little room to work with on the mound. The top-1000 ranked player in the class of 2022 made short order of the Bullsharks hitters to begin the game, striking out the side in 15 pitches in the bottom of the first. Bussell then added two more Ks in the second and one more in the third while not allowing a single baserunner. Through his own contributions and help from his teammates, Bussell believes that his team’s offensive performance was vital in allowing him to shove on the mound.
“We’re all having fun, getting into the game and putting up a lot of runs,” Bussell said. “I just have a smile on my face the whole time. Then I get into the game, I’m relaxed and can do my thing.”
Rhett Raymer relieved Bussell after the third inning and picked up right where he left off. Racking up two strikeouts, Raymer also allowed no baserunners through his two dominant innings. In the last of the fifth, Raymer put a bow on his performance, striking out the final batter for SWFL to take an 8-0 mercy-rule victory over the Bullsharks. Together, Bussell and Raymer combined for a five-inning perfect game. 
While his team has shown out offensively, Dombrowski believes that his team’s pitching and defense have been critical in their dominance.
“Our pitchers have done a tremendous job setting the tone early on, and that’s allowed us to play good defense as well,” Dombrowski said. “Any time your pitcher shoves the ball in the zone and keeps your fielders in position, good things happen.”
Opportunistic baserunning allowed SWFL to jump out to an early lead yet again in their second game of the day against the FTB Expos. After they reached on a hit-by-pitch and an error, Smith and Logan Waldschmidt each crossed home in the top of the second on passed balls, giving SWFL a 2-0 lead to begin the game.
However, the SWFL bats ran abnormally cold through the next few innings, and FTB took advantage. After scoring a run in the second and third, FTB took away the SWFL lead for the first time this weekend. However, Luke Pike rose to the occasion in the top of the sixth, plating Nolasco to break the stalemate. SWFL was aggressive again on the basepaths in the seventh, as Wiltshire scored on an errant throw to second and increased their lead to two.
The new situation didn’t faze the SWFL arms either. Stepping in as relief in the third, Torres embraced the close circumstances and shut down the FTB batters. Through 3 2/3 innings, Torres fanned five batters, allowing two hits and one walk. After SWFL gave Torres some support, Smith stepped in to get the squad over the hump in the seventh, striking out two while closing the game out for a 4-2 SWFL victory.
Through the first two days of their first Perfect Game event of the summer, Dombrowski believes he and his team have gotten a better sense of what their roster is capable of.
“We’re building confidence with guys and figuring out what we’ve got now,” Dombrowski said. “Allowing this group to play together and get to know each other in a competitive tournament, we’re learning our strengths and weaknesses. We’ve got a good plan of attack now and looking forward to the summer.”
After cruising through the first two days of pool play, SWFL will look to secure a first-round bye on Monday for the Championship’s playoffs. If the squad comes out victorious in their final pool play game against the Miami Stingrays on Monday, SWFL will lock down a top-two seed and have their eye on the Championship crown come Tuesday.
As the tournament inches towards title day, Dombrowski said the team is focused on winning, but also enjoying themselves.
“This group of kids is really looking forward to just playing hard and grinding it out,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a fun group to be around, and guys are just out there having a good time.”
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