Tournaments | Story | 6/21/2021

Legends Call on 2023 Arms at 18u BCS

Sam Warren        
Photo: Brandon Olivera (Perfect Game)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While the 2021 18u BCS National Championship is open for any player born after May 1, 2002 to participate, most rosters are chock-full of players from the class of 2021. 
The same is true for the Florida Legends, as over half of their players graduated high school this past school year. However, the Miramar, Fla.-based squad relied on young arms on the mound on Father’s Day, as class of 2023 studs David Davila and Brandon Olivera mowed through opposing lineups en route to two victories on the day.
Legends head coach Carlos Marti said that while unconventional for his organization, the budding pitchers have earned their way into the rotation.
“The future is very bright for us,” Marti said. “We generally don’t have sophomores pitch for us. It’s nice to know that we have two dudes to start the summer right off the bat next year.”
Davila started the first game for the Legends, shutting down the Blue Bombers on the way to a 13-1 mercy-rule victory in four innings. The No. 165 player in the class of 2023 tossed a complete game for the squad, striking out three while only allowing one hit and two walks over the four innings. A Florida State commit, Davila reached 86 mph on his fastball and said his main goal was to locate that pitch.
“I came out wanting to fill up the zone,” Davila said. “I had been struggling with that here and there, but today I was able to hit my spots. In-out, up-down, it was all working.”
Olivera came on in relief in the team’s second bout against JSB Tigers 18u, shutting them down to close out a 6-0 Legends victory. The No. 43 player in the 2023 class and the top right-handed pitcher in Florida threw three shutout innings for the Legends, striking out two and allowing just two baserunners. Olivera, a Miami commit, topped out at 89 mph on his fastball, and Marti was proud of the way his young hurler performed.
“Brandon’s one our youngest, and he’s one of the few sophomores I’ve ever pitched in our program,” Marti said. “He went in there, threw strikes and did a great job.”
While the Legends’ pitchers dominated on the hill, their bats were just as impressive. After Abdriel Delgado reached on a hit-by-pitch in the top of the first against the Bombers, Jose Hernandez drove a two-out RBI double to left, plating the Jacksonville commit and the first run of the game. Hernandez promptly stole third base, allowing him to score easily on an Edgardo Villegas RBI single up the middle, giving the Legends a 2-0 lead to begin the game.
The Legends kept the bats alive in the second, as Daniel Swirsky drilled a single to left field. After reaching on a fielder’s choice, Anthony Ruiz scored on a Brian Holiday RBI single to center. Holiday then stole second base, making it easy for Kader Rabagh to drive him home with another RBI single to right field. Delgado kept the line moving, poking another RBI single to right to score Rabagh. A series of walks then loaded the bases and scored Delgado.
As the bottom of the second rolled around, the Legends had mounted a 6-0 lead. While Marti was happy with the offensive result, he was more proud of the way his hitters produced.
“We scored all our runs in this game with two outs,” Marti said. “As a coach, that’s a cherry-on-top of all the runs. It’s very impressive to see what our bats have done here so far.”
Opportunistic baserunning kicked off the offensive for the Legends in the third. Victor Davila and Swirsky began the inning with back-to-back walks, and after advancing on an error and a flyout, Davila scored on a wild pitch from third base. A pitch then hit Rabagh, and as Delgado stepped into the box, Swirsky saw an opportunity on the first pitch and successfully stole home. Delgado and Andrew Estrella then walked, loading the bases for Hernandez. The Legends bats then cracked the inning open as Hernandez shot a two-RBI single into center. Villegas and Juan Aracena strung together two more RBI singles, with Villegas aggressively getting home as well. Before the Legends hitters finally quieted, they had put up seven more runs, giving them a 13-0 lead.
As the Legends offense did their part, Davila returned the favor, dealing on the mound. The Opa-Locka, Fla. native began the game by striking out the side and continued to shove. Through three innings, Davila had allowed just one baserunner. While he often faces upperclassmen pitching for Hialeah Senior High School, Davila was happy with how he performed around older players.
“It makes me super confident,” Davila said. “Playing high school ball, I’m kind of used to it, but here it’s all older kids. Being around older teammates as well, I’m seeing them perform as they go into college, and I want to get up to that standard.”
Although Davila found himself in some trouble early in the fourth, the lefty limited the damage. Allowing just one run in the inning, Davila got a Bombers batter to ground out to third, ending the fourth and closing out a 13-1 Legends mercy-rule victory.
The Legends started slower to begin their second matchup. After finding himself in some scary situations in the first and second, pitcher Christian Orduna was able to get his squad out of the jams and keep it scoreless into the bottom of the second. Even though it wasn’t the prettiest, Marti was proud of how Orduna battled through the tough innings.
“Chris is one of our top guys, but he actually had a cut on his finger,” Marti said. “I told him that anybody can pitch when everything works. Him figuring it out the way he did was key for our success today.”
Aracena then woke up the bats for the Legends, shooting a single past the JSB first baseman in the second. Victor Davila took advantage of the baserunner, drilling an RBI triple to deep left-center for the game’s first run. 
Orduna settled down in the third and fourth, handling the Tiger offense with ease. In the bottom of the fourth, the Legends looked to add some insurance as Estrella drew a leadoff walk. Villegas then poked a single into right field, advancing the Stetson commit. With a runner on third, Aracena came through for the Legends, hitting a hard groundout to short to score Estrella.
After Olivera came in and shut down the Tigers in the fifth and sixth, the Legends broke the game open in the bottom of the inning. Delgado got the rally going by leading off and reaching on an error. Estrella then pounded an RBI double off the left-field wall, scoring Delgado. Hernandez returned the favor, shooting another RBI double into right to score Estrella. Villegas kept the line moving, driving home Hernandez with an RBI single. After advancing to third on a Victor Davila single, Villegas, also a Miami commit, got home on a Swirsky sacrifice fly to center, extending the lead to six. While they didn’t need much help, Davila believes his offense’s firepower allows the Legends pitchers to feel more comfortable on the mound.
“They help me gain a lot of confidence,” Davila said. “I know that they’re going to keep swinging it. I know that if I gave up a run, they were going to fire back with six. You never want to let anything up, but having these guys gives me a lot more room for error.”
Olivera didn’t need the support, though, as the righty continued to shove in the seventh. With two outs, Olivera induced a groundout to short, closing out a 6-0 victory for the Legends, keeping them undefeated on the weekend.
As the team prepares for bracket play on Monday and Tuesday, Marti can’t help but think about the good hands that the Legends program will be left in after the summer.
“[Davila and Olivera] are so fun to watch,” Marti said. “They’re both committed to big-time schools, and I can’t wait to see what they do going forward.”
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