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Tournaments | Story | 6/23/2021

Legends Take Home 18u BCS Title

Sam Warren        
Photo: Florida Legends (Perfect Game)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Florida Legends were crowned the 2021 PG 18u BCS National Championship victors Tuesday afternoon, defeating Marucci Elite Texas 18u Mayo, 11-3. While the game ended in a six-inning mercy rule, the matchup remained hotly-contested until the bottom of the sixth, when the Legends put up five runs to earn them the title.
 
After going home early in the 2021 PG 18u East Memorial Day Classic quarterfinals, the Legends pushed through the BCS field unscathed. Compiling an 8-0-1 record through pool and bracket play, the Miramar, Fla.-based squad posted an exceptional +57 run differential throughout the tournament. Legends head coach Carlos Marti was proud of his team’s performance after five long days of baseball.
 
“We just took home a victory against a really good ball club,” Marti said. “It just looked like we had another gear at this point after three games today, and having that drive is really impressive.”
 
After tempers flared through a heated first inning, the Legends bats found life in the bottom of the second. Andrew Estrella drilled the first pitch he saw to deep left field for a double to lead off the inning, giving the team an immediate runner in scoring position. Edgardo Villegas then shot a ball to the right-field wall, but Marucci’s right fielder tracked down the fly out, which allowed Estrella to advance to third. As Juan Aracena looked to plate the game’s first run, Estrella took advantage of a wild pitch, aggressively taking home and igniting the Legends dugout. In such a pivotal game, Marti thought grabbing momentum early was crucial to finish out victorious.
 
“Scoring first was big,” Marti said. “Especially in the championship game, you want to get on the board early, and we were able to do that.”
 
After Legends pitcher Michael Alfonso shut down the Marucci attack in the top of the inning, the Legends offense rode their momentum in the bottom of the third. Brandon Olivera kicked off the inning with another double to deep left field. To score the Miami commit, Kader Rabagh put pressure on the Marucci defense by laying down a bunt. The speedy Rabagh succeeded, as a throwing error scored Olivera and advanced the top-1000 ranked player in the 2021 class to third. Abdriel Delgado then capitalized on the opportunity, grounding an RBI single to right field to score Rabagh.
 
The Marucci bats would not back down quietly, however. Gavyn Jones got the rally going in the fourth with a leadoff single, then advanced to second on a balk. A Jaiden Wallace groundout then advanced Jones to third, giving Jack Clark an opportunity to drive home the first Marucci run of the game. The Louisianna-Lafayette commit delivered, knocking a single up the middle to score Jones. After Donavan Adkins walked, Carter Allen kept the line moving, singling to the left side and loading the bases. With a chance to even the game, Dawson Overby took advantage, shooting a two-RBI single into left field to score Clark and the speedy Adkins. As Marruci looked to take the lead, Alfonso limited the damage, inducing a double play to end the inning. While the opposition got to the top-500 player in the 2021 class, Marti was pleased with Alfonso’s play and attitude on the mound.
 
“Alfonso did a great job,” Marti said. “He was asking for the ball the whole time, and with a depleted bullpen after these long days, his pitching was what we needed to get through.”
 
After getting punched in the mouth, the Legends fought back in the bottom of the fifth. Olivera poked a leadoff single through the middle, putting the go-ahead run on base. Delgado and Jose Hernandez then walked, loading the bases for pinch hitter Maurice Maiquez. In the biggest moment, the 2024 graduate delivered, lining a two-RBI single to left to score both Olivera and Delgado, retaking the lead for the Legends. With the title on the line, Marti couldn’t be prouder of the way the young bat executed.
 
“Maurice is only a freshman,” Marti said. “The kid came up big to take the lead when we needed it. He won’t ever forget that moment.”
 
The team added on to their lead with some savvy baserunning, as Hernandez scored on a poor Marucci pickoff attempt. As the sixth inning began, the Legends had regained a 6-3 lead. 
 
Marcos Gamboa proceeded to shut down the Marucci bats in the sixth, and the Legends smelled blood in the water with the championship in their sights. To begin the sixth, Daniel Swirsky drew a walk, and Anthony Ruiz shot a single through the middle giving the squad two baserunners to work with. Rabagh proceeded to poke a grounder to first that Marucci couldn’t handle, scoring Swirsky. With runners in scoring position, the Legends kept the line moving as back-to-back-to-back RBI singles from Delgado, Hernandez and Maiquez put the team within one run of ending the game. With Juan Aracena at the plate, Hernandez took advantage of a wild pitch, sprinting home to give the Legends an 11-3 mercy-rule victory and the BCS National Championship title. 
 
On top of his solid championship performance, Hernandez received the MVP award for the tournament. The top-1000 player in the 2021 class was 10-for-24 on the weekend, smacking five doubles and driving home 11 runs in the process. Hernandez feels that winning the award sets a new standard for himself and his play.
 
“Winning sets my goals high,” Hernandez said. “The rest of the summer, I want to keep playing well against good competition and try to win everything I can.”
 
Despite the losing effort, Marruci’s Alejandro Diaz earned MV-Pitcher honors for his performance throughout the tournament. The righty threw 9 1/3 shutout innings over two games, including a complete-game shutout in the semifinals to advance his squad to the championship game.
 
With a whole summer ahead of his squad, Marti is looking forward to continuing to see his team battle and come back from deficits after seeing his team do so Tuesday afternoon.
 
“The summer’s only a few weeks old, but we’ve talked about needing to answer back,” Marti said. “We’ve lost games here where we didn’t answer back, but today we did it every time. We took a giant step forward today as a team.”
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