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Tournaments  | Championship  | 5/24/2023

Beast of the East Champs: 13 & 14u

Jheremy Brown     
ZT Prospects Stays Timely, Delivers Championship Win

When you come to an event like the Beast of the East, expectations are high, but so are the pressure packed situations as every game feels like a championship-type setting with top prospects littered throughout both dugouts. In the end, it was the ZT Prospects National who remained the last team standing in the 13u division and to say they rose to the occasion might just be an understatement. Their tournament run kicked off with a 2-1 thriller over SBA Bolts National under the lights at 8 PM, all but assuring it'd be standing room only as two of the top teams in the country battled it out immediately as the lone 13u game going on at the complex. A late rally sparked their win over SBA Florida Scout before slipping up and losing to a very tough Wildcatters Burgos team 6-4, pushing their record to 2-1 on the tournament. In a "can't lose" contest against the Backyard Ballers to wrap up pool play, ZT managed a 6-6 tie, plating all of their runs in the final two innings, including a huge 3-run home run by Zion Avina to knot it all up. 

The quarter-final matchup agains the undefeated TG DBacks is a game that will go down as arguably the best game of the summer and I'm saying that before the summer truly even kicks off. Down 6-0 after two innings, ZT plated 4 in the 3rd inning and another 2 in the 4th inning before taking a 4 run lead in the 7th where the tie-break rules were put into effect (bases loaded, one out). When it was TG's turn to hit, they plated 4 of their own and were still threatening with the bases loaded and one out before Dru Wilson was able to induce a ground ball back to him which he promptly threw home and then on to first base to complete the double play and move onto the 8th. In the 8th it was Lennex Minor's time to seize the spotlight as his triple cleared the bases, completely the 5 run inning to give is team a comfortable lead, though only for a moment. Kamauri Wilson kicked off the bottom half of the 8th in style as he launched a 2-0 fastball over the fence, immediately making it a one-run game, swinging the momentum back into the TG DBack dugout though Wilson would shut the down with the tying run on first to propel his team to the championship round.

It's again worth noting this is a 13u game but was played like anything but with quality defense and timely plays, huge momentum swings and and a clutch factor from both teams you won't see in your typical 13u content. Oh, and of the 8 arms to throw, 7 bumped 80 mph or better while Dexter McCleon Jr (TG DBacks), Ethan Torres and Jael Santos (ZT Prospects) put up some eye-opening numbers on the radar gun, topping out at 89, 87, and 86 mph apiece, respectively. 

Riding the momentum of a huge win, ZT once again locked horns with the Wildcatters Burgos club and looked to exact their revenge following their earlier contest and did just that with a 10-1 victory in 5 innings. After trading zeroes in the first inning, a couple of walks to open the frame swung the momentum into ZT's dugout and the bats came alive with five consecutive singles, putting up a 5-spot on the scoreboard, a lead they'd never relinquish. With two more runs in the 3rd inning and another 3 in the 5th (including Zion Avina's second big fly of the day) the ZT offense paced the club throughout their championship run before tournament MVP Angel Gonzalez jumped on the mound to close things out and did just that with 2 innings of one-hit baseball. 

A talented roster, ZT received timely hitting and clutch pitching (two must have ingredients when trying to survive a gauntlet like the Beast of the East) throughout their run, taking home the crown while heading into the summer on a very high note. 

The Beast of the East is from...the West?

What a run it was for BPA as the California based club survived as the lone undefeated squad through pool and continued their dominance throughout their playoff run in Panama City. A talented roster with several familiar faces, the pitching staff held their opposition to just 7 combined runs over the course of pool play before winning a nail biting semifinals contest against the Motor City Hit Dogs by a score a 6-5. They locked horns with Wow Factor Nation 14u, whose lone hiccup came during pool play against the same BPA squad, and were riding some serious momentum after decisive wins over Motor City to end pool play and USA Prime to kick things off in the playoffs behind a strong start from Zachary Tavarez on the mound.

The main storyline heading into the championship pitted the BPA pitching staff against a potent Wow offense as the BPA arms allowed just 7 runs through pool play, a tournament best, while the Wow bats pushed across 37 runs, also an event best. It was Wow Factor who jumped out to an early lead as they were able to plate a run in the first inning via a John Berry Upton single following a pair of free bases, however that's all the offense was able to generate, never sending more than four runners into the box the rest of the way. However, following that initial run, Perfect Game Select Festival alum Nomar Torres locked it in and went the distance in the run rule shortened 6 inning affair, scattering just three hits while striking out 7 alongside those two walks. His performance was simply a continuation of what we almost came to expect whenever a BPA arm was on the mound, though their offense was equally as impressive throughout their run.

It wasn't until the 3rd inning that BPA was able to tie things as Dyson Grant provided an immediate spark with a one out triple before, who else, Nomar Torres came to the plate and singled in his first of two RBI on the day. The club did a majority of its damage the following frame as they put up a six-spot and truly never looked back. At one point in the inning they sent five hitters to the plate and came away with five consecutive singles and all five of those bats (Wilson Shaw, Griffin McKain, Dyson Grant, Nomar Torres and Logan Schmidt) enjoyed a multi-hit performance in the championship game. In totality the offense connected for 14 hits, yielding 9 runs with a pair of three baggers from both Grant and Schmidt. 

It's not often you see a club take the No. 1 seed in pool play and carry that momentum all the way through and into a championship win, especially in a gauntlet like the Beast of the East, but it speaks to the composition of the roster, a certain clutch factor scattered throughout, and a true brand of team baseball to get the job done.