FORT MYERS, Fla. – SWFL 18u’s high hopes coming into the Perfect Game WWBA Florida Qualifier looked to be dashed just two games in, but the hometown boys refused to go home early.
Fort Myers-based SWFL 18u rattled off five straight wins in two days after losing its second game in pool-play, and won the Florida Qualifier with a decisive 6-0 win over FTB Mizuno 17u in the championship game at sun-soaked Hammond Stadium mid-day Monday.
The championship assured SWFL 18u of a paid invitation to the prestigious WWBA World Championship Oct. 20-24 across the Florida peninsula in Jupiter. Head coach Ryan Horton was celebrating the here-and-now in the ensuing moments immediately after his team recorded the final out against FTB Mizuno 17u, but he also couldn’t help but look a month ahead.
“It’s unbelievable for us,” Horton said of the paid WWBA World invite. “It helps us out money-wise, and to just go in there with this confidence now, we’ll just run from here.”
Winning the championship seemed doubtful when SWFL 18u lost its second pool-play to Orlando Baseball Academy, 3-2, on Saturday. The team refused to let the loss be the tournament’s end-all.
“Coming into it we just wanted to jell as a team, and after that early round loss to OBA, I told (the team) that I think they just woke up a sleeping giant,” Horton said. “We put it all together and ran off five straight, and it was just an unbelievable performance by our boys.
“We had a team meeting, and everybody stepped up and took blame for that game and said ‘I did this, I did that,’” Horton continued. “We came out the next day and played an early game. We put it all together and everyone was great from then on.”
Infielder Luke Maglich from Sarasota, Fla., went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the championship game and was named the Qualifier’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .533 (8-for-15) with an on-base percentage of about .700 and a slugging percentage close to .580. He also drove in six runs.
In the aftermath of his team’s loss on Saturday, Maglich said he had his doubts about the possibility of standing inside Hammond Stadium accepting congratulations on Monday afternoon.
“To be honest? No,” Maglich said when asked if thought then he’d be celebrating a championship. “We struggled facing some slower pitching and luckily we got it together the next game and pulled out a ‘W’, and that let us get out of pool-play.”
No. 12 seed SWFL 18u (6-1-0) shot out to a 3-0 first inning lead and was never headed in the championship game against No. 10 seed FTB Mizuno 17u (5-1-1). Left-hander Tanner Renegar pitched seven shutout innings and allowed only three hits while walking one. Brendon Sanger was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored and Brendan Long was 1-for-3 with three RBI.
In the end, though, it was pitching and defense that carried the day. SWFL 18u gave up only 11 runs in its seven games.
“Our pitching staff was unbelievable. They came out and shut it down,” Horton said. “We ran a little ragged at the end but our boy Renegar came out and threw a hell of a game and we put the bats together and just ran off.”
Two of the three hits FTB Mizuno 17u collected came off the bat of Tomas Nido, a top 2012 prospect who has committed to Florida Atlantic. Nido, a catcher, finished the tournament hitting .545 (12-for-22) with a home run and 10 RBI.
FTB Mizuno 17u left-hander Sean Brady, a University of Florida commit from Cape Coral, Fla., was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. Brady won two games, allowing six hits and no earned runs with no walks and nine strikeouts over seven innings of work.
Everyone on both sides seemed to enjoy the Qualifier, which was not once interrupted by rain.
“It’s been a great experience. We got to play together as a team for just the second time this year and Horty (Horton) led us through the whole way. He put the lineups together and he did everything,” Maglich said. “We had good pitching, and that’s what helped us. We had enough pitchers on this team to let us get here.”
SWFL 18u: Road to the championship game
SWFL 18u capped a nail-biting road to the championship game with a 9-2 win over top-seeded FTB Pride in its semifinal game. It was SWFL 18u’s first win by more than one run since its tournament-opener Friday – a 10-2 decision over South Florida Breakers 18u.
After the win over SFB 18u, SWFL 18u got nicked by Orlando Baseball Academy, 3-2, then did some nicking of its own by edging Gatorball Baseball Academy, 2-1, and finished pool-play with a 2-1-0 record. It outscored its three opponents by a combined 14-6, and moved into the playoffs as the No. 12 seed.
Once in bracket-play, the games remained tight. SWFL beat the No. 5 seed CBC Riverhawks, 3-2, in the first round then topped No. 13 Bullets Baseball 18u, 3-1, in the quarters.
SWFL 18u jumped out to an early 4-2, third inning lead against FTB Pride in the semifinal, and then tacked on two in the fifth and three more in the seventh to skate to the win.
Its 16-hit attack was led by Luke Maglich, who went 4-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Brendon Sanger was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs and Zachary Giczewski was 3-for-3 with a run. Christopher Barr, Tyler Selesky and Brendan Long each had two hits.
Sanger got the start and the win, working six innings of four-hit ball with seven strikeouts.
FTB Mizuno 17u: Road to the championship game
FTB Mizuno 17u beat 14th-seeded Bucky Dent Academy, 4-2, in its semifinal game at Hammond Stadium Monday morning, on the heels of upset playoff wins over No. 7 seed Central Florida Bandits Upperclass and second-seeded Orlando Scorpions 2012 Black.
FTBM earned the playoff’s No. 10 seed by going 2-0-1 in its three pool-play games. It beat the Florida Prospect Thunderbirds, 10-2, and the West Coast Nine Devils, 7-2, before settling for a 3-3 tie with Miami Suns Gold in pool-play.
The win over Bucky Dent was hard-fought and even a bit fortuitous. FTBM took advantage of three BDA errors and only one of its runs was earned as it took a 3-0 first inning lead and then managed to hold on.
Left-hander Sean Brady was the starter and winner, scattering five hits and allowing no earned runs over four innings to go with five strikeouts. Right-handers Tomas Nido and Chris Elander – both of whom have committed to Florida International, Nido as a catcher – were shaky over the final three innings, combining to allow three hits and an earned run.
Seven FTBM players rapped out eight hits, with Nido’s double the only extra-base variety. Clay Middleton was the only player with two hits.