FORT MYERS, Fla. - A strong thunderstorm packing lightning and a torrential, soaking rain that hit downtown Fort Myers Friday afternoon forced the cancellation of the championship game at the Perfect Game 14u BCS Finals.
The heavy and persistent rain - more than 2 inches were reported downtown - hit in the bottom of the fourth inning during the championship game between the Dallas Patriots from Dallas, Tex., and the EvoShield Canes from Cary, N.C. After more than an hour of steady rain it became apparent the playing field at City of Palms Park would be unplayable for hours.
With more rain expected and by agreement from both teams' coaches, Perfect Game declared the Patriots and Canes 14u BCS Finals co-champions. Both teams will receive championship trophies and the players from both teams will receive championship rings.
The Canes led the game, 2-0, with the Patriots batting in the bottom of the fourth when the umpires prudently sent the players to their covered dugouts at the first sighting of lightning strikes nearby.
A Tournament Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Pitcher were named based on their play before the championship game cancellation.
Dallas Patriots third baseman Michael Neustifter (2016, Carrollton, Tex.) was named the MVPlayer. In nine games, Neustifter was 12-for-22 (.600) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBI, nine runs scored, five walks and a .679 on-base percentage.
Right-hander Garrett Stallings (2016, Chesapeake, Va.) earned the MVPitcher award. Stalling pitched 6 1/3 innings and was the winning pitcher in both of his appearances, and allowed three hits and struck out seven while allowing no earned runs and no walks.
The second-seeded Patriots (9-0) were impressive here all week, although they were challenged in the playoffs. They snuck past the No. 15 East Cobb Expos, 6-5, in the first round, and then out-lasted the No. 7 Iron Pigs, 7-3, in the quarterfinals.
Their 5-4 win over Twelve Baseball Academy in the semifinals required a comeback from an 3-0 second inning deficit. The Pats tied the game with three in bottom of the second and pushed across two more in the bottom of the fifth with Cody Sturgeon (2016, Garland, Tex.) providing what proved to be the game-winning RBI single.
The EvoShield Canes (8-1), the only team in the 14u BCS final four not from Texas, entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. They pulled out a 6-4 win over the No. 9 Tampa Venom in the first round and then shocked the No. 1-seeded Georgia Roadrunners, 8-5, in the quarterfinals.
Once in Friday morning's semifinal, the Canes needed 10 innings to knock-off upstart 13th-seed El Paso Crush, 5-4. Stallings finally drove in Jake Wilson (2015, Apex, N.C.) with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th for the winning run.
Right-handers Ryan Jeffers (2015, Raleigh, N.C.) and Stephen Scott (2015, Cary, N.C.), and lefty Cole Beeker (2016, Lexington, N.C.) combined on a 10 inning eight-hitter for the Canes. Scott allowed only one hit over the final four innings to pick up the win.
Twelve Baseball Academy (7-1-1) won its first five pool-play games before recording a tie in its sixth game, and earned the playoffs' No. 6 seed. Twelve was impressive in the first two rounds, beating the No. 11 Team Citius USA Warriors in the first round before upsetting No. 3 Chet Lemon's Juice, 9-0, in the quarterfinals.
The 13th-seeded El Paso Crush (5-1-3) were the surprise of the tournament after completing two rounds of pool-play at 3-1-2, including 1-1-1 in the final set. But blanked the No. 4 Houston Banditos, 2-0, in the first round and zipped past No. 12 Team Warehouse in the quarterfinals to move into the semis.
Right-hander Ivan Ulloa (El Paso, Tex.) stymied the powerful Banditos, allowing just one hit and striking out nine in seven innings of work.