MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Florida Burn's debut performance at the inaugural 16u Perfect Game World Series was a little less than auspicious. The Burn, with home bases on both the west and east coasts of Florida, played its tournament opener Tuesday against the Diamond Devils at Kennesaw Mountain High School, and were promptly blanked 2-0.
That was in no way indicative of what was to follow over the next five days.
The Burn (8-1) bounced back from that initial defeat and completed in improbable six-day run to a PG national title on Sunday, tripping up the Houston Banditos Black, 3-1, in the championship game of the 16u PGWS, played on Field 1 at the East Cobb Baseball Complex.
The Burn's players returned to their Florida homes Sunday night with a impressive silver championship cup and with smiles on their faces knowing they will soon be wearing Perfect Game national championship rings.
"This has been an awesome experience," Burn right-hander Chris Hopkins said. "After that first game, it got the nervousness out of us, I think, and we played the way (we were capable of ) the last eight games."
The Burn led the Banditos, 3-0, after three innings and then held on behind a stellar pitching effort from right-hander Brandon Elmy (2014, Osprey, Fla.). Elmy threw a seven inning complete game five-hitter, allowing one earned run while striking out five. He was also 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and an RBI at the plate. H. Gunner Minneboo smacked a two-run double in the second.
It was just enough for the Florida Burn to declare themselves a PG national champion for the first time in their brief history.
"It was a terrific experience facing top-notch competition every day," head coach Mark Guthrie said. "I know everybody's been saying this all along, but this shows you a lot about your own kids -- things that we might not have even known about our own kids. They really played tough baseball; they are tough kids and they earned every out that they got out here."
The Banditos Black (6-3) just couldn't get anything going against Elmy, with the exception of standout lead-off hitter Justin Twine (2014, Hemphill, Texas). The top-20 national 2014 prospect was 2-for-3 with a double, and only enhanced his already solid reputation while here this week.
In fact, at tournament's end, Twine was named the Most Valuable Player, a selection impossible to find argument with. He was 12-for-24 (.500) with five doubles, a triple, nine RBI, seven runs scored and four stolen bases while playing in eight of the Banditos' nine games.
"This is great competition down here and I'm just trying to make myself better and get exposed (in front of the scouts)," the soft-spoken Twine said on Friday. "There are great competitors out here and it's wonderful; we're just trying to go out there and win a championship for the Banditos program."
The Burn's 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-handed Hopkins (2014, Deland, Fla.) was named the Most Valuable Pitcher. He made three appearances at the tournament and worked eight innings, giving up two hits and striking out 13 with one walk and three hit batsmen.
"This was definitely a good group of kids to play with, and it was great competition," Hopkins said.
The 11 pitchers Guthrie -- a veteran of 15 big-league seasons as a pitcher -- marched out to the mound this week posted a combined 1.16 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings.
"Our pitchers did a sensational job of following through on our game plans, throwing the ball over the plate when they had to and just basically throwing strikes and making the other team beat you," Guthrie said. "All of these teams are incredible and this is a tremendous accomplishment -- something that may never happen again -- and I think you need a little bit of luck. But (his players) cashed in when it was time to cash in and I'm really proud of them."
The Burn rallied from an early 3-2 deficit by plating three runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 5-3 lead, and that was it for the scoring in their 5-3 win over the Orlando Scorpions in the first 16u PGWS semifinal game played on Field 1 at the complex.
The Burn's seventh straight win at the tournament was helped along by a sacrifice fly in the first and a run-scoring double in the third off the bat of Elmy. Right-handers Tyson Albert (2013, Nokomis, Fla.), Hopkins and Michael Byrne (2015, Orlando) combined to pitch a seven inning six-hitter, striking out nine.
"The great thing is we have humble kids (and) they're not going to go home and talk about it," Guthrie said. "They're going to get ready for school starting up and they're going to get ready to strengthen up in the fall, and I'm as proud of the way they handled themselves here even more than I am the way they played."
Twine was sensational in the Banditos' 6-3 win over the hometown favorite East Cobb Astros in the second 16u PGWS semifinal. Twine counted a pair of doubles among this three hits and drove in three runs, pacing an attack that included five extra base hits among the 12 hits the Banditos collected.
Ishmael Edwards (2013, Tomball, Texas), Chase Cryer (2014, Belton, Texas) and Luis Trevino (2015, Houston) each had two hits and both of Cryers' were doubles. Right-hander Robert Dugger (2013, Magnolia, Texas) threw the last three innings, allowed only one hit and struck out two.