Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, October 07, 2012

Burn eyes 2nd PG national title

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Florida Burn Orange aren't exactly boiling in their boots with championship fever, but there's certainly something percolating inside the Burn's bloodstream.

Only about 2 1/2 months after the Florida Burn won the inaugural 16u Perfect Game World Series in Marietta, Ga., to claim the organizations' first PG national championship, many of the same young prospects that won championship gold in Marietta are in position to make another run for the rings here on Monday. And they couldn't be more relaxed.

"It's fun just getting out and playing the game just for fun, with no pressure or anything or no one really looking at stats," Dalton Guthrie, one of the country's top shortstop prospects in the class of 2014, said Sunday afternoon from the jetBlue Player Development Complex. "It's just about having fun and winning the games for your team."

Dalton Guthrie's comments came after the Burn Orange beat Baseball U Texas Orange, 4-0, Sunday in a second-round playoff game at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship.

The second-seeded Burn Orange then clipped the No. 15 Dulins Dodgers, 3-2, in the third round to advance to Monday's quarterfinals. Florida Burn Orange earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs by whipping three pool-play foes by a combined 19-1.

The quarterfinals were originally scheduled to be played on Sunday night, but rain on Friday and Saturday made several of the fields in the area intended for use unplayable. Consequently, the quarters were pushed back to Monday at 8:30 a.m. on four fields at the jetBlue Complex, with the semifinals slated to begin at 11 a.m. on two jetBlue practice fields; the championship game is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at sparkling jetBlue Park.

All eight quarterfinalists are 5-0 heading into Monday morning, with the parings as follows: No. 18 Orlando Scorpions 17u Black vs. No. 8 NVTBL Stars-White; East Cobb Braves vs. Orlando Scorpions 17u Purple (yes, there are two Orlando Scorpions squads left standing in the final eight); No. 2 Florida Burn Orange  vs. No. 10 Team Elite Chain; and No. 3 Palm Beach County PAL vs. No. 22 Marucci Elite.

No real surprises there at all.

"We expect to do well in this tournament," Dalton Guthrie said. "We're trying to perform and get seen and help each other get seen."

This team is coached by and the organization was founded by former big-league pitcher Mark Guthrie, Dalton's dad. Guthrie pitched for 15 years from 1989 through 2003 in the major leagues with eight teams, including his first seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Twins out of LSU in the 1987 MLB amateur draft.

"We're not scalding the ball, but we've had some pretty decent pitching and our pitchers have done a really nice job of moving the ball around," Mark Guthrie said Sunday. "We've played really solid defense -- knock on wood -- but it's just been a great experience again for our guys. To get the exposure they get down here ... and we've had a few games in the (spring training) stadiums, so it's been really nice."

Dalton Guthrie is one several highly ranked prospects on the Florida Burn Orange roster. The highest-ranked is outfielder/first baseman/right-hander Brandon Elmy (2014, Osprey, Fla.) who comes in at No. 74 nationally. Dalton Guthrie (2014, Sarasota, Fla.) is ranked No. 92 nationally and right-hander Chris Hopkins lands at No. 238.

Dalton Guthrie, top-1,000-ranked Deacon Liput (2014, Oviedo, Fla.) and unranked Michael Rivera (2014, Venice, Fla.) are all University of Florida commits. Unranked Ryan Miller (2014, Sarasota, Fla.) has committed to Florida Atlantic.

Coach Guthrie had Liput, his son Dalton, Elmy and Rivera batting 1 through 4 in the lineup against Baseball U Texas Orange.

"We're very fortunate to have them," Guthrie said. "They've really worked hard ... but really all of these kids have. We have a lot of kids that still aren't committed for one reason or another that we're excited about, and they still draw a lot of attention and people come out to see them play.

"It's my theory that the kids learn more from each other than they do from us, and to be around a solid group like they are is the most important thing."

Coach Guthrie said that after the 16u PG World Series that first week of August, his 16u team basically took the next six weeks off. It played in one fall event a week ago, but this is otherwise its first taste of action since winning the 16u PGWS. Unofficially, 11 players that are the roster here this weekend were on the national championship roster in Marietta in early August.

Dalton Guthrie remembers well that championship feeling from nearly seven weeks ago.

"Just being up there with your team for the whole week and hanging out in each other's hotel rooms between games, it was more like a vacation," Dalton said. "And then, you get to play a game that you love, but really it was more like a vacation then anything. There wasn't any pressure."

Coach Guthrie will have a Florida Burn team in the field at this week's PG WWBA Florida Qualifier here in Fort Myers with the hope it can win the darn thing and earn an expense-paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.

"That will be these guys, and we'll have our seniors with us, too, so we'll be in good shape pitching-wise," Guthrie said of the team he will bring to the Florida Qualifier. "This event is great and the competition is awesome but we're not going to sell our souls to win it. We're going to hold our (pitchers') innings down."

Mark Guthrie is also keeping an eye on the other prize. He's fully aware that only three of the young prospects on his 20-man roster here have secured college offers, and he'd like that to change. He just doesn't want anyone doing anything goofy.

"It's our theory that as long as you immerse yourself into the game, the other stuff will take care of itself," Guthrie said. "We don't want guys getting showcase happy or doing things to impress the scouts; just do what they do and play the game and try to get noticed that way."

Dalton Guthrie prefers to take the practical approach.

"We play like we expect to be an elite team and we expect good things from ourselves," he said. "We play like we expect we should be winning tournaments like this."

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