Tournaments : : Story
Monday, May 27, 2013

Burn Orange: 2012 repeat?

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The postgame reaction was almost as remarkable as the on-field performance. There was no raucous celebration, no dog-pile, no screaming about being No. 1. There were some back slaps and even an occasional high-five, but nothing that separated the muted celebration from any other after a winning effort on the field.

Simply put, the Florida Burn Orange know how to act like they've been there before because, quite honestly, they have been there before. Many, many times.

Ryan Miller smacked an RBI single that Kyle Gilbert followed with a two-run single of his own during a three-run fifth inning, and the Burn Orange stopped the Orlando Scorpions Prime, 3-0, in the championship game of the PG WWBA 18u East Memorial Day Classic Monday afternoon at jetBlue Park. Five Burn pitchers held a potent Prime lineup to just four hits.

The Perfect Game tournament championship was the fourth in 10 months for this same group of Florida Burn prospects, many of whom attend Venice (Fla.) High School. The Burn won the 2012 16u Perfect Game World Series in early August and followed that with championships at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship and the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier in back-to-back weeks in September -- both at jetBlue. The Burn was runner-up at the PG WWBA 16u East Memorial Day Classic last May.

Venice High School won the title at the inaugural Perfect Game High School Showdown in early April and just last week won its second straight Florida Class 7A state championship. Venice HS is ranked No.1 in Perfect Game's National High School Rankings.

"These guys compete at a high level," Burn head coach and former big-league pitcher Mark Guthrie said. "They go in and they compete and that's why they're a great team. We're blessed to have 18 guys that really have that mentality and that's why they continue to win. They're very excited -- it's not that they don't dog-pile or anything, but it's more out of respect for the other team.

"We've been here before and lost ... but they're happy about this and it's kind of their personalities to stay in the right frame of mind when they're playing the game. Our coaching staff is blessed to have this group."

The Florida Burn Orange (8-0) were dominant on their run to the title, armed with a roster that boasts no fewer than nine prospects with NCAA Division I commitments. One of those is 2014 catcher Michael Rivera, a student at Venice HS and a Florida commit who for a second time in less than a year won a PG tournament Most Valuable Player Award.

"This is good, because we know that our team hasn't practiced together or been around each other very much and we've already won a tournament," Rivera said. "We just play inning by inning and see how it goes each game."

Rivera went 11-for-25 (.440) with three doubles, two triples, six RBI and seven runs, and compiled a .720 slugging percentage and 1.182 OPS in eight games.

"I just try to keep it simple and not go too crazy and get my runs in and my RBIs in, and it will be good," he said.

A recent Venice graduate, right-hander Tyson Albert, was named the 18u East Memorial Day Classic Most Valuable Pitcher. He -- like Rivera and most of his other Florida Burn teammates -- has been along for all the success over the last year and Albert thoroughly enjoyed the way this summer kicked off.

"We all just got done with high school and we've just kind of started out on our own pages," he said. "We all kind of bonded together once again to start off what should be another good run. It's nice to win the first one right out of the gate."

Albert doesn't think the success comes by coincidence. He believes it's a by-product resulting from the sense of camaraderie the players have built.

"It all kind of started last season, getting to know each other really well," he said. "We have confidence in each other knowing that everyone is going to show up ready to play. Everybody has each other's backs and we just know we have each other and we play as a team pretty well."

Albert threw eight innings over two appearances at the 18u East Memorial and managed to pick up a couple of wins. He allowed two earned runs (1.75 ERA) on three hits and struck out 10 while walking three.

"I was comfortable, but I knew I had a defense behind me and if (the opponent) hit the ball I knew there was going to be a good play made," he said. "It's easy to pitch when you have a defense like that."

When the 16-team playoffs at the 2013 Perfect Game WWBA 18u East Memorial Day Classic got under way Sunday afternoon, two Florida organizations claimed 38 percent of the berths.

Orlando Scorpions Baseball, based in Altamonte Springs, was represented in the first round by the Orlando Scorpions Prime, Orlando Scorpions 17u Purple and the Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple. Florida Burn Baseball, based in Sarasota, laid claim to the Florida Burn Orange, Florida Burn Upperclass and Florida Burn 18u. Any direction the competition turned, they risked being stung or burned.

So it really wasn't much of a surprise when the 18u East Memorial championship game  featured those two organizations' top teams -- the Scorpions Prime and the Burn Orange -- duking it out for the title.

"There are a lot of great teams here, but obviously this is not the first time we've faced (the Scorpions) in a final," Guthrie said. "Really, it's a toss of a coin anytime you get here against them. It's a nice rivalry and I think the quality of talent makes the kids better on both sides. That's a real good ball club right there, and really what we did today was pretty special."

Guthrie was referring to the fact that his Burn Orange team had to beat another Scorpions squad -- the Underclass Purple -- in the quarterfinals and then the ultra-talented  South Florida Elite Squad Louisville Slugger team in the semifinals.

"I don't think we come in thinking we're just going to win a tournament because we know there are other good teams around that can be just as good or even better than us," Rivera said. "We've got to keep playing hard each inning."

The Florida Burn Orange needed eight innings to escape the South Florida Elite Squad Louisville Slugger, 6-5, in a semifinal game Monday; the two teams were tied at 3 after four innings and at 5 after six.

Batting with one out in the top of the eighth, the Burn Orange's Jared Pruett smacked a hard bases loaded single into right field that plated Rivera with what turned out to be the winning run. Pruett was 2-for-4 with three RBI, and Rivera, Brandon Elmy and Kyle Gilbert all contributed two hits to a 12-hit attack. SF Elite Squad Louisville Slugger finished the tournament 6-1.

The Burn Orange banged out nine hits but also took advantage of three errors that led to three unearned runs in a 5-1 win over the Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple (4-2) in a playoff quarterfinal Monday morning. Albert threw five innings of one-hit ball, striking out eight.

The Burn Orange zipped through its four pool-play games, outscoring their foes by a combined 33-5. Their three playoff wins before the championship game came by a combined 15-6, with five of those runs being scored by the SF Elite Squad Louisville Slugger in the semifinal.

"The kids kind of feed off each other," Guthrie said. "It's intense when it's on the field but there's no disrespect; they want to kick the other team's butt but when it's over they're humble about it and then they move on."

The Orlando Scorpions Prime (7-1) punched their ticket into Monday afternoon's championship game with a 4-1 win over the Florida Burn Upperclass (6-1) in the semis. The Scorpions Prime trailed, 1-0, heading into the bottom of sixth when they pushed across four runs, keyed by a two-run single from Adam Haseley.

Blake Sanderson, a 2014 right-hander from Orlando, started and worked four innings for the Prime, and allowed the one earned run on two hits with four strikeouts.

Haseley stroked a two-run single and John Jones delivered a sacrifice fly during a three-run sixth inning to lead the Scorpions Prime to a 3-0 win over FTB Louisville Slugger (5-1) in a quarterfinal Monday morning. 2015 right-hander Logan Crouse and 2014 righty Weston Davis combined on a seven inning, six strikeout three-hitter, with Crouse giving up two hits and striking out five in five innings.

The Prime outscored its four pool-play opponents by a combined 25-1 and its three playoff opponents before the title game, 19-5.

Eddie Silva delivered an RBI single in the top of the seventh for what proved to be the winning run in SF Elite Squad Louisville Slugger's 4-3 win over SCORE International 17u (5-1) in Monday morning's quarterfinals.

The Florida Burn Upperclass got six innings of three-hit, eight-strikeout, shutout ball from 2013 right-hander Cooper Hammond and blanked the Orlando Scorpions 17u Purple, 1-0, in quarterfinal play Monday morning.

2013 WWBA 18u East Memorial Day Classic runner-up:  Orlando Scorpions Prime

2013 WWBA 18u East Memorial Day Classic MVP:  Michael Rivera

2013 WWBA 18u East Memorial Day Classic MV-Pitcher:  Tyson Albert

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