Tournaments : : Championship
Thursday, July 25, 2013

Canes capture 17u PGWS crown

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After the powerhouse EvoShield Canes completed five of their seven pool-play games at the 17u Perfect Game World Series with an unremarkable 2-0-3 record, the team seemed a little out of sorts.

During a conversation with PG late Wednesday morning, Canes head coach Jeff Petty used the word "frustrated" several times: "We're really frustrated," is the way he put it, "because we want to win."

And then, seemingly overnight, the would-be wins that ended in ties turned into rock-solid wins -- four straight, to be exact -- including a 2-0 triumph over the South Florida Elite Squad-Louisville Slugger in Thursday's championship game played under a hot desert sun at Goodyear Ballpark.

The four wins in less than 24 hours enabled the Canes to finish the elite 16-team 17u Perfect Game World Series national championship event with a 6-0-3 record . South Florida Elite, the defending 17u PGWS national champion, finished 6-2-1.

When the title game concluded, the frustration the EvoShield Canes had felt a day earlier had evaporated like sweat droplets into the desert sky. A true sense of accomplishment and a party atmosphere took over instead.

"I feel like we just climbed Mount Everest and I'm going to celebrate for a couple of days," Petty said as his team soaked-in the championship. "We're going to have a party on top of Mount Everest and then we'll figure out how we're going to get back down."

Charlie Cody out of Chesapeake, Va., the nation's No. 67-ranked prospect in the 2014 high school class (No. 2 state of Virginia), smacked a two-run, bases-loaded ground-ball single up the middle in the bottom of the fifth inning to provide the only scoring in the championship game. The story of the game -- and, perhaps the entire tournament -- was pitching, as the Canes and the Elite Squad combined for just four hits, three from the Canes.

Canes left-hander Logan Allen (2015, Fletcher, N.C.) pitched six strong innings, allowing just one hit and striking out one while walking five. Right-hander Jeff Harding Jr. (2014, Cambridge, Md.) pitched the seventh inning and didn't allow a hit while striking out two and walking one.

"He's got ice in his veins," Petty said of Allen. "He can throw three pitches for a strike at anytime in the count ... and he doesn't back down to anybody. (SF Elite Squad) is a very solid ballclub with lots of big-time hitters and he went after all of them."

Cody, a University of Virginia commit, did more for the Canes this week than drive in the only runs in the championship game. He was 9-for-19 (.474) in nine games, with four doubles, a home run, five RBI, 10 runs scored and a 1.442 OPS; he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

"This has been an awesome experience and a ton of fun," Cody said after accepting his MV Player Award. "All of the tournaments with the Canes at Perfect Game events are always fun, and to get the opportunity to play against some of the best competition in the country and with my teammates that I've been with all summer -- and some for a couple of years now -- it was just so much fun. And for me to play well, that was just a cherry on top."

As for his own prowess at the plate over the past five days, Cody said: "Two weeks ago in Georgia (at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship) I wasn't really myself at the plate, but I worked on some stuff and I was able to turn it around."

The 17u PGWS Most Valuable Pitcher Award went to Cody's EvoShield Canes teammate Grant Holmes, a 2014 right-hander from Conway, S.C., who has committed to Florida and will pitch in next month's Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings in San Diego. He finished 2-0 after eight innings of work in which he gave up one earned run (0.88 ERA) on two hits with 16 strikeouts and three walks.

"It was a lot of good baseball and a lot of hot weather, and I felt better than I ever did before," Holmes said of the experience. "This is my first year playing with (the Canes) and it really paid off."

South Florida Elite Squad-Louisville Slugger first baseman/left-hander Michael Mediavilla (2014, Hialeah, Fla.) enjoyed a nine-game tournament that was worthy of MVP consideration on two fronts.

The University of Miami recruit pitched four innings of one-hit, shutout ball in the championship game, and threw nine total innings, allowing one earned run (0.78) on three hits with eight strikeouts for the tournament. He was also among the Elite Squad's leading hitters at 6-for-19 (.316) with three extra-base hits, three RBI and six runs.

It was the Canes' pitching that carried them to this championship: Petty used 13 pitchers over 58 innings that compiled a 0.72 team ERA with 76 strikeouts and he had plenty of fresh, first-rate arms in the bullpen should he have needed them in the title game.

"We just wanted to bring in strike-throwers" for this tournament, Petty said. "We like velocity but we like guys that have command of secondary pitches; if a guy can't command a secondary pitch then we really don't want that guy. We feel like we brought 12 polished strike-throwers down here with command of at least one secondary pitch, and we feel like that was the recipe to get it done."

Despite the success on the field, Petty said it took some time for this team to come together as, well, a team. The Canes rosters is filled with players from at least 10 states and it often takes time for a bond to develop.

"This is a very talented group if you look at it on paper, with all the (college) commitments," Petty said. "To be honest with you, it's been probably my most challenging coaching job, trying to get these guys to play together, because they're just so talented individually. But as the summer has evolved we've really come together and jelled as a team to where they've become friends.

"When you're friends with somebody and you care about them and spend time with them, I think you'll fight more for them. ... Our challenge as a coaching staff was to get them to jell and when we got them to jell the victories started coming."

After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, the Canes plated three runs in each of the second, fifth and sixth innings and rolled to a 9-1 win over California Club Baseball Elite (5-3) in a semifinal Thursday morning. Holmes threw five efficient innings, allowing only one earned runs on two hits with eight strikeouts and three walks; two of those walks came in the top of the first when CCB Elite scored its only run.

Cody was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to lead the Canes. Taylor Lane (2014, Chesapeake, Va.) was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run, and Dominic Cammarata (2014, Asheville, N.C.) drove in a pair of runs despite going hitless.

The Elite Squad-Louisville Slugger pushed across four runs in the bottom of the first inning and never stumbled in their 6-0 semifinal victory over the Florida Burn (4-2-2) Thursday morning

 Left-hander Aaron Soto (2014, Miami Lakes, Fla.) tossed five innings of four-hit ball with two strikeouts and a walk and righty Mark Nowatnick (2014, Pompano Beach, Fla.) came for the last two innings, allow one hit and striking out two.

Dallas Perez (2014, Pembroke Pines, Fla.) was 1-3 with two RBI; Spencer Levine (2014, Miami) went 1-for-2 with one RBI and two runs scored; and Kirvin Moesquit (2014, Deerfield Beach, Fla.) was 1-for-1 with two runs scored. The Burn's Zach Spivey (2014, Ormond Beach, Fla.) collected two of his team's five hits.

The EvoShield Canes can now completely forget the frustration they felt from that 2-0-3 start to the tournament.

"We never give up," Cody said. "The coaches believe in us and they'll fight with us to the end. We've got a lot of talent on this team and we can turn it around in a second; that's what we did."

The Canes can now celebrate being a 2013 Perfect Game national champion.

"This is a special group and they didn't want to take no for an answer," Petty said. "They wanted to win this thing -- that's what we came out here to do -- and that's what we talked about the whole week and we rose to the occasion."

2013 17u Perfect Game World Series runner-up:  South Florida Elite Squad - Louisville Slugger

2013 17u Perfect Game World Series MVP:  Charlie Cody, EvoShield Canes

2013 17u Perfect Game World Series MV-Pitcher:  Grant Holmes, EvoShield Canes

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