FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Granted, the survey was small and the comments were brief. But based on what standout Dallas Patriots prospects Alex Scherff and Michael Neustifter had to say after the Patriots won the 15u Perfect Game World Series national championship at the jetBlue Player Development Complex Saturday afternoon, there was no denying the two young Texans had enjoyed the experience tremendously.
"It was incredible, it was amazing; I loved every minute of it," Scherff said. "I love all my teammates and they played behind me with everything I did and supported me through everything. It was just amazing."
"This has been an absolutely great experience," Neustifter offered. "We started out rough and we started at the bottom of the bracket but we told ourselves we really had to battle and come back through the tournament. I'm so proud of my team more than I am anything; we play as a team and I'm just really proud of them."
The Dallas Patriots (8-1) and head coach Logan Stout got yet another terrific pitching performance from one of their starters, and the Pats used a three-run first inning to beat both NorCal Baseball (7-2) and an approaching thunderstorm, 3-0, in the championship game of the 15u PG World Series.
Right-hander Nick Cheema (2016, Weatherford, Texas) threw 6 2/3 innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts and six walks to pick up the win in the title game. Neustifter, Hunter Seay (2016, Keller, Texas) and Ryan Choate (2015, Dallas) all chalked-up first inning RBI without the benefit of a hit to give the Pats all the runs they needed.
"Our guys, at the end of the day, they just played as a team," Stout said. "We don't pick guys up, we just bring our group and it's a group that has been part of our program all year. I'm just proud of how they executed; they just played together as a group of people all trying to accomplish the same goal."
Scherff, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound 2017 right-hander who calls Colleyville, Texas, home, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Pitcher after finishing 2-0 and allowing no earned runs on one hit with eight strikeouts and four walks in 8 1/3 innings.
"We just took it a game at a time and just kept looking at the next game, next game, next game," he said. "We just took it one step at a time and never overlooked anybody or anything."
Neustifter, a 6-3, 190-pound 2016 third baseman out of Carrollton, Texas, earned Most Valuable Player honors after hitting .455 (10-for-22) with three doubles, four RBI, four runs scored and a 1.143 OPS.
"I go up to every at-bat really focused and really determined to get a hit because I know everything counts," he said. "My teammates are really supportive of me and if I have a bad at-bat they always have my back and I know that."
The Patriots players and coaches alike stressed that it takes a total team effort to win a Perfect Game national championship at any age-group level.
"One of the things that I believe in is that individuals play the game but teams win championships," Stout said. "What we've always tried to stress to these is guys is believe in each other, play for each other and the team will ultimately get you to where you want to be long-term. ... These guys just get it done and they play together as a team, and that's what I'm most proud of."
The Patriots lost their tournament-opener to the Orlando Scorpions, 9-0, and then rattled off eight straight wins. Eleven Pats pitchers combined for a 1.75 team ERA thanks in no small part to five shutouts, including the one in the championship game.
Scherff threw a seven-inning, seven-strikeout no-hitter at Slammers Black and right-hander Cody Wernli (2016, Allen, Texas) tossed a four-inning, four-strikeout no-no in a 15-0 win over So Cal NTT during pool-play.
"We threw strikes, our defense played great and offensively we just executed," Stout said. "We did the things we needed to do to get runs across."
NorCal cruised to a 5-2 win over BPA DeMarini (5-3) in one of the 15u semifinals Saturday afternoon. It scored three runs in the fifth and added two more in the sixth with DeMarini's only two runs coming too late in the bottom of the seventh.
Wesley Galloway (2015, Suisan City, Calif.) was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Jack Cosca (2016, Sacramento) was 2-for-3 with two runs scored to lead NorCal at the plate. Left-hander Kyle Yamada (2015, Loomis, Calif.) worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts.
"They get use to the competition and playing in big games and then they get to compare themselves to the better teams in the country," NorCal head coach Nate Sutton said Friday when asked about the value the kids get out of playing at the 15u PGWS. "Perfect Game does a great job of running events ... and if Perfect Game is going to put on something like this, we're going to go; we cancelled another tournament just to come here."
The Pats advanced to the championship game on the strength of a 5-4 win over the Houston Banditos (4-4) Saturday afternoon. They trailed the Banditos, 4-0, after 3 1/2 innings but struck for three runs in the bottom of the fourth and then won it with two more in the sixth.
Bryan Seamster (2016, Keller, Texas) had an RBI bunt single that drove in the tying run and Antonio Lima (2015, Grapevine, Texas) drove in what proved to be the game-winner with a sacrifice of his own.
"This was by far the most talented tournament that I've ever been a part of," Stout said. "I've been fortunate to win numerous (national tournaments) and all that stuff and this was incredible the level of talent, top to bottom, in this tournament."
2013 15u Perfect Game World Series runner-up: NorCal Baseball
2013 15u Perfect Game World Series MVP: Michael Neustifter, Dallas Patriots
2013 15u Perfect Game World Series MV-Pitcher: Alex Scherff, Dallas Patriots