Tournaments : : Story
Monday, October 14, 2013

'The Year of the Scorpion'

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – It is now official and no acceptable argument can be heard from any corner of the peanut gallery: 2013 is The Year of the Scorpion.

The Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based Orlando Scorpions organization turned Monday’s championship game at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship into a neighborhood house party, and as the sun started to dip into the Gulf of Mexico to the west and throw long shadows over jetBlue Park, the older brother proved to have just a little more in the bank than the younger brother.

The Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime and the Orlando Scorpions ’16 Purple met for the championship at the 12th annual PG WWBA Underclass World Championship, the last two outfits from a 208-team field left standing. The Scorps ’15 Prime proved to have far too much firepower in reserve in a 14-2, four inning win over the ’16 Purple at jetBlue.

There was a palpable fatigue factor at play with the younger Scorpions – Monday afternoon’s championship was their sixth game in 30 hours and included a brutal 11 inning semifinal contest played right ahead of the title tilt. The all-Scorpions championship matchup certainly managed to warm the heart of organization owner and Prime head coach Matt Gerber.

“When I walked (into jetBlue) I felt like a proud dad,” Gerber said after the somewhat anticlimactic championship victory for the Prime. “Our 2016 group is obviously extremely talented and this was kind of the first time they put it together. To see them do that made me really proud; they beat some very good teams along the way and they fought the whole way. Obviously, they just ran out of pitching today and they just didn’t have anything left.”

The championship game bordered on inconsequential; all of Monday’s drama took place earlier in the day. For the record, the Prime scored five runs in the bottom of the first and added seven more in the second to take a 12-0 lead.

Looking poised to end the game in three innings (a 15-run lead after three),  the ’15 Prime couldn’t produce in the third and the ‘16s Purple prolonged the inevitable by plating two runs in the top of the fourth to move within 12-2. The Prime ended it with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, invoking the 12-run lead after four mercy rule, and won 14-2.

Jackson Lueck, a 2015 Florida State commit from Longwood, Fla., ranked 233rd nationally, was 2-for-3 with a double, three RBI and two runs scored, and Angel Camacho was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and three runs. Right-handers Chadwick Word (2015, high follow) and Stephen Wells (2015, Central Florida, No. 373) combined on a four-inning two-hitter with six strikeouts. The ’16 Purple just couldn’t match up on this particular afternoon.

“They are very talented and you have to be talented to get this far in a tournament like this,” Gerber said of his program’s high school sophomores. “They play the game the right way and that’s a testament to the coaching staff. Coach (David) Bultema and Coach (Wes) Logsdon do a great job with them and they’re young; they’ve got a lot to learn.”

It was impossible, of course, to dismiss the accomplishments of the Scorpions ’15 Prime, who finished with an 8-0-0 mark (’16 Purple finished 8-1-0).

The Prime hit .307 as a team (62-for-202) with 23 extra-base hits and Gerber used 13 pitchers that combined for 50 2/3 innings and posted a 1.38 team ERA. The staff allowed 28 hits and struck out 48, and nine of the 13 hurlers didn’t allow an earned run.

“This group is obviously very talented,” Gerber said. “They won the (PG) 16u World Series and we came into this with one thing in mind, and that was to win. We were built to win this thing, we came in with 12 pitchers – all guys that can throw strikes – and we came here to win and obviously we accomplished that. I think it’s just a testament to how hard our guys play all the time.”

Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime 2015 catcher Nick Fortes from Deland, Fla., is an Ole Miss commit who is also ranked 134th nationally among all high school juniors (2015). He was terrific over the past five days, hitting .500 (9-for-18) with three doubles, nine RBI, eight runs and a 1.292 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) percentage. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“These guys are always fun to play with; they’re a good group to be around and I just enjoy playing with them every day,” Fortes said. “(The championship game) was fun because most of these (’16 Purple players) we know and it was going to be a fun game from the start. Give all the credit to them – they’re a young team and they made it to the championship game so it was just a fun game to be a part of.”

He was not surprised with the Prime’s championship, however.

“With this group of guys, making it to the championship game is possible for every tournament we play in,” Fortes said. “We have high expectations for ourselves and these are the results we look for.”

The start of the championship was delayed about 1 ½ hours because of extra-inning games played in both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, including the 11 inning semifinal between the Scorpions ’16 Purple and Marucci Elite ‘16s.

Team members of the Scorpions ’15 Prime entertained themselves with a game of seven-on-seven touch football out on the right field grass while they waited for their championship game opponent to be determined. There was nothing to be read into that except that the Scorpions ’15 Prime were a relaxed group of versatile athletes looking forward to claiming yet another Perfect Game national championship.

The Orlando Scorpions organization previously won PG national titles at the 2013 PG WWBA 17u National Championship and the 2013 16u PG World Series. It also won the 2013 PG WWBA 18u Labor Day Classic and finished as runner-up at the 2013 PG WWBA 18u East Memorial Day Classic. The program can now add one more championship and one more runner-up finish to its 2013 resume.

MONDAY’S SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS WERE INTRIGUING on a couple of fronts, matching the two remaining 2015 teams and the two standing 2016s against one another on opposite sides of the bracket. Neither of the 2015s – Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime and SWFL 17u – were required to play in a first-round game while both 2016s – Orlando Scorpions ’16 Purple and the Marucci Elite ‘16s – played three games on Sunday.

The Scorpions ’15 Prime pushed across five runs in the first and added a couple of more in the second to take a 7-0 lead over SWFL 17u, and it stood the rest of the way in the Prime’s 7-0 semifinal victory. Cameron Montgomery was 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Fortes and Lueck each doubled and drove in a run to lead the Prime at the plate.

Left-hander Eric Keating and righties Alex Carpenter and Cade Kelly combined on a seven inning three hitter – all singles – with five strikeouts and two walks. Keating worked the first four innings and allowed one hit while striking out three. Jacob Silverstein had two of SWFL’s three hits.

The Orlando Scorpions ’15 Prime shutout the Upstate Mavericks, 6-0, in the playoff’s second-round contest and then rallied to top the Tri-State Arsenal Underclass 1, 7-6, in the third round. That set up what turned out to be a wild quarterfinal matchup with the South Charlotte Panthers ’15 on Monday morning at the JetBlue quad.

The game was tied at 3 at the end of seven innings and the PG tie-breaker went into effect. Each team scored in their half of the eighth, ninth and 10th innings and South Charlotte added a single run in the top of the 11th. The Prime knotted the game at seven in the bottom of the frame before Fortes delivered a game-winning walk-off RBI single.

SWFL 17u earned a first-round bye and then stopped the St. Louis Pirates, 8-2, in the second round and Ohio Elite Baseball-Lee, 3-2, in the round-of-16. It rolled past the sloppy South Florida Elite Squad-Louisville Slugger, 9-2, in Monday’s quarterfinal round, taking advantage of six Elite Squad errors to score seven unearned runs.

The Scorpions 16’s Purple were all about drama in making their way to the championship game against their older Scorpions brethren. They went toe-to-toe with the Marucci Elite ‘16s into the bottom of the 11th before Drew Mendoza decided it was time to end the thing.

With the scored tied 2 since the top of the fifth, Mendoza – the No. 43-ranked national prospect (2016) from Minneola, Fla. – delivered a two-out walk-off home run to right field to give the Purple a hard-fought 3-2 win. Mendoza was 3-for-5 in the game.

Parrish and right-handers Austin Nickle and Christopher Moore combined on a sensational 11-inning four-hitter, striking out 20 Elite ‘16s hitters while walking just four. Nickle, a top-1,000 2016 prospect from Palm Bay, Fla., threw six innings of two-hit ball with 11 strikeouts and two walks.

Parrish made three appearances in the tournament, including five innings as the starter in a pool-play game against the Giants Scout Team on Saturday; two innings of relief in the ‘16s Purple’s quarterfinal game Monday morning, and two innings as the starter in the semifinal game. In the three appearances he totaled nine innings, gave up one earned run on three hits, and struck out 12 while walking four. He was named the tournament Most Valuable Pitcher.

“This was my first tournament with the Scorpions since the summer so I wasn’t really expecting much,” Parrish said. “I was only supposed to stay for the weekend but when we advanced I was kind of excited so I decided to stay for another day. I threw all I had at them and hoped for the best.”

As for his thoughts on facing the older Scorpions team in the championship game, Parrish somewhat noncommittal, admitting that he was excited at the prospect while also acknowledging that six games in 30 hours can take its toll.

“I was really excited,” he said, “but when you’re throwing your shortstop (Drew Mendoza) in the championship game, it’s definitely a hard time on your body and everything,” he said. “It really wears on you.”

The Scorps ’16 Purple won 15-0 and 1-0 games over CFBL Elite Underclass Blue and Palm Beach Select 16u, respectively, in the playoffs’ first two rounds and then outlasted the East Cobb New England Expos in the third round, 6-5.

Once in Monday’s quarterfinal round, the Purple faced a strong St. Louis Gamers team that received a paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship over in Jupiter in a couple of weeks after winning the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earlier this month. The Purple prevailed behind a nine-strikeout, four-hitter from right-hander Robert Guillen and Parish.

The Marucci Elite ‘16s won three times on Sunday to reach Monday morning’s quarterfinal round and did so by beating Southern Select/Easton, Houston Banditos Tx and Palm Beach PAL 16u in back-to-back-back games at the Player Development 5-Plex.

They reached the semifinals in stunning fashion, getting a complete game shutout from 2016 right-hander Jonathen Pintaro in a 1-0, eight inning win over older brother Marucci Elite in quarterfinal play Monday morning.

Pintaro, a top-100 national prospect from Montevallo, Ala., threw 7 2/3 innings (under tie-breaker procedures) and allowed just two singles while striking out seven and walking no one. Cesar Alvarez drove in the game’s only run on a fielder’s choice groundout in the top of the eighth.

The Scorpions organization has won three PG national championships in 2013 and there is only one more left on the shelf: the prestigious PG WWBA World Championship that will be contested over in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 24-28. The Scorpions entry will be called the Orlando Scorpions/New York Mets Scout Team.

“Jupiter is obviously the crown jewel,” Gerber said. “We’ve come in second and third a couple of times but we’ve never won it; we’ll go down there and play the game hard. You can lose to anybody at any time in Jupiter and I’m sure with winning these three (PG national) tournaments we’re going to have a pretty big target on our backs, so we’ll have to be ready for everybody’s best. Obviously we feel pretty good about our team that’s going down there.”

2013 WWBA Underclass World Championship runner-up: Orlando Scorpions '16 Purple

2013 WWBA Underclass World Championship MVP: Nick Fortes, Orlando Scorpions '15 Prime

2013 WWBA Underclass World Championship MV-Pitcher: Drew Parish, Orlando Scorpions '16 Purple

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