GLENDALE, Ariz. – “How about that,” an exuberant Mike Brooks said late Monday afternoon from the playing field at Camelback Ranch Stadium. “And to do it against a team from San Diego? How about that?”
Brooks was soaking in the moment – not to mention the warm desert sunshine – just moments after his Puyallup, Wash.-based Team Northwest had held off a determined San Diego Show squad to win the championship game by a final count of 4-1 at the 3rd annual 18u Perfect Game MLK Championship.
Team Northwest, the No. 3 seed, finished the four-day event with a 6-0 record after winning three back-to-back-to-back games on Monday. The No. 4-seeded Show, always a championship threat at every Perfect Game tournament they attend – at any age-group – finished 5-1. The Show had a team in the championship game at each PG MLK Championship, 14u, 16u and 18u.
This is the first PG tournament championship a Team Northwest squad has won, although every team in any age group Brooks brings to an event is always ultra-competitive. But his is the team – one with 15 NCAA Division commitments on its roster – that finally put the program into the PG record books, and the players couldn’t have been more proud.
“It’s great for the team and for the entire Northwest,” 2014 Colbert, Wash., right-hander Drew Rasmussen said. “We can show that the Northwest boys can play a little a bit, which makes it fun. It’s exciting, and we had a little pressure there at the end, but we came through and it was fun.”
Team Northwest jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning in the championship game thanks to an RBI fielder’s choice groundout from Michael Gretler. The Northwesterners took a 4-0 lead in the top of the seventh after Rasmussen walked with the bases loaded and Connor O’Brien delivered a two-run single.
The Show pushed across one run in the bottom of the seventh and had the bases loaded when the final out was recorded.
Rasmussen started the championship game and pitched three scoreless, hitless innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
“I threw earlier in the week and I was a little tender, but other than that it was real fun,” he said. “I got come out and I had a great ‘D’ behind me, which is always nice. I just pitched to the game plan and it worked obviously; we got the ‘W’.”
Rasmussen did, indeed, pitch earlier in the tournament, a three-inning outing in which he didn’t allow a base runner and struck out seven. His line for the weekend: six innings pitched, no runs, no hits, 11 strikeouts and two walks, and for that effort he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
All that from a cold-weather kid who is ranked 199th nationally in the 2014 class and has committed to Oregon State. “There is definitely some adversity up north being with the snow and the water and all that, but it’s fun getting to come down here and play in the nice warm weather,” he said.
Team Northwest lost four or five of its players midway through the game because they had flights to catch. Among those that left early was 2014 Seattle outfielder Stuart Fairchild, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Fairchild, who will head east to attend Wake Forest in the fall, batted 8-for-16 (.500) with an eye-popping four triples, seven RBI and seven runs scored.
“We’re proud of these guys. The Northwest boys can go out there and do it,” Brooks said. “Our goals are to represent the Northwest and show the rest of the country that we can hang with them. And then we just really want to get these boys some opportunities – the scouts from the Northwest said this was the best scouting event they’ve had other than the Area Code (Games) and they want to make this a tradition.
“We want to get the best kids from the Northwest together to come down in the sunshine and see them outdoors because they’ve been indoors all winter.”
Michael Gretner (2014, Bonney Lake, Wash.) drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth to lead Team Northwest to 1-0 victory over the No. 7 So Cal Cavs in one of the 18u PG MLK semifinals Monday. Levi Jordan (2014, Puyallop, Wash.) was 3-for-4 with two doubles and scored the game’s only run.
2014 left-hander Austin McWilliams from nearby Phoenix gave up only one hit in 7 2/3 shutout innings for Team Northwest. He struck out nine and walked two.
The Show used a seven-run top of the seventh inning to break open a 2-1 game and dumped the top-seeded Team California Warriors, 9-1, in a semifinal Monday afternoon. Toru Sugiura, a 2015 from Chula Vista, Calif., led a nine-hit Show attack by going 2-for-4 with a double, three RBI and a run scored, and John Cresto (2015, Encinitas, Calif.) was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Right-hander David Hensley (2014, San Diego), pitched a complete game two-hitter and didn’t allow an earned run while striking out nine and walking none.
The Team California Warriors and the AZ Pilots 18u Red entered the eight-team 18u PG MLK playoffs as the top two seeds with perfect 3-0 pool-play records. Team Northwest and the San Diego Show were seeded Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
The only upset in the playoff’s first round came when the No. 7 So Cal Cavs knocked off the AZ Pilots 18u Red (3-1), 1-0. The seedings followed form in the other first-rounders with the Team California Warriors escaping No. 8 GBG Marucci Navy, 1-0 in eight innings; the Show beating No. 5 AZ Prowlers (3-1), 1-0; and Team Northwest getting past the No. 6 Minnesota Blizzard Black (2-1-1), 6-5.