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Tournaments | Story | 7/8/2019

'Dudes Everywhere' for Team Elite

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Brady House (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – Take one glance at Team Elite’s official Twitter page and the mantra #DudesEverywhere will likely appear in one of the recent postings.

Now focus your attention to the 2019 WWBA 16u National Championship and Team Elite 16u Scout Team does indeed have dudes everywhere. With a 5-0 start in pool play, Team Elite is rolling towards bracket play that begins in two days.

Loaded, stacked, talented. All could be used to describe Team Elite’s roster at the 16u WWBA. In Monday’s 6-1 victory over Scorpions 2021 Select Kelly, the infield alone featured third baseman Izaac Pacheco, the No. 8 player in the 2021 class, shortstop Luke Leto (No. 3), second baseman Brady House (No. 1), and first baseman Cole Wagner (No. 54).

“It means a lot being out here with these great group of guys,” said House, who finished Monday’s game 2-for-3 at the plate with a double off the wall. “Our team, we just come together and play together as a team. To me, that’s just a lot of fun and what baseball is all about.”

The roster also includes Christian Little (No. 2), Thomas Dilandri (No. 10), Ian Moller (No. 15), Grant Taylor (No. 22), Joshua Hartle (No. 31), and Ryan Spikes (No. 51) among others. It puts head coach JB Brotherton is a quandary at times, but he insists it’s the character of the players that allows for smooth sailing.

“It’s tough,” Brotherton said. “All these guys are used to being three, four, or five hitters in the middle of the lineup. 

“We’re fortunate enough to look at the lineup and decide which Division I player is going to sit the bench. The guys buy in. We’re lucky enough and blessed to have some really quality kids this year and in the past. Their ability to be good teammates and want for their teammates to do well allows it to be easy.”

For Pacheco, it adds an element of competition that’s rarely found within a team. And so far, so good for the 6-foot-4, 210-pound infielder. In five games, Pacheco is hitting .385 with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

“It’s pretty cool,” Pachecho said. “It makes us each better. We try to compete with each other. Seeing someone hit a bomb is going to want to make you do the same. It’s going to make us better players in the future.”

While most of the players on Team Elite are from all over the country, with players like Pacheco from Texas, House from Georgia, and Leto from Michigan, they are no strangers. The vast majority of the roster has played together at different showcase events throughout the country over the years. 

There’s familiarity that is cultivated during this homecoming with Team Elite.

“These guys play nationwide for the past three or four years,” Brotherton said. “It’s honestly almost like a high school reunion for many of these high profile guys.”

For House, who’s also been on a tear this week with a .600 batting average and three doubles, it’s the time spent together now on Team Elite that offers him a glimpse into these players that he’s grown up with, but never truly gotten to know on a deeper level.

“To me it’s fun being out here playing with them, but also just hearing their stories and how they got here,” House said. “Just playing with them and competing against other teams, we’re now competing with each other on the same team at the same time. It’s a lot of fun to come out here with these guys.”

It’s allowed for an uncommon team chemistry for players who are usually separated by hundreds of miles. It’s also a testament to the type of 16 year olds that these players are with the spotlight shining on them so brightly at such a young age. 

“They handle it well,” Brotherton said. “They’re very mature young men. 16 years old, for the hype they get and the abilities they have, their ability to stay humble and grind away is pretty impressive to watch these guys.”

It even showed in House’s answer to the question, ‘What does he want to see from himself the rest of the week?” He could have talked about continuing to stay hot at the plate or fixing up some things on the mound after allowing one run in his one inning of relief, but instead he veered down a different path.

“What I want to see from myself is just getting better each day,” House said. “If I go 0-for-3, then I need to work on my attitude. How am I walking back to the car? Because everyone is looking at you 24/7 no matter how you play or how good you do. My attitude and growing as a person with these other guys.”

With all the bats that Team Elite can roll out in the lineup, it’s really been the team’s pitching that has carried the load thus far. In the five games, the pitching staff has surrendered just two runs. There’s also been two no-hitters as Carter Holton and Grant Cherry combined for one in the opening game, while Cale Lansville and Aeden Finateri combined for another Saturday morning.

Last year in the 15u WWBA with much of the same roster, Team Elite entered bracket play as the No. 1 overall seed, but was bounced early in the second round of the playoffs. 

Team Elite 16u Scout Team will likely enter bracket play on the same path, but Brotherton and Co. are undoubtedly expecting a different result. There might be dudes everywhere, but for Team Elite to reach the goal of a championship, it will take all those dudes continuing to play for the name on the front of the uniform as one cohesive unit.

“It means a lot to wear the ‘TE’ across the chest,” Pacheco said. “To represent these amazing coaches and the organization is definitely amazing.

“If we play as a team together, we’re going to make it to the top.”
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