Tournaments | Story | 9/29/2019

5 Star Goes 3-0, On To Semis

Blake Dowson        
Photo: Blaydon Plain (Perfect Game)
Event Page | Game 1: 5 Star National 2022 Burress/Richmond Braves 16u National | Game 2: 5 Star/Elite Squad 2022's | Game 3: 5 Star/Canes American

FORT MYERS, Fla. – 5 Star National 2022 Burress went to bed Saturday night knowing it had to win back-to-back-to-back games on Sunday in order to find itself in a semifinal game on Monday morning.

They woke up Sunday morning and won back-to-back-to-back games, with a semifinal matchup against the South Charlotte Panthers secured for Monday morning at 9 a.m.

In their first matchup of the day, 5 Star beat Richmond Braves 16u National, 8-3. The bats picked up even more in their next two games, winning by scores of 10-5 and 9-2 against Elite Squad 2022’s and Canes American, respectively.

This is a program that is used to winning. A lot. The 5 Star program, nicknamed ‘Mafia,’ always has a collection of talent on its rosters that is rarely equaled by other teams at tournaments. That talent and experience players receive working their way through bracket after bracket has paid off again.

“This group has been used to doing that,” 5 Star President and Coach Andy Burress said after his team’s quarterfinal win over Canes American. “I think it’s kind of old hat for a lot of these guys. We always seem to do well in Fort Myers, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what the formula is, maybe it’s the format of the tournament or something. But we’ve done well here over the years.”

Mafia got length out of each of their starting pitchers today, the most impactful contribution you can get out of your roster in a tournament that tests your pitching depth as much as the WWBA Sophomore World Championship does.

In the first game of the day, Austin Williamson threw five complete innings, allowing only two earned runs while striking out six and spreading out six hits.

In Game 2, it was Josiah Velazquez that went the distance for Mafia, as they took down one of the favorites of the tournament, No. 3 seed Elite Squad 2022’s.

Hunter Russell, a primary first baseman committed to play at Miami, got the ball to start Game 3 for Mafia and gave his squad 5 1/3 quality innings, striking out six while walking just one and giving up just one earned run, which occurred in the first inning.

“We try to get those guys in for some bullpen games, let them throw an inning or two in pool play games,” he said. “We had some guys that were throwing strikes and we have some guys who can pick it a little bit. We’re always going to swing the bat, so as long as our guys throw strikes, we’re going to be in most games.”

Working behind the plate for each of those starting pitchers was Jaxson West, an uncommitted player from Tallahassee.

West had no problems all day, showing his toughness as he caught 304 pitches over six-plus hours of games Sunday morning and into the afternoon. He also had two hits on the day and scored a run in each contest.

Burress had nice things to say about his catcher after their quarterfinal victory.

“That guy just does it. That’s why I had a bunch of college coaches coming up to me,” Burress said. “We lost a catcher, and it’s hard to find a frontline guy this time of year. He had probably caught 20 or 25 games in a row, and then came down here and did it. He’s been used to it at this point. He’s really been battling through things, as a catcher you’ve always got foul tips and things like that.”

As good as the pitching and catching was for Mafia (and they are a major reason this team will continue playing on Monday), the bats in the lineup were extremely impressive as well.

The lineup looks dangerous on paper, with a number of Power 5 commits spread all over it. That’s one thing.

But guys like Sal Stewart, a Vandy commit, Nicolas Perez, a Florida State commit, and Blaydon Plain, a Florida commit, showed why they held in such high regard.

Stewart really had a day, collecting seven RBI (three in Games 1 and 3, one in Game 2), while knocking four hits, mostly hard line drives to right-center field.

Perez plays one of the more reliable shortstops you’ll see, and is also a pest (a compliment in every sense) at the top of the Mafia lineup. All he does is gobble up ground balls on defense and smoke base hits up the middle on offense.

It will be easy for Burress to pencil those guys in on Monday for their semifinal matchup. There is no limit to how many hits Stewart, Perez, and Plain can grab up, and no restrictions on how many nice plays they make in the infield.

It’s pitching that is always the most strategic journey throughout these tournaments, especially on Day 4.

But Burress seems to think they will be okay, even though his squad is the only one to make the semifinals that played three games on Sunday.

“We’ve got a couple good arms left,” he said. “We had some guys that had to [leave], so some of our best arms have thrown already. But we’ve got some guys that have thrown good for us in the past, so we’ve got a couple guys left.”

FTB Tucci 2022 Advances to Semifinals

After cruising through pool play, FTB Tucci was through to the playoff bracket as the No. 4 overall seed, earning themselves a bye in the first round.

In what could be the game of the tournament thus far, FTB won in a walk-off against 5 Star National 2023 Dobbs in their first game of the day, 5-4.

Corban Little threw 5 1/3 innings for FTB in the game, striking out five in the process. Cameron King and Rafael Betancourt Jr both had multiple hits in the game, while Japhet A Rosado collected a pair of RBI.

The quarterfinals went a bit smoother for FTB, as they run-ruled US Elite 2022 National, 8-0 in five innings.

Eight players collected a hit in the game, including Betancourt and Anthony Saleeba, who each had two.

Tri State Arsenal Scout Team 2022 Sneaks Through to Semis

A pair of one-run victories has Tri State Arsenal Scout Team 2022 into the semifinals on Monday morning.

Two fourth inning runs put the team ahead of Florida Burn 2022 Platinum by a score of 3-2, which held as the final. Drew Lafferty threw the first 5 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs. Jaxon Pastore finished off the final 1 2/3 innings, striking out three.

Jack O'Connor toed the rubber for their quarterfinal matchup against Resmondo FTB, and tossed 5 2/3 innings of three-hit, one earned run ball.

South Charlotte Fills Out Semifinal Field

Tournament No. 7 seed South Charlotte was carried into the semifinals of the WWBA Sophomore World Championships by some stellar pitching as well.

Cameron Padgett threw a complete game, five-hitter for the Panthers in their first game, allowing only one earned run. South Charlotte beat Diamond Jacks Super 16, 3-1.

Their quarterfinal victory, 6-0 over .9ers Baseball Club, was done by committee. Brody Fowler, Nathan Chrismon, and Luke Schmolke combined to allow only six hits over seven innings and worked around three defensive errors.

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