Show strokes its way to PG MLK West Under crown
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Any time the No. 1 and No. 2-seeded teams wind up facing one another in the championship game at a Perfect Game tournament, it’s not worth wasting precious minutes speculating as to how things will play out over seven heated innings.
It is safe to assume that, judging by the seeding and the unbeaten records, both teams have tremendous pitching depth. It is also safe to assume, using the same two criteria, that these are teams that are also capable of bunching hits and runs together in the blink of an eye.
So which direction would the championship game at the Perfect Game MLK West Underclass Championship head early Monday afternoon? The San Diego Show wasted no precious minutes answering that question.
The No. 1-seeded Show jumped on No. 2 Phenom Signature 16u for three runs in each of the first two innings, were able to absorb several quick counter punches delivered as the game progressed, and held on for a 7-4 victory on a very pleasant Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Camelback Ranch Stadium.
“I knew coming into today that these guys were hungry; I knew they had the hunger to win,” Show owner/general manager/head coach Brian Cain said postgame. “They come to play every time they show up at the yard and it doesn’t take much to get them going. They’re individually self-motivated.”
The So Cal-based Show (6-0-0) grabbed the playoffs’ No. 1 seed after outscoring three pool-play opponents by a combined 20-3, and then won their quarterfinal and semifinal-round games by a combined 7-1 earlier in the day on Monday.
Cain brought standout 2017 right-hander Kyle Hurt over from the Show’s Upperclass team – a perfectly legal maneuver since Hurt was on both rosters and the Under and Upper events are two separate entities – to make the start against the Signature 16u (5-1-0). Hurt – the country’s No. 11-ranked prospect in the class of 2017 – was effective in his first inning of work but labored in his second and was through pitching by the time the third inning rolled around.
At that point, it didn’t seem to matter who Cain put out on the mound. The Show used an RBI double from Hurt and an RBI single from Victor Ortiz as part of a three-run bottom of the first, and an RBI single from Zack Prajzner, a bases loaded walk and a bases loaded hit batsman produced three more runs in the second. It was 6-1 through two innings of play and the Show looked unstoppable.
But Phenom Signature 16u didn’t reach the championship game by being a bunch of quitters. The team with players from California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and a couple of other states pecked away with single runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth inning, including an RBI double from Nick O’Day in the fifth. Jordan Keller had an RBI single in the fourth and Stephen Keller a sac fly in the sixth.
Nine Show batters produced 10 hits, including Hurt’s double; Prajzner had a pair of singles, the only guy in the lineup with more than one hit. Signature 16u had six hits, including two singles from Jordan Keller.
Cade Brown, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound 2018 right-hander/corner-infielder from Cardiff, Calif., enjoyed a tremendous all-around tournament in helping the Show win the championship. He slashed .429/.600/.643 with three doubles, five RBI and five runs scored and was the winning pitcher in the Show’s semifinal victory, working 6 2/3 innings and allowing one earned run on eight hits with four Ks and one walk. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
“We kind of had the feeling that we were doing pretty good in pool-play,” Brown said. “Coming into the playoffs it gets a little tough sometimes but we just rolled right through them. It’s been a great experience being here with the right team, the right players. I just had a lot of fun with who I was playing with and that’s the best part of coming down here.”
Phenom Signature 16u 6-foot, 175-pound 2018 middle-infielder/catcher Sean Guilbe from Temple, Pa., was named the Most Valuable Player. Guilbe was 7-for-14 (.500) with a double, triple and a home run (his slash-line read .500/.588/.929) and he drove in four runs and scored six.
The San Diego Show organization’s history is rich at the 5-year-old PG MLKs. A Show team won the 2013 Upperclass event, finished second at last year’s Underclass and was the runner-up at each of the Upper, Under and Freshman events in 2014. It’s a history not lost on this year’s young players.
“It’s a pleasure to be part of this program, it’s a pleasure to be with the coaches,” Brown said. “I’m thankful for this team and thankful for all my teammates, too.”
The Show advanced to the championship game on the strength of a 3-1 victory over the No. 5 AZ Pilots (3-1-1) from nearby Peoria in one of the Underclass semifinals Monday morning. Bradley Polinsky delivered a single that resulted two runs on the heels of a run-scoring single from Prajzner as part of three-run sixth inning that lifted the Show to the win.
Brown had his stuff working from the hill but Austin Duffy was 2-for-3 with a triple and Adrian Salazar had a pair of singles to lead the Pilots’ eight-hit attack.
Phenom Signature 16u erased a two-run deficit with three runs in the bottom of the sixth and held on for a 5-4 win over No. 6 NorCal Baseball Black (3-1-1) out of Pleasanton, Calif., in the other semifinal.
NorCal took a 4-2 lead with a run in the fourth, two in the fifth and one more in the sixth before Phenom rallied. Spencer Jones drilled a one-out, two-run double and then came around to score on a single from Chris Demjen in what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Both teams committed two errors which led to one unearned run for Phenom and two for NorCal. The Signature 16u managed five hits, including the double from Jones and an RBI triple from Guilbe. The Baseball Black had eight hits; Brennan Rozell was 2-for-2 and scored a pair of runs and Lucas Gather was 2-for-3 with a run.
As mid-afternoon rolled around at Camelback Ranch Stadium in the minutes before the start of the PG MLK West Upperclass Championship title game, the day belonged to the San Diego Show.
“Some of these guys have been with us since they were 10 and 11 years old, so this is definitely rewarding for them and we’re happy for them, we really are,” Cain said. “They’re a good group of kids – you never hear too much in the dugout – and I really like being around them.”