EMERSON, Ga. – The highly anticipated WWBA 2015 grads or 17u National Championship Qualifier kicked off yesterday as 42 teams flocked to Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint to earn a bid to the WWBA 2015 grads or 17u National Championship, which starts July 4th. The format is simple for the teams: place top four in this tournament, and those teams get a bid to play in the WWBA National Championship. With so much on the line, teams are looking to play some of their best baseball of the summer this week.
The South Florida Breakers 17u Blue is one of the teams vying for a berth to play in the National Championship. They traveled some ten and a half hours from Davie, Florida to play in the weeklong tournament in Emerson, GA.
“It’s always good to play against guys that are from all over the country,” said head coach Brent Coleman. “South Florida plays one style of baseball for the most part, and it’s nice to see a different person’s perspective on baseball.”
Since the team traveled so far, it is a goal of theirs to show out and win ballgames. That is exactly what they have done in the first two days of the event.
Yesterday, the team from South Florida used a ten-hit offensive explosion to beat Blue Collar Baseball 6-2 in the first game of pool play. Six of their pitcher’s saw action, and they combined for a three-hitter. Today, the offense racked up eleven hits, led by Hunter Stept and Austin Marrow who each collected three hits, in an impressive 7-1 victory over the Fury 17u Black. Coleman expressed positivity in the offense, but he admits they can always get better.
“We’re still adjusting,” said Coleman. “We’re actually going to be better. We’re working on a specific approach that will give them more discipline and a better chance to be successful at the plate. So, we are pretty good right now, but we are going to be better.”
While the offense was on against the Fury 17u Black, the real story of the game was the dominant pitching performance by South Florida starter Alec Duffy. He commanded his fastball well and worked ahead of hitters most of the day. It was also apparent that he had a great deal of faith in his defense, and his pitching reflected that.
“The fastball was on, and my changeup was looking good today,” Duffy commented. “I was just trying to throw strikes and let them ground into outs.”
When the final out was recorded, Duffy had thrown a complete game five-hitter. His lone blemish was a two-out RBI single that he gave up in the bottom of the seventh inning. Other than that, he was stellar. From Coleman’s point of view, though, this was pretty normal for his pitcher.
“That’s what Duffy does,” explained Coleman. “He commands the strike zone, and he works at the knees. That’s typically how he pitches.”
With a 2-0 record, the South Florida Breakers 17u Blue sits atop their six-team pool as the only team without a loss thus far. While it looks as if the team is sitting pretty, Coleman understands that some of the little things are what will decide whether his team continues to be on the winning end of games or not.
“I’m pretty pleased [with the team’s performance today]. We had more mistakes than I would like to see. We had some base running mistakes and some defensive mistakes that we need to clean up if we want to advance further.”
“We have to eliminate mental mistakes. Mental mistakes are a killer.”
Nonetheless, his team is winning, and that is the most important thing. Cutting down on some of these mistakes will only make the team better, and for a team that is already 2-0, that will not be a positive thing for the teams that they play. As they prepare for the rest of their pool play games, the team is solely focused on continuing their winning streak and making it a productive trip. Duffy is “very confident” in his team’s ability, and he thinks his team “could win it all.” Having confidence like this is never a bad thing when it comes to a team striving for success.
According to Coleman, the game plan for tomorrow’s game is to “score as many runs as we can and give up as few as possible.” For a team looking to earn that coveted berth, something that simple sounding is all that they really need to live by.