EMERSON, Ga. - The Central Florida Gators 14u continued their winning streak in a five
inning win over the MVP Red Sox on Sunday at the WWBA 14u National
Championship. Coming out strong at the plate in the first inning, the
Gators managed to put up an eight run lead.
“Our guys did a good
job of coming out and getting the lead early and jumping on top of
MVP,” explained head coach Joe Mercadante. “We had some good at bats and
some key hits early in the game [giving us] a good comfortable lead so
the guys played with confidence.”
Tommy Ben, Trenton Brickhouse
and Tyler Callihan all had RBI singles in the first inning. Grayson
Kicklighter had a clutch, three run double and Mason Denaburg finished
the rally with a two-run double. Denaburg was 3-for-3 with a single,
double and a triple.
“He’s emerged a little bit as a leader for
us and does kind of everything for us,” said Mercadante about Denaburg.
“He’s our catcher, but he can pitch as well and we’ve had him at the
lead-off spot and we’ve had him in the three hole. So he’s very
versatile, plays the game hard and plays the game the right way and
always gets us really good at-bats.”
Brickhouse pitched all five
innings. He struck out three, walked three and gave up three hits. In
the top of the fifth, the Red Sox managed to score two runs off of him.
Gators are now 3-0 in pool play. They have been impressive at the plate,
racking up a combined 23 runs over the course of three games. Denaburg
is leading the team in RBI with five, with a batting average of .667.
Kicklighter, averaging .400, and Callihan, averaging, .375, are just
behind him with three each. Their defense has also done solid work, only
allowing seven runs over the three games.
“Up and down the line
up we have a lot of guys that can do different things. 1-9 everybody we
roll out there has an opportunity to play at the next level. Everybody
on this team is playing because it’s a competitive group and I think
everybody here has aspirations of playing in college and beyond. So if
you look anywhere in our lineup you’ll see some great players,” said
The majority of the players on the team come from
Florida, with a few from out of state. However, the majority of the
group has been playing together for a while.
“We have a couple
guys who we’ve picked up along the way,” explained Mercadante. “Mark
Roberts, who owns the organization, has kind of put the group together
with Tommy Ben, who is another coach on staff, and they started with a
young age and have seen a couple guys they’d like to bring on but we
don’t shift guys in and out from tournament to tournament, we have the
same core guys as we go throughout the events.”
Florida Gators organization consists of two teams that started at the
10u level. The organization has focused on these teams and has built the
program with them over the last four years.
organization that has been together for the last four years, and I’ve
been coaching the last two seasons,” explained Mercadante. “But it’s
been pretty much the same group. The nucleus has been the same starting
at the 10u level and they’ve been playing together throughout. That’s
why you see a lot of team camaraderie. Everybody cheers and pulls for each other because they’ve been friends for the last four years.
a very competitive group and we try to play in the best tournaments and
best competition which is why we play at almost exclusively perfect
game events for the last couple years.”
The Gators competed in
the 13u and 14u BCS Finals in 2013. This year they have competed in the
MLK Championship, East Cobb Invitational, BCS Finals, WWBA National
Championship, and will compete in the World Series at the end of the
month. They got third place in the MLK Championship and had four players
make the all-tournament team.
“We are getting into it and
playing as much Perfect Game stuff as we can,” said Mercadante. “We come
to win every event. All of our guys are hungry for that and we come out
here and want to play the best teams and we expect to win every ball
game and expect to make it to the championship every time we come out
“Our goal is to play better baseball every day we come out
here. We don’t want to be playing our best game at the beginning of the
tournament we want to play our best game at the end of it. For us, the
wins are important but it’s also about playing the game as a team and
how individually the guys contribute to the team.”