FORT MYERS, Fla. – The 14u Super25 Championship has had some great battles so far this week, but none may have been as exciting or talent-laden as the matchup between Elite Squad and ASBA – West Chester at Terry Park.
The two clubs duked it out, both boasting lineups full of impact players with great ability. ASBA was able to pull out the 7-3 win in the end, defeating the previously undefeated Elite Squad.
ASBA had a long path to reach the 14u Super25 National Championship, coming all the way from West Chester, Pennsylvania. “We originally played in the qualifier in Columbus, NJ, and after we won that we then played in the Super Regional in Vineland, NJ,” ASBA coach Edwin Cieslak Jr. said. “We went there and competed, did extremely well, and I was very proud of how we played.”
ASBA could have been intimidated coming from the Northeast and having to face great teams from powerhouse states like Florida, Texas and Georgia, but instead they have powered through their competition. Cieslak explained, “we got down here with the intentions of making sure that we put on a good showing and making sure the people down south know the boys up north can play a little baseball.”
After winning their first game of the day 15-1, ASBA took on Elite Squad at Terry Park. The game was largely a battle of great shortstops, Alexandro Bello of Elite Squad and Tom Caufield of ASBA. Bello has been a stud all tournament and was 3-3 against ASBA while also making some slick plays in the field.
Caufield was just as good on Friday, going 3-4 while making some key defensive plays at short. “What an athlete, hands down what an athlete,” Cieslak said. “He plays soccer too, although I’d like him not too. What a kid who can play some shortstop, has a rifle for an arm and a very high baseball IQ.”
Caufield made a great play in the third inning, and a less flashy but more impressive play in the fifth, throwing out a runner trying to score even with the infield playing back. He has also mashed for ASBA so far, recording a 1.167 OPS during the tournament.
With Caufield playing shortstop, ASBA is blessed with another supremely talented player at a key defensive position. Cole Chesnet calls his own game as ASBA’s catcher while also hitting in the three-hole. Chesnet is hitting .500 heading into the second-to-last day of tournament play, and his ability to provide that kind of offensive production as a catcher gives ASBA a huge edge over much of their competition.
“Cole keeps this team ticking, he’s a part of the heart and soul of this ballclub, Cieslak said. “There are a couple guys I would put in that category but he’s probably the primary.”
When Cieslak started this team, it was key for him to get Caufield and Chesnet to play for him. “Cole and Tom are very, very big assets to this ballclub. When I went ahead and started putting this ballclub together about a year and a half ago, they were the first two I went after.”
ASBA is blessed with another talented player at a key defensive position in Nolan Benke. Benke is the team’s center fielder, and he utilizes his great speed to play great defense while sparking ASBA’s offense. Cieslak explained, “we try to hit the ball over Nolan’s head in the outfield at practice, and we can’t do it, the kid is fast.”
Caufield, Chesnet, and Benke aren’t the only stars in the making on ASBA’s roster, however. One of the reasons they have been able to do so well during this tournament is that they have guys up and down their lineup who have the ability to get a big hit at any time.
On the mound, ASBA has received great performances from Brady Bash, Davis Reardon and Drew Britt, among others. On Friday, Jake Kelchner and James Kelly stifled the Elite Squad offense, while Bash was able to come in the middle of the game and get two huge outs.
“James is a fastball/breaking ball guy,” Cieslak said. “To be honest with you, I walked out there after the first inning and told him, ‘James, you’re going to get hit, relax and let it happen, you have guys behind that can play some defense, use them, stop trying to overpower people because you won’t be able to against this ballclub.’ He calmed down from that point, and he got out of the inning with the bases loaded and one out and giving up just one run. That’s the type of pitcher he is, he competes at a very high level, the bigger the game, the bigger he comes up for us.”
After Bash came in to get Kelly out of a jam, Kelchner came out to start the sixth inning. Kelchner pitched two innings on Thursday, but came into the dugout after the fifth and told Cieslak he wanted to close out the game. “What can you say about a kid that walks into the dugout after the fifth inning and says give me the ball for the sixth and seventh. What do you say, no? How do you say no to a kid who says ‘give me the baseball?’”
Kelchner gutted it out for the last two innings, giving up just two hits while striking out three.
The win puts ASBA in great position moving forward as they clinched a semifinal berth. They will play the winner of Elite Squad vs. SWFL Canes Elite—the two teams they beat yesterday—at 10:30 at City of Palms Park. If they win, they will move on to the championship, and if they lose, they will have a second life and play a do or die game at 1:00.
Cieslak and ASBA have already had a great experience so far at the Super25 series. “When we found out this was something that was possible, the first thing I wanted to make sure was that the guys came down and performed well. From what I’ve seen so far, from the way everything has been run, from the tournament aspect, the way that the culture is and how everyone supports one another, even though we have kids from all over the place playing against each other, but when you get down to it, they’re all just playing baseball. You see great camaraderie and opposing teams giving you some courtesy, it’s a good thing to see, it’s a lot of fun to watch to see kids at this age play at a high level and face the competition they deserve.”
While ASBA came to Fort Myers to compete and win a championship, for Cieslak and his team, they’re just happy to be playing with each other. “It’s a great group of kids and they love the heck out of each other, and that’s what I love.”