PEORIA, Ariz. -- After the Playa Vista Orioles 16u waxed their first two pool-play opponents at this weekend's Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) by a combined score of 31-1, Orioles 16u head coach Mike Rodriguez had but one lament.
"I just wish we were able to play full games so all of our guys could get ABs (at-bats), and stuff like that," Rodriguez said from the microwave-hot Peoria Sports Complex late Saturday morning. "But I'm really happy with the way we're swinging the bat, and pitching-wise our guys are throwing the ball well and defensively we're playing well, too."
The Los Angeles-based Playa Vista Orioles 16u overwhelmed CageRat Baseball Gray, 13-0 in four innings in its tournament-opener Friday night, and then used a 14-run second inning to bury the So Cal Bombers 2014 Red, 18-1 in three innings Saturday morning.
Rodriguez got his wish for a full seven inning game when the Orioles 16u stopped the AZ Prowlers, 2-0, in their final pool-play action Saturday afternoon. By winning their pool and outscoring their three opponents by a combined 33-1, the O's put themselves in great position to earn the No. 1 seed in the 16-team playoffs, which begin Sunday morning at the Goodyear Sports and Recreation Complex.
Rodriguez said about eight or nine of the players on the roster he brought here had already played in "multiple" PG events, and although he brought in some new arms and a couple of position players, this is the same team he has brought to Arizona for PG underclass events over the past two years.
"Adding a few pieces, some pitchers and some guys who can swing it has improved our team tremendously," he said.
The Orioles 16u top prospect is catcher Tommy Pincin (2014, Upland, Calif.), ranked No. 77 nationally in his class. Pincin has not committed to a college yet, but has done all the right things in terms of getting exposure by attending three important showcase events this summer: the Sunshine West Showcase in Chula Vista, Calif.; the PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis; and the PG National Games in San Diego. He was named to the Top Prospect list at the Sunshine West.
Pincin, Brenden Cagle (2014, Victorville, Calif.), Ricky Silguero (2015, Alta Loma, Calif.) and Ryne Smith (2014, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) each contributed four hits in the O's three pool-play wins, going a combined 16-for-26 (.615) with Silguero's double being the only extra-base hit. The team hit a combined .464 (32-for-69) with 29 singles but still managed to plate those 33 runs.
Despite those rather impressive offensive numbers, it was on the mound where the Orioles 16u shined. Right-handed side-winder Leo Hernandez (2014, Ontario, Calif.) pitched a seven inning complete game five-hit shutout in the crucial win over the AZ Prowlers, striking out nine and walking none.
Right-handers Alonzo Garcia (2014, San Fernando, Calif.), Brandon Ponticelli (2015, Chatsworth, Calif.) and Tyler Radcliffe (2014, Long Beach, Calif.) combined to pitch seven innings in the Orioles two run-rule shortened games and allowed only two hits, two walks and no earned runs while striking out 10. For those keeping score at home, that adds up to 14 innings of seven-hit ball with zero earned runs allowed, 19 strikeouts and only two walks.
The Playa Vista Orioles always are competitive when they come to the Phoenix area for a PG tournament. The Orioles 16u finished second at the 16u PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic at the end of May, losing to the AZ Prowlers -- one of the teams they beat here Saturday -- in the championship game.
"When we come out here I always feel that we have a really good chance to make it to a championship game or make it into the playoffs," Rodriguez said. "These guys know the expectations are really high coming out here; we want to compete with the best players out here and the kids love to get after it out here."
The Playa Vista Orioles organization has been around for nine years and is run by Tim Olivarez, who wasn't able to be in attendance on Saturday.
"Tim does an unbelievable job of putting these young men in the right position as far as being on the forefront with Division I schools," Rodriguez said. "He's very picky about the players he (selects) to play in his organization, as well; he wants to make sure they're good young men, they're respectful on and off the field and that they're always accountable in the dugout, even in summer ball when it's really not a big issue with other teams."
There are multiple teams within the organization and those teams are spread out throughout southern California in what Rodriguez called four distinct regions. Typically, these are 18u, 16u and 14u teams, and when Playa Vista brings a team to an event like this one, it brings players from throughout the organization.
"These guys may play with each other just in these tournaments, and then they go out and play in their own areas the rest of the summer," Rodriguez said.
As one of the first teams to secure a playoff berth -- and certainly a very high seed -- here Saturday afternoon, the Playa Vista Orioles 16u had the option of escaping the 108-degree afternoon heat by returning to air-conditioned hotel rooms or maybe even hotel swimming pools to await their playoff seeding.
For Rodriguez, and most of the other coaches, managers and parents here this weekend, taking home a championship trophy isn't the most important element involved in making the trip here (although it's certainly an impressive prize). The most impressive thing Rodriguez saw on Saturday was the more than two dozen college coaches walking the Peoria Sports Complex grounds, a number undoubtedly matched over at Goodyear Complex.
"Getting these kids out in front of the right people and making sure they guys are playing in front of the right audience, that's what it's all about for these guys," Rodriguez said. "Perfect Game does such a great job with having the ability to put together tournaments like this where schools can come out and you can have (dozens) of schools from across the country to see our guys. At home, that doesn't happen."