FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The hour-long lightning and rain delay in the bottom of the sixth inning was unwelcome if not totally unexpected, what with the way the Southwest Florida weather has behaved over the last four weeks.
The extra-innings, with more rain on its way and darkness encroaching on the unlit fields at the jetBlue Player Development Complex, were also unwelcome and even unexpected, what with the way the East Cobb Astros 16u had been playing over the last couple of days at the 17u PG BCS Finals national tournament.
The game ultimately being called for darkness on Friday evening and the East Cobb Astros 16u (8-1-1) and unheralded Midwest Elite Baseball (8-0-2) being declared co-Perfect Game national champions? Well, no one saw that coming.
The Astros 16u led 3-0 after three innings, 4-1 after four and 5-3 after six, but Midwest Elite tied the championship game with two runs in the top of the seventh following the rain delay. The two teams managed to cobble together two more ragged innings before the game was called for darkness after nine complete. Perfect Game does not use a tie-breaker procedure in its tournament championship games.
No one on either side was particularly thrilled with settling in as co-champions. OK, maybe the guys wearing the Midwest Elite Baseball uniforms were feeling pretty good about themselves.
"This was awesome," Midwest Elite head coach Brian Kalczynski said as another round of heavy rain pounded the complex. "We're finishing up a 16 day road-trip from Atlanta down to here, so our kids gave everything they had. We only had 14 players, all from Michigan, so to come this type of tournament and be competitive is one thing but to get all the way to the finals or to win the thing, I mean, that's incredible."
In the gloaming darkness, one tournament Most Valuable Player and co-Most Valuable Pitchers were named: the East Cobb Astros 16u's Alonzo Jones was named the MV Player, while Astros 16u 2015 right-hander Jonathan Hughes from Flowery Branch, Ga., and Midwest Elite 2013 lefty Brett Adcock out of Kawkawlin, Mich., shared the 17u BCS Finals' MV Pitcher award.
Jones, a 2015 speedster from Columbus, Ga. -- the country's No. 30-ranked overall prospect in his high school class (No. 4 at the shortstop position and Nos. 4-2 in Georgia) who has clocked a 6.37-second 60-yard dash at a PG event -- was certainly at the top of his game this week. He hit .500 (11-for-22) with a couple of doubles, five RBI, six runs scored, six walks, a .607 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases to lead the Astros 16u's impressive batting order.
"We really competed well and played hard," Jones said. "The pitching was good, the defense was good and we started hitting the ball better. We wanted to leave with a win but (getting to the championship game) is pretty good, too, so we're happy with that."
Adcock was out-of-this-world good. In two starts he totaled 12 innings, gave up two earned runs (1.16 ERA) and eight hits and finished 2-0. Most impressively, the top-1,000 prospect who has signed with Michigan, struck out 28 batters in those 12 innings, or 2 1/2 per inning.
Hughes, ranked No. 73 overall nationally (No. 26 RHP, and 8-1 in Georgia), made two appearances and pitched 5 2/3 innings allowing one hit and no runs, with a win, a save, nine K's and two walks.
"We lost one early that shouldn't have been lost but we came out and played hard and played like a team," Hughes said. "We had a lot of good pitching and our hitters came and gave it their all; under the circumstances of rain we all took our time and did what we needed to do. I know we didn't win this game but we could have pulled it out."
Midwest Elite Baseball is not a program or an organization -- it is this one team and this is only the second year it has been playing at this level. "To do this is pretty special, for them and for me as a coach," Kalczynski said. "We're all really proud of them."
The championship game was the fourth game of the day on Friday for Midwest Elite, the consequence of having two playoffs games postponed on Thursday. But the Midwesterners persevered, beating the Indiana Prospects (5-2-1) in a second-round game; the So Cal National Travel Team (5-2-1) in the quarterfinals and finally the IBAHS Knights (7-3) from Puerto Rico in the semifinals.
Midwest Elite topped the Knights, 10-2, thanks to a seven-run fourth that enabled it to take a 10-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth.
Adcock wasn't quite as impressive as he was in first outing of the tournament but still threw 5 innings and gave up two earned runs while scattering six hits, striking out 12 and walking two. In his first start on Sunday, he threw seven, two-hit, shutout innings with 16 strikeouts and two walks.
Randy Righter (2014, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI and Kory Young (2014, Rockford, Mich.) was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in Midwest's semifinal win. Young, ranked in the top 500 nationally in his class, has committed to Michigan State.
IBAHS made a terrific run to the final four, with its semifinal appearance its fourth playoff game in 24 hours. Victor Ortiz (2013, Humacao, P.R.) was 2-for-2 with a double and two RBI in the semifinal loss.
The East Cobb Astros 16u got its second-round playoff game in on Thursday, so the championship game was it's third of the day on Friday. They bumped off Bullets Baseball (6-3) in the quarterfinals to start the game and then dazzled in a 1-0 win over the Excel Blue Wave (8-1) in the semifinals. Or, more accurately, Hughes dazzled.
All the big right-hander did was throw a five-inning no-hitter with no walks and two hit batsmen. He struck out two and threw only 56 pitches, 34 that went for strikes. The Astros 16u managed only three hits off the Blue Wave lefty Ethan Simmons (2014, Chelsea, Ala.), who threw a solid four innings with no earned runs, four strikeouts and one walk.
"We've grown a lot and came together this tournament because we're younger than most of the teams that we're playing," Jones said. "We didn't back down and we fought hard."
So no one expected the championship game at the 2013 17u PG BCS Finals to end in a 5-5 tie because it was getting too dark to pick up the ball coming out the pitcher's hand or off the bat. But perhaps more unexpected was the presence of the guys from Michigan in the title game, Midwest Elite Baseball.
"When we come in and we play well, we can play with anybody," Kalczynski said. "We just had really good pitching all week and we played four games today -- when you get hot on one day and you're playing four games and you ride that, it's like, there you go, and that's kind of what happened."
2013 17u BCS Final co-champions: Midwest Elite Baseball
2013 17u BCS Final co-champions: East Cobb Astros 16u
2013 17u BCS Final MV-Player: Alonzo Jones, East Cobb Astros 16u
2013 17u BCS Final co MV-Pitcher: Brett Adcock, Midwest Elite Baseball
2013 17u BCS Final co MV-Pitcher: Jonathan Hughes, East Cobb Astros 16u