FORT MYERS, Fla. – With pool play completed in the 16u Perfect Game Florida State Championship, the field has dwindled down to the point where only the best teams remain. A surprise team still in the field is the Xtreme Baseball Navy squad, who are a surprise not because of their talent but because of their youth.
Xtreme baseball is an organization dedicated to challenging its players so that they can improve and maximize their potential, and because of this, they decided to enter their 15u team into the 16u Florida State Championship. Despite this, the Xtreme team has not missed a stride, as they have won their pool and have an unblemished 4-0 record heading into the playoffs.
“We put a challenge on these kids: to be better, you have to play the best,” explained Xtreme manager Sandra Menendez. “It’s not about the medals or the wins for us anymore, it’s about playing the best. We set the bar high for these boys. If we are going to play at an elite level, this is the type of baseball we have to play. Every time we raise the bar, the kids meet that challenge, and playing at our own age group really doesn’t help us anymore.”
The reason for challenging the players in the Florida State Championship was to better prepare them for the 15u Perfect Game World Series next week. “When we go to an event like the Perfect Game World Series, that’s where you see the best of the best, and we’ll be ready to compete in our age group,” said Menendez. “When we push them to play in tougher events, it makes them work harder, and they never disappoint.” This Xtreme team has hardly disappointed this week, as they have not only met the challenge of playing against older teams, but they have risen above it with their dominating play.
Menendez has been a part of the Xtreme staff for a long time. She and her husband Mitchell act as managers and focus on helping the players get recruited so they have a chance to play at higher levels.
Despite Sandra’s insistence on not discussing her son Christian’s role on Xtreme, he is undoubtedly a key member of their team. He pitched a complete-game gem on Monday morning, throwing an economical 87 pitches in seven innings while striking out 9 and giving up just two hits in Xtreme’s win over the North Florida Storm Black.
Christian stands at a massive 6’6”, 225 pounds, and is an imposing presence on the mound with his fastball and curveball combination. While Sandra refused to give Christian more credit than any other player on the team, she did explain, “Christian has mainly been playing first base, but in the last six months, his heart has really transitioned into being a pitcher. He believes that’s where his future is, and I’ve seen him put more dedication into pitching.” With his ideal frame, composure and quality offerings, it is hard not to see a bright future for the right-hander.
Along with Christian, Tyler Shuck also leads Xtreme’s pitching staff. “Tyler is one of our dominant pitchers,” Menendez said, “but this week he is taking on a different role, acting as the team’s closer. He’s one of our go-to guys, he dominates on the mound and we can rely on him all the time. He throws strikes and works ahead in the count.”
With Shuck acting in a different role, Daniel Simons and Gibson Bittner have stepped up as starters for Xtreme. Menendez sang Bittner’s praises, saying, “Gibson pitched a phenomenal game yesterday. He doesn’t dominant with his speed but he just controls the game, hitting corners. He’s very powerful on the mound with his ability to hit spots. We like putting him up against teams with big bats because he just knows how to control them.”
After Christian Menendez’s stellar start in the morning, Xtreme received a great combined effort from Matthew Doden and Jack Mora. Doden threw four solid innings, striking out five and giving up only two hits. Mora completed the great pitching effort with two innings of hitless ball, throwing only ten pitches in the process. Together they led Xtreme to an 8-0 victory over the PTI Maniacs.
Xtreme gets production from the entire lineup in order to power their offense. Trevor Cramer plays the role of a two-hitter perfectly, while Shuck, Tyler Lala and Giovany Lorenzo get on base and drive runners in with regularity.
Xtreme can compete with anyone when it comes to their lineup and their rotation, but Menendez feels that it is the team’s defense that puts them above the rest of the competition. Of their middle-infield combination of Christian Proffitt and Tyler Lala, Menendez said they have, “hands of gold,” and that the outfield refers to themselves as “the no-fly zone.”
“I can truly tell you that 90 percent of our games are won with our defense,” Menendez stated. “I would bet anybody that we have one of the best defenses in the country. Defense is important to them because they work so hard out there, and that’s what makes my job so rewarding, seeing how hard they work and how much heart they put into this. These kids choose to make themselves better week in and week out.”
Xtreme’s defense goes hand-in-hand with their elite pitching to shut down opponents. Despite their youth and their eyes on the Perfect Game World Series crown, they look primed and ready to take the Florida State Championship. They have already proved that they are among the best programs in the state, but if they can win the title of an older age group, the World Series field should be scared to match up against this Xtreme squad.