GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Team RIP from Vista, Calif., came into the 4th annual Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship intent on showing everyone the boys from north San Diego County can play baseball with the best of them.
And, according to RIP head coach Greg Posein, his guys can do that even if they don't win a Perfect Game national championship this weekend, although that would be welcome. Winning is much more fun than losing, of course, but Posein wants to make sure his players don't lose sight of their No. 1 goal, which is gaining enough exposure to get noticed and play at the collegiate level once their high school careers have concluded.
RIP, you see, stands for "Raising Individual Performance" and Posein firmly believes his young prospects can work successfully within the framework of a team while also improving as individuals. The Rips came into this tournament with a 31-4 record this summer which proves they can win, but winning and losing isn't necessarily what this is all about.
It's worth repeating: RIP stands for "Raising Individual Performance". Posein doesn't recruit or hold tryouts in an effort to improve his team, preferring instead to get his players through word of mouth. That, he believes, will produce teams that are both close-knit and competitive while enabling each individual to become the best ballplayer he can possibly become.
"If one of our players has a buddy who wants to play, I take them on and get them better. That's how we do it," Posein said Friday afternoon after Team RIP shutdown Pilots Baseball Club Underclass, 3-0, in a PG/EvoShield Upperclass opener at the Goodyear Sports and Recreation Complex.
"At the core of this team, seven out of the nine in the starting lineup has been together since they were 10. It's been a long process, but the parents have been great and it's just been awesome. A couple of them are getting a lot of good looks from colleges and that's kind of the approach to what we want to do. It's been fun, but it's been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, that's for sure."
None of the prospects on this Team RIP roster have made college commitments yet, and 10 of the 15 players listed are seniors in high school. One young man certainly made an impression under the hot Arizona desert sun Friday afternoon, however.
Kyle Sachrison, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound class of 2013 right-hander from Encinitas, Calif., was brilliant in getting the Rips off to a 1-0 start at the national championship. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a two-out single, and finished with a line of five innings pitched with one hit, no walks and six strikeouts. He threw 54 pitches, 39 for strikes (72.2 percent).
"I try not to think too much because I just really want to go out and do my own thing. I just want to support my teammates as much as I can," Sachrison said after his outing.
Righty-hander Roberto Johnson (2013, San Marcos, Calif.) worked the final two innings and didn't allow a hit while walking two and striking out four. That gave the duo of Sachrison and Johnson a combined one-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
"Kyle came out and threw five solid innings, and that definitely gets you going when you're not swinging the bat," Posein said. "Pitching and defense wins games, as we all know, and we got a couple of runs here and there, so that's really all I can ask for."
Johnson had an RBI single to go with an RBI double from Jeff Nellis (2013, San Marcos, Calif.) and a run-scoring single from Nathan Mann (2013, Carlsbad, Calif.). Those were the only three hits the Rips could muster off a trio of Pilots Baseball Club Underclass pitchers.
Posein said the majority of this group first started getting their "rips" together when they were about 10 years old and have systematically climbed up the age-group ladder.
"We've had them since they were little, a lot of little league guys who got their one inning and a couple of at-bats before they were taken out," he said. "There were a couple of long, rough years when we had a couple of bad years, but we just kept working and developing, and now they've come out and they've had a great summer."
The Rips 15-man roster represents the largest Posein has brought to this event in the three years Team RIP has been attending, indicating that he just might have his eyes on a strong finish. He said the previous groups would tend to get tired toward the end of the tournament, the result of playing in the 100 degree desert heat, so he decided to take a different approach.
"This year we're going to kind of slow it down a little bit and see if we can make it a little bit deeper, although that's not really my approach," Posein said. "Again, it's 'Raising Individual Performance' and I couldn't really give a (crap) about winning tournaments, that's not why we're here. It's a bonus, but that's not why we're here. We're here for the kids to get the exposure."
But these guys are competitive and they want to win. It gives the players a chance to get out-of-state and play against some of the best teams in the country while also building camaraderie.
"It's really fun coming out here," Sachrison said. "All of our guys, we stay at the same hotel and the competition here is really good, so it's always fun to come out here. The weather's not too bad -- it's obviously hot here, as always -- but I kind of like the hot weather and September is a good time to come out here."
Posein is fully aware of everything Sachrison had to say.
"They love being here," he said. "They get a lot of looks out here and a lot of colleges will make contact; whether or not they bite on the contacts or not, we'll see, but they get looks out here and, 'Hey, we saw you in Arizona', they get that a lot. It's definitely worth our time and money."
Posein oversees Team RIP squads at the 14u, 16u and 18u levels, and the organization also has younger teams (12u, 11u, 10u). The group has a training center with four cages in Vista, and most of the roster spots are filled with players from the California communities of Carlsbad, San Marcos and Fallbrook.
He has been involved with Team RIP for 12 years and is also an associate scout for the San Diego Padres in the San Diego area.