FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twice this summer, the Orlando Scorpions premier 16u team -- playing under the name of the Orlando Scorpions Underclass Purple -- came up just short in their mission to win a Perfect Game national championship.
This is also a team that wanted to prove it belonged on the same nameplate as the Orlando Scorpions Prime, winners of the PG WWBA 2014 Grads or 17u National Championship last month.
The Scorps Underclass Purple won their first eight games at the PG WWBA 2015 Grads or 16u National Championship a week after the Prime won their national title, but were ousted in the second round of the playoffs. The same group finished a respectable 5-2 at the 17u PG BCS Finals, losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, not more than a few weeks after coming up just short in those two national championship events, the Orlando Scorpions completed the entire distance.
The Scorpions (6-1-2), carrying a middling record of 4-1-2 after pool-play, were able to eke out a 3-2 win over the South Florida Elite Squad (6-3) in the title game when the winning run crossed in the bottom of the seventh on an Elite Squad fielding error, and won the national championship at the 16u Perfect Game World Series Saturday afternoon at the Boston Red Sox's jetBlue Player Development Complex.
"This has been the ultimate team experience," Scorpions head coach David Bultema said shortly after his jubilant players had doused him with a cooler full of ice water. "Different guys have showed up each game, there's been different game-winners, different guys contributing ... and it's been great to see a team come together. We've played good all summer but we haven't won a tournament, so to finally win this one and to finish off the summer this way, it's a great feeling."
A ton of pool-play games ended in tied scores at last week's 17u Perfect Game World Series held in the Phoenix area and that carried over into this week's 16u PG World Series here in Southwest Florida. The four teams that advanced to Saturday's semifinal round entered with combined records of 19-4-5.
"I was talking to the guys all the time about how much parity there was here," Bultema said "You look at the pool (standings) with all the ties and everything, but I think it's just because of the event and what (Perfect Game) brings in and the teams that play, to come out on top is a phenomenal feeling. It's a testament to our guys that we've finally crossed that hurdle."
The championship game, like almost every other game at the 16u PGWS, was a pitcher's duel. Each team managed only three hits, with Scorpions right-handed starter Weston Davis (2014, Bradenton, Fla.), a University of Florida commit, pitching five innings of three-hit ball without allowing an earned run and striking out four. Lefty Bryce Tucker (2015, Altamonte Springs, Fla.) threw two perfect innings in relief, striking out three.
The Elite Squad's Ricky Rodriguez (2015, Miami Gardens, Fla.) tossed 5 1/3 innings of hitless relief with three strikeouts and five walks.
"It's always a barn-burner with South Florida Elite," Bultema said. "It's a nice rivalry we've got going with those guys and I respect them a lot."
The Scorpions best pitcher all week was 6-foot-6, 170-pound 2015 Valrico, Fla., right-hander Logan Crouse. The Florida State commit, ranked No. 72 in the 2015 PG national prospect rankings (No. 13 Florida), was named the Most Valuable Pitcher after allowing one earned run on four hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks in nine innings of work this week.
"This has been awesome, playing against the best talent in the country in your age-group and just getting to compete with everybody," Crouse said. "Towards the end of the week we felt like we had our pitching set up perfectly and our bats started working, so we definitely knew we could win it."
Crouse's Scorpions' teammate, 2015 catcher Nick Fortes form Deland, Fla., was named the Most Valuable Player. Fortes, ranked in the top-240 nationally and an Ole Miss commit, hit .429 (9-for-21) with three doubles, three RBI and a 1.205 OPS for a championship team that hit only a cumulative .214.
"I knew I had to do a job at the plate in order to help my team out, and all I was trying to do was get quality at-bats and help my team out," Fortes said.
It was the pitching staff that carried the Scorpions to this title. Bultema used 11 arms over the nine games and they combined to throw 55 innings and allow nine earned runs (1.15 ERA) with 54 strikeouts and 10 walks. That's just simply a job well done.
"Our pitching stands out to me the most, and then just clutch hitting," Bultema said. "Some guys were struggling this week but at the same time they stepped up big and still got clutch hits. There was a time in the middle of the week that we weren't getting those clutch hits and that's when we were tying."
The Scorpions got the ball rolling with a single run in the bottom of the first, added two more in each of the second and third and capped it off with three in the fourth on their way to an 8-0 rout of the East Cobb Astros (5-2-1) in one 16u semifinal Saturday morning.
"To beat East Cobb 8-to-nothing, that was pretty special right there," Bultema said.
Cameron Montgomery (2015, Windermere, Fla.) had a pair of hits and two RBI to lead the Scorpions nine hit attack. Devon Ortiz (2014, Winter Springs, Fla.) also drove in two, No. 11 nationally ranked Brendan Rodgers (2015, Lake Mary, Fla.) had two hits and an RBI and Ramon Alejo (2015, Orlando) had two hits, including a double.
Crouse threw five innings of two-hit ball, striking out eight and walking none.
Elite Squad 2015 right-handers Gentry Fortuno (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and Andrew Cabezas (Miami Gardens, Fla.) combined on a seven-strikeout five-hitter (all singles) to pace the Elite Squad to a 2-0 win over the Dallas Patriots (5-1-2) in Saturday morning's other 16u semifinal.
Dominic DiCaprio (2015, Coral Springs, Fla.) -- the class of 2015's No. 59-ranked national prospect -- and Justin Lamazares (2015, Pembroke Pines, Fla.) each drove in runs for the Elite Squad.
When the day ended, it turned out to be another memorable one for the Orlando Scorpions, this time the 16u group.
"This has been so fun; it's definitely a summer to remember," Crouse said. "Playing with all your friends is so much fun, and this definitely an obnoxious, goofy team for sure. We're a little bit loud but we're all about having fun and playing baseball -- and winning."
"Hanging with my teammates all week and getting to play with them, they're a great group of guys; it's just an honor for me to get to play with them," Fortes added. "We know we have a great club and we know that we can do some great things whenever we play as a team and that's what we did."
2013 16u Perfect Game World Series runner-up: South Florida Elite Squad
2013 16u Perfect Game World Series MVP: Nick Fortes, Orlando Scorpions
2013 16u Perfect Game World Series MV-Pitcher: Logan Crouse, Orlando Scorpions