FORT MYERS, Fla. – It’s a question most famously asked by Paul Newman in his role as Butch Cassidy in the 1969 hit movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and it might have been asked several times at the Player Development 5-Plex on Saturday: “Who are those guys?”
In the setting of the inaugural Perfect Game High School Showdown-Academies – which wrapped up its three-day run with pool-play games and a championship game at the 5-Plex Saturday – “those guys” were the high-flying Eagles from Faith Baptist Christian School in Brandon, Fla.
The unheralded Eagles took down two of the tournament’s heavyweights – the Ontario (Canada) Blue Jays and the Salisbury (Conn.) Prep School Crimson Knights – within about a five-hour time frame to claim what many thought to be an unlikely championship at the PG HS Showdown-Academies. Unlikely to many, perhaps, but not to small-school Faith Baptist.
“It’s been a really good day,” Eagles’ head coach Gene Reynolds said about an hour after his team's championship game victory over Salisbury. “Playing late (Friday night) and turning it around early (Saturday), the guys did a really good job.”
Faith Baptist took down nationally No. 33-ranked and highly favored Salisbury Prep, 5-1, in the championship game, an outcome no one but the Eagles could have anticipated.
Senior Ronny Orta, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound right-hander who has signed with State College of Florida, threw four innings of no-hit ball at the Crimson Knights to set the tone, and finished with a complete game four-hitter without allowing an earned run, striking out eight and walking two.
“We got a really good start from Ronny Orta and that really picked us up,” Reynolds said. “We’re real confident when he’s on the mound and we’re real excited about the opportunity it presents.”
For his efforts in the championship game, Orta was named co-Most Valuable Pitcher, sharing the honor with Salisbury’s Austin DeCarr, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander who has signed with Clemson.
The Eagles scored two runs in the first and a single run in the second thanks to RBI singles from Keanu Thompson, Junior Furman and Bryan Soto (State College of Florida). They added two more in the bottom of the fifth after Salisbury scored its only run on an RBI single from Kyle Adams, which followed singles from Stephen White and Ryan January.
Faith Baptist managed nine hits against Salisbury, noteworthy because three Crimson Knights’ pitchers had combined to allow only eight hits in 18 innings before the title game. The Eagles hit just .275 as a team (30-for-109) with nine extra-base hits in their four games.
The Eagles may have felt somewhat noticed coming into the PG HS Showdown-Academies tournament, but just the fact they were invited to participate speaks volumes about their legitimacy. In any event, they certainly caused some people to take notice over the last three days.
“It’s been a process the last two years getting our name out there a little more and more,” Reynolds said. “We started to (accomplish that) in the last year or two with scouts and college coaches and people of that nature – they know us – but I figured a lot of these teams didn’t know a lot about us.
“… We feel like we’ve got a good group that plays hard and plays together and enjoys playing the game and enjoys competing and trying to win ballgames.”
Salisbury’s Adams, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior catcher/outfielder from White Plains, N.Y., who has signed with Richmond, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Adams batted 6-for-12 (.500) with a double, six RBI and 1.155 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) percentage.
Faith Baptist (3-1 at the event) and Salisbury (3-1) reached the championship game by decidedly different routes.
The Eagles had to scrap every bit of the way and needed to pull off a stunner to advance to the title game. They started the tournament with a 9-2 win over the Home Plate Citadels (Ga.) and then got rocked by SBO Storm Florida, 8-2.
Faith Baptist’s first Saturday upset came in an 11-6 win over the previously unbeaten and heavily favored Ontario Blue Jays; the Eagles trailed 6-4 going into the top of the seventh but put a 7-spot on the board in that frame to provide the final margin of victory.
David Rodriguez, 0-for-7 coming into the game, was 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored as the Eagles scored their 11 runs on nine hits; four of those runs were unearned. Senior right-hander Maikor Mora did just enough, allowing five earned runs on six hits over six innings, with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
“The best thing about it was it was a great team victory,” Reynolds said of the championship. “It was a lot of different guys coming off the bench – pinch-hitting in the seventh inning, getting big hits – a lot of guys doing a lot of different things. Everyone really chipped in and really battled, and it was a fun day, that’s for sure.”
The Salisbury Prep Crimson Knights outscored their three pool-play opponents by a combined 26-0, dominating SBO Storm Puerto Rico, 10-0; Arlington Country Day (Fla.), 11-0 and Future Stars Baseball (Virgin Islands), 5-0.
Three Salisbury pitchers threw complete games and were nothing short of brilliant. Co-MV Pitcher senior DeCarr threw six innings, allowed two hits, struck out 13 and walked one; junior left-hander Jacob Lamb put in seven innings of work allowed four hits with seven strikeouts and three walks; senior right-hander Paul Campbell went five innings and gave up two hit with four strikeouts and two walks.
Faith Baptist finally became the first team at the tournament to figure out the Salisbury pitching staff and left a lot of folks wonder, “Who are those guys.”
2014 Perfect Game High School Showdown-Academies MVP: Kyle Adams, Salisbury Knights
2014 Perfect Game High School Showdown-Academies co-MV Pitcher: Ronny Orta, Faith Academy Eagles
2014 Perfect Game High School Showdown-Academies co-MV Pitcher: Austin DeCarr, Salisbury Knights