Kyle Koso 2015-11-16 03:51:08
After working through the heat of summertime, some of the most impressive and gritty youth baseball teams in the Eastern United States showed their cool under pressure this July at the 2015 U.S. Baseball Championships in Richmond, Virginia, one of Triple Crown Sports’ signature destination events. With dozens of college coaches and scouts orbiting the scene, the sixth annual USBC brought 74 teams from 16 states to the charms of Henrico County, which included great dining, day-trip amusements, and of course, highlevel baseball in the 16u, 17u and 18u brackets. Playing on high-caliber high school fields as well as several college campuses, the USBC also included two separate college exposure/ showcase sessions held at Randolph-Macon College, giving players another chance to display their skills in front of coaches at the next level. “The USBC had another great turnout in 2015. The diverse amount of teams from quality organizations around the country and the relationship with the city of Richmond and Henrico County are what really make it a special event,” said event director Kevin Small. “We are able to utilize the top-notch facilities that Henrico County maintains, and they provide an ideal setting for a great baseball tournament. “Year after year we see organizations with top-quality players at the USBC. This year the amount of talent was apparent as college coaches and scouts continued to fill the stands. Any team that has players with legitimate aspirations of playing college baseball would benefit from this event.” EVENT RECAP – 18u In the 18u division, the BASE Astros (Massachusetts) pulled off one of the most difficult feats in the tournament world, working all the way through seven games in the losers’ bracket to emerge as the champion. Four of those games were played on Monday, July 27, closing with 14-1 and 9-1 victories against the USA DiamondCats (South Carolina) to wrap up the arduous title run. The Astros (who also won the USBC 18u division in 2010 and 2013) were 2-1 after pool play but stumbled on their first step in the bracket, falling to the Virginia Swamp Things Lime, 4-2. No one on the talented roster could really imagine their tournament stay ending so quickly, but after a night of bowling and general team time, their minds were first relaxed and then set on fighting through the lower bracket. “Anyone who says they wouldn’t be worried is probably lying, but I had confidence in this team no matter what we were up against,” said Astros coach Jimmy Caruso. “In some ways, that put us in a great position, because we had to play with our backs against the wall the rest of the way. We knew we’d have our top guys, basically three number ones, the rest of the way.” A comfortable 13-4 win to start Sunday was followed by a 3-1 white-knuckle special against the MDE Storm (New York), where 6-foot-5 pitcher Matty O’Connor allowed just four hits as the Astros slowly built a lead. A potent offensive show wrapped up the day as the Astros topped the Blue Jays Elite (Connecticut), 9-4. “We knew it would be a long day Sunday, and it was a grind. The Blue Jays are a good team year in and year out,” Caruso said. “But that game, for me, was when the bats woke up and stayed awake the rest of the tournament.” The Astros fought through Monday, with the heart and muscle of Miguel Lorenzo setting the tone. Lorenzo (the event’s offensive MVP) played five different positions and rang up hits whenever the Astros were in need. After an 8-2 victory against the South Shore Spartans (Massachusetts), the Astros simply blew past the DiamondCats, never looking worse for the wear and tear they surely felt. “We played four games Monday, and just coaching at third base, I was exhausted. When we got by the Spartans, I just felt like we almost couldn’t be beaten,” Caruso added. “Miguel put us on his back, and he carried us. Going into the tournament, I thought of this team as one that just needed to get over the hump. We got our butts kicked a bit as 17s, but the way they came together was amazing. They conditioned hard all off season, and came out rolling this summer. I felt this could be a special team, one that could definitely make a run.” And just to show how tough the Astros were, they all got up at 4 a.m. the next day to catch an early flight home. EVENT RECAP – 16u Two different Richmond Braves National (Virginia) teams entered the fray in the 16u division; after pool play, the Langhorne squad was seeded No. 1 for the bracket, with the Mayers team sitting at No. 2. After allowing just three runs in their three pool play games, the Braves-Mayers outfit simply held form the rest of the way, winning all nine of their games and claiming the title with 12-5 and 4-0 victories against the TCB American (Connecticut) squad. “This team was basically the same that played in the event last year and lost in the semis. We were expecting to do well,” said Braves coach Tommy Mayers. “We had a 32-game stretch where we went 28-4 and won four championships. We were fully loaded, and the bulk of the team has been together for four years, and more than half already signed with a college. “One thing through the event, we’d score a lot of runs early. It was an issue; we’d get the lead and just cruise the rest of the way. It could be frustrating as a coach to see that.” Perhaps the toughest matchup came early in bracket play as the Braves took on the Virginia Swamp Things. The game was tight until the final few at-bats, where the Braves built some breathing room and escaped with a 6-1 victory. “The last game, the 4-0 win, it seemed like the other team really never threatened, so it felt like a bigger lead,” Mayers added. “JD Mundy (a left-handed hitter signed to play at Virginia Tech) hit well all week and had multiple hits in both of those title games. Zach Lockhart threw a complete game to finish it off and did a spectacular job.” EVENT RECAP – 17u The Team Connecticut Baseball Americans came to the USBC ready to defend the title won as 16s in 2014, but winning just one of three pool games put the squad on the margin, and threateningly close to dropping directly into the consolation bracket. In fact, it took a three-run burst in the final inning of the last pool play game to tweak the run differential, and the TCB Americans made the cut by the skin of their batting handles. “One of the boys kind of laughed at that, and he came up with our motto the rest of the way, ‘Don’t let us in,’” said TCB coach Dan Kennedy. “In pool play, we just didn’t get the big hits we needed, and we gave up runs we normally don’t. But once we got past that, you could just feel things changing.” That said, more adversity was headed their way. A 1-0 loss to the hometown Glen Allen Scorpions dropped TCB into the losers’ bracket, and they had to immediately tangle with Team Delaware to stay in the mix. The second nailbiter of the day went to the Americans, 4-3, and that put them back against the loaded Scorpions in the upper-bracket final, with the winner earning a spot in the 17u championship game. In the fourth game of the day, TCB took a thin early lead against the Scorpions, then blew it open late to claim a 14-3 victory. “You saw other teams struggle with the heat, but our guys were very wellconditioned. We knew that Scorpions team was going to be tough, because their coach told us they had players from different parts of the country,” Kennedy said. “You could tell from their body types they were going to be good, and that 1-0 game was just a good game, played well by both teams. “The last game with them, the crowd was filling up quite a bit, and there were some rowdy younger guys behind the backstop. Our guys loved it all, though. Both teams had gone through a lot of pitching, maybe running on fumes a bit. Things just exploded for us by the end.” In the championship contest, the Americans took on Team Boston Baseball Scorpions, which had their own tense journey through the losers’ bracket in the other half of the draw. Team Boston pulled out 1-0 and 4-3 victories to earn a spot in the final. Kennedy’s team rang up nine runs in the top of the first, and that was the end of the drama in the 17u division. “Their pitcher started throwing strikes, and we put the ball in play quickly and hit it hard. And we scored all those runs in maybe 15 minutes; it wasn’t one of those 30-minute innings,” Kennedy said. “I give our guys a lot of kudos; they never stopped working hard. And in the end, they did all the things they did last year when they won it as well.” The 2016 U.S. Baseball Championships will be held July 21-31, once again in Henrico County, Virginia. For more information, contact Kevin Small at (970) 266-1914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by Baseball Magazine. View All Articles.