|Tournament Results -|
Championship Day features more rain, Disney berths awarded; Pensacola provides dry fields as teams claim titles
The final day of the “Last Chance” USSSA Super NIT in Northwest Florida started off sunny and ready for a fantastic Father's Day finish, as ASP crew hurriedly got the fields in playing shape by Sunday morning. Teams were able to play early games at the Sportsplex in Pace, but the weather once again interrupted and cancelled later games, forcing the overall point factor to be the ultimate decider on who would travel to Disney World for the prestigious Elite 24 tourney.
Although the 14-U South Florida Snappers and the Hit Tech Knights (Mobile, Ala.) didn't reach a championship game because of the rain, they both earned bids for a berth to Disney based on their high points.
“It's fun to be able to have a chance to go down to Disney World, even though we don't want to go like this, but hey, we'll take it,” Hit Tech Knights' coach Trey Rose said. As the fourth seed, they defeated the Mississippi Tornadoes earlier in the day, then had an early lead on the top-seeded Panhandle Rays before lightning struck. “I think the kids have earned it, the parents have earned it, by going to different tournaments and playing-I think they deserved it. We had four or five kids play varsity baseball this year, and their teams went deep into the playoffs. We had good leadership out of these kids.”
A local favorite, the second-seeded 13-U Pensacola Lightning also earned the trip down to Orlando.
“This will be our second year in a row,” Lightning assistant coach Chris Moorhead said. “This is the best there is, so we're excited about going down there and facing the best of the best. They put on a great tournament, and it's a great opportunity to see how we stack up against teams from around the country. We'd rather have it happen on the field, but we'll take the alternative.”
While the fields at Pace's Sportsplex were shut down for the night, Pensacola provided a drier answer to problems at NEP John R. Jones, Jr. Athletic Park late Sunday afternoon and evening.
The 9-U second-seeded Gulf Coast Lightning (of Pensacola) earned an Elite berth on the field with a 7-4 victory over fellow local Pace Sea Dogs. The Lightning won two games earlier in the day before taking the championship. The Lightning broke open a 2-2 game in the bottom of the fourth, then grabbed a four-run lead late before the Sea Dogs answered with a run in the last of the sixth.
“It was a good ballgame-we've always had good ballgames with Pace, they've got a great team,” Gulf Coast Lightning (out of Pensacola) coach Scott Beaver said. “We've got a good group of kids and everybody's looking forward to going to Disney. We're just going to try to keep practicing and get better before we go down there.”
One of the later championship games featured a competitive battle between 12-U Team Rawlings and the Southern Boyz. The 11-seed Southern Boyz took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the fifth before Team Rawlings hit consecutive homers to even the score. After answering with a run in the sixth, the Southern Boyz closed the door as a runner was caught stealing and the last batter struck out with the tying-run at third.
“We play travel ball to be able to go against the best competition that we can get to within a reasonable distance, and it's a great honor just to be able to play against a team as good as Team Rawlings,” Southern Boyz head coach Les Smith said after his team won for the fourth time on Sunday. The Southern Boyz deferred their Orlando bid to Team Rawlings, who accepted. “We play this to expose these kids from South Georgia against the best competition in the Southeast. To be able to come to a tournament like this and be competitive, and then to win it, it's an absolute honor. Number one, to be around a group of kids that allow us the opportunity to coach them, and expose them to this great competition, and help them grow as ballplayers, and as young men. That is what we do this for.”
Both the New Orleans Monarchs and Pensacola Aqua Sox in the 10-U division knew beforehand they were set for Disney, but still played a competitive game for the title. Pensacola got out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the sixth for the championship.
“All year we were trying to qualify for this,” Aqua Sox coach Howard Penton said. “It feels pretty good to be going down there.”
Despite the foul weather, tournament director, ASP's Eric Ervin was pleased with the overall event.
“It's an incredible opportunity for our kids to get exposure to teams all over the country,”. “We had teams from several states, and they're all spending their money in the economy. It's something our local political leaders and business leaders really need to get on board with. We are bringing such an impact into this community, it's not even funny, and we enjoy doing it. It was a challenge this weekend, but we had very, very few complaints. Luckily, we got to the same point in the event for all teams, and then we just had to take it by points. That's how it all worked out. I thank everybody for their patience-everybody sat back and let me do my job and gave me the opportunity to make this thing work. I really, really appreciate that.”
|Last Updated on Monday, 22 September 2008 09:56|