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Canes, Rays cream of Iowa’s crop

July 1, 2021 | Jeff Dahn

2021 Canes

Originally posted at www.perfectgame.org

Champions were crowned Monday at the Perfect Game WWBA 16u North Championship and the PG WWBA 15u Midwest Elite Championship, with quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games all played at the Prospect Meadows Sports Complex.

Canes Midwest completes 8-game sweep to claim 15u MW Elite title

When Canes Midwest head coach Rick Stiner first spoke with PG on opening day at the WWBA 15u Midwest Elite Championship last Friday, this is what the veteran coach had to say:

“We do have expectations; one of our sayings is, ‘We’re in it to win it.’ So we’ve got to manage our staff, manage the team and provide [the players] opportunities to put them in the best situation to win.”

By the end of the day on Monday, all that was left to say was, “Consider it done.”

The top-seeded Indiana-based Canes Midwest held a 3-0 lead after three innings of play, added three more runs in the later innings and allowed that stand on their way to a 6-2 win over the No. 8 29ers Baseball 2024 Black out of Illinois in the championship finale. The Canes swept through the tournament field with an 8-0-0 record; the 29ers bowed out at 6-2-0.

The Canes Midwest scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the second with the help of two singles, two walks and two stolen bases. Casen Murphy led off the frame with a single, stole second and moved to third on a fielder’s choice groundout. Christian Klug walked and when he stole second, Murphy scored the game’s first run on the throw to second; Noah Coy then came through with an RBI single.

They added a single run in the third after Jack Brown led off with a double and eventually came around to score when Murphy chased him home with a fielder’s choice groundout. The early lead provided a boost.

“When you get deeper into games you’re going to want that lead and want that run support,” Canes Midwest do-everything type of guy Hogan Dennysaid postgame. “Plus, it will make our pitcher way more comfortable…and the comfort level when you get that lead just helps so much.”

The pitcher who received that dose of comfort was none other than the aforementioned Casen Murphy, a 2024 left-hander/first baseman who allowed one run on four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks in his six innings of work.

He never seemed rattled, even when the 29ers got to him for a run in the top of the fourth. The tally came on the strength of a leadoff single from Dylan Phelps and an RBI fielder’s choice groundout from Reece Duncan.

“I was going to try to go out there and throw strikes, play my game and do what I normally do and throw the best game I could to the best of my abilities,” said Murphy, who helped himself out with a single, an RBI and a run scored. “It makes it a little harder [to hit] when I’m on the mound but I pride myself on hitting the ball hard and getting on base.”

The Canes Midwest stayed on track by adding a single run in the bottom of the fourth on the strength of a leadoff double from JT Stiner and yet another RBI fielder’s choice groundout, this one from Noah Coy. They finished their scoring with two more in the sixth thanks to a leadoff double from Jobe Smith, a two-out single from Stiner and a two-out triple to left field from Tyler Inge.

The 29ers Baseball 2024 Black was able to push across a final run in the top of the seventh with an RBI double from Dawson Peterson.

“Coming out early and getting runs is important; it puts the pressure on the other team and I kind of felt like that’s what we did,” Coach Stiner said, “but I was actually a little upset that I felt like we got complacent. I think the energy of the other team, the energy of our guys after playing three games today was a little low so it was good to come out in the early part of the game and score some runs…and then hold on for the victory.”

Hogan Denny, a 2024 top-1000 catcher/infielder/right-hander, was terrific throughout the event and was named the MV Player. He finished 9-for-21 (.429) and was an extra-base machine with four doubles, a triple and two home runs; he had 12 RBI, scored eight runs and posted a .520 OBP.

“Coming down here was a very fun experience as a team,” Denny said. “Just hanging out as a team in the hotel was a great time, and then coming over here and winning all of our games meant a lot. And this championship, just finishing the weekend off on such a high note means a lot to our team.”

Casen Murphy had pitched a 1-2-3 inning of relief – with three punchouts – earlier in the tournament and finished with a line of 7 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 4 hits, 12 strikeouts and 2 walks, and was named the MV-Pitcher. And, just for good measure, he also went 7-for-18 (.389) at the plate, with a double, a triple, nine RBI, five runs and a .542 OBP.

“This team is really fun to play with, especially when we’re firing on all cylinders [when] we’re hitting good, pitching good,” said Murphy, who was playing in his first career PG event. “It was a fun weekend and we just need to come out…and keep playing the same way.”

Concluded Rick Stiner: “I thought as a team we did a great job with pitching and fielding the ball,” Stiner said. “Pitching and defense is the name of the game and that’s what wins championships.”

Late rally lifts GRB Rays Green to WWBA 16u North championship

It’s a beautiful thing indeed when the bottom tier of a team’s batting order can work in harmony with the top of the order to produce hits, runs and ultimately a much sought-after victory. Especially, perhaps, in the next-to-last inning of PG WWBA tournament championship game.

The Nos. 8 through 10 hitters for the GRB Rays Green teamed nicely with their counterparts at the top of the order to produce four runs on five hits all with two-out in the bottom of the sixth and the Rays Green outlasted the determined Pro Players Canes Green, 7-3, to take home the title at the PG WWBA 16u North Championship. The game was knotted at 3 before the four-run outburst.

The victory in the championship game completed a dominant 8-0-0 four-day run for the No. 1-seeded Rays Green, who outscored their eight opponents by a combined score of 69-15 en route to yet another Prospect Meadows championship for the Wisconsin-based GRB organization. The mean Green rapped-out 10 hits in the championship game victory, just about par for the course all weekend.

“Every single game it seemed like there were multiple people just hitting the ball,” Rays Green tournament MV-Player Caleb Karll said postgame. “They were squaring-it up, hitting the ball hard and we all played really well. Everybody had at least one great game.”

There were only 11 players present for the championship team photo at game’s end and the Rays Green played the entire tournament with limited player availability. The high school state playoffs are still running back home in Wisconsin so all of the very successful GRB teams that were in attendance here this weekend were playing a little short-handed.

“It doesn’t matter,” Rays Green head coach Cooper Stewart said. “Competitors compete all the time and it’s just a matter of being able to lock-in every single play and then get to the next one. We did a real good job of that this weekend.”

The title tilt was a ballgame that was all tied-up at 3 heading into the bottom of the sixth Monday afternoon, right at about the time the shadows were starting to get a little longer. And after the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth went down with ground ball outs to the Pro Player shortstop there wasn’t much reason for Rays’ fans to believe anything magical would happen at that point – especially with the bottom of the order on deck.

Oh, ye of little faith. No. 8 hitter Braden Smith got the ball rolling with his second single of the game and got ready for the fireworks to uncork. No. 9 hitter Mason Armstrong stroked an RBI double, the first of three straight run-scoring two-baggers with No. 10 batter Logan Frank and leadoff man Justin Gorski following suit; after a walk, Karll delivered an RBI single to complete the scoring.

Smith finished with the two singles and two RBI; Gorshi a single, double, an RBI and two runs; Karll with two singles and a ribbie.

“It just all comes back to the way they just grind everything out – down, up it just doesn’t matter,” Stewart said of the comeback. “That last inning when we kind of separated ourselves we had three good two-strike at-bats back-to-back-to back and we kind of broke through at that point in time…It was a good overall effort from everybody.”

Meanwhile, there was the matter of keeping the No. 7-seeded Illinois-based Pro Player Canes (6-2-0) bats in check, and that had not been an easy task considering their nine-hit attack. Brayden Bakes finished with a double, a triple an RBI and a run scored; Sheppard Graf singled and doubled and drove in a run; Austin Leonard delivered an RBI.

And all that success came off of 2023 right-hander Maxwell Kalk, who is in reality a catcher by trade. He was certainly gutty by any measure, working all seven innings and allowing the three runs on nine hits with one strikeout and two walks. In many ways, the performance bordered on masterful.

“Max Kalk, he’s not generally a pitcher, but he was throwing strikes and letting the defense do its job; that was the biggest thing for us,” Stewart said.

“We ran out of pitchers so we had our catcher throwing out there off the mound,” Karll said through a laugh. “But he threw strikes, did the job and limited their runs and were able to hit. We got the bat on the ball, got a couple of clutch base hits [early] and then got a couple of insurance runs in the [sixth]. That was amazing; that was fun.”

Karll, a 2023 outfielder, was a run-producing factory in the eight games, hitting 9-for-23 (.391) with a double, two triples, two home runs, 11 RBI and seven runs scored; he also stole three bases. Those numbers were certainly good enough to warrant the MVP recognition.

Pro Player Canes Green 2023 left-hander Lucas Foley was as dominating on the mound as Karll was at the plate and earned MV-Pitcher recognition. Foley made four appearances in Pro Player’s eight games, working 10 two-hit shutout innings, striking out 16 and walking just one.

But as the sun set on Prospect Meadows Monday, the WWBA 16u North Championship title trophy and banner belonged to the GRB Rays Green.

“It’s a real good experience, especially going forward development-wise for college baseball and learning how to win,” Stewart said. “It’s a very, very good skill for guys to learn how to win, and that’s just a matter of approach and process over the results at the end of the game.”

Jeff Dahn