The GRB Rays and Cangelosi Sparks 2020 Black are no strangers to one another. They’ve already faced off three times this season and once at the WWBA 17u Prospect Meadows National Championship. There, Cangelosi won a 9-6 slugfest in pool play. The championship game, though, proved to be much different as the GRB Rays emerged with a 8-1 win in the inaugural event.
Clemson commit and third baseman/shortstop Max Wagner took the mound and pitched admirably as PG All-American George Klassen receives some hard-earned rest. With or without Klassen, the Rays pitching staff proved to be loaded all week long.
“George is working himself back. He had a muscle spasm in his back,” GRB head coach Trevor Burmeister said. “If this game would have been closer, George would have been in there, but the way the games shaped themselves out, he didn’t have to.”
While he might not have the same fastball-curveball combination Klassen does, Wagner commanded the strike zone, moving his 86 mph top fastball everywhere in the zone. When combined with his off-speed, it was a killer combination. In six innings of work, the tournament MVP only allowed three hits and one unearned one, fanning two along the way.
Wagner also batted .440 with a tournament-high in hits (11) and RBIs (12). He also scored nine runs himself in addition to completing the cycle during the second round of the playoffs. There, GRB knocked off No. 5-seeded Renegades Baseball in a commanding 12-1 victory.
“It’s been something I’ve been working for, but it doesn’t happen without my teammates encouraging me and getting people on base in front of me so I can move the runners and get them in,” Wagner commented, regarding his MVP honor.
In the championship game, GRB scored two runs in the top of the second as first baseman Thomas Otto drilled a double to right field. Third baseman Eddie Saucedo took four consecutive balls for a walk, holding off on pitches all across the zone. With runners at first and second, Cangelosi shortstop and Louisville commit Christian Knapczykbackpedaled to snag what would have been a base hit into shallow center field.
That didn’t matter to GRB shortstop Taitan Manriquez, who singled to shallow right center. Jake Berg’s following hit was nearly a carbon copy, with the pair driving in a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead.
Cangelosi countered, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Jacob Kampf then executed a sacrifice bunt that hugged the first base line, moving both runners to second and third. It wouldn’t be the last time small ball would be vital in this game.
Anthony Fornero’s ground ball to shortstop drove in a runner, making the game 2-1 going into the third. GRB added a pair of runs in the fourth before Cangelosi started making pitching changes.
GRB responded as leadoff batter Spencer Bartel singled to center field and Wagner forced a walk. Extra hitter Cam Dupont grounded to the pitcher and, attempting to get lead runner Bartel, hurled it to third. Instead, Bartel scored on the error.
Turning to small-ball offense, Call Verlanic laid down a bunt, reaching first base on an error. With the bases loaded and no outs, Thomas Otto hoped to replicate his earlier double. Instead, he battled back from a 1-2 count to force a walk.
“We talk to the guys all the time about playing what the game presents to you,” Burmeister said. “Part of it is not only who is on the mound, part of it is the strike zone, part of it is the weather conditions. With the field, the wind blowing in hard, we knew we had to execute some small ball to have a chance to win today.”
With runners on, DuPrey continued the scoring barrage, sending a sacrifice fly to center field. Manriquez also drove in an RBI off a come-backer to the pitcher to make the final score of 8-1.
Leading the way for the Rays on offense were Bartel, Saucedo and Manriquez with two hits each. Manriquez andBrady Jurgella also had two RBIs each. Wagner earned the win on the mound with Carter Endisch coming in to close.
For Cangelosi, Jack Crowder was named the tournament’s MV-Pitcher. Crowder pitched eight innings, striking out five batters and only allowing two hits. Even so, GRB’s depth of high-quality pitching was vital to their run in the tournament.
Pitchers Nick Smith and Ryan Stefiuk both recorded double-digit strikeouts throughout the tournament. Smith is currently uncommitted, while Stefiuk joins five other D-I committed players on the GRB pitching staff.
“Depth of pitching is huge. Even with the depth we have, we have some really talented arms that are shelved right now or working to get themselves back on the mound,” Burmeister said. “But, when you have guys out there who can pound the strike zone and three pitches they can throw, it makes a huge difference and your confidence level is better when you’re in the dugout trying to make those decisions.”
Be sure to check out the Perfect Game website for more tournament and scouting information for PG tournaments at Prospect Meadows.