Local squad wins Super Series championship in Kansas City

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2006

KANSAS CITY- Pride Baseball exploded for 18 hits, and closer Dylan Hills got the final outs with the winning run at the plate as the Pride outlasted the Tulsa Giants, 16-14, to win the national championship of the Super Series American Division 14-Under World Series here Saturday at the Fountain Bluff Sports Complex.

The championship game win marked a clean sweep for the Pride at the Super Series national tournament as they won all eight games they played. Tulsa, which fell to the Pride 3-2 earlier in the championship bracket, entered the title game needing to beat the Pride twice to win the crown.

And for a moment it looked like they might. The Giants’ big bats, lifting fly balls into a strong wind blowing out of the park, crushed three home runs and five fence-rattling doubles in the final two innings, all but wiping away what seemed like a commanding 14-7 Pride lead heading into the last of the sixth inning.

But with the tying run on second and the winning run at the plate in the person of Tulsa slugger Blake Blakely, who’d already homered in the game, Pride closer Dylan Hills reached back for something extra. He struck out Blakely on a 3-2 count and got cleanup batter Mitch Osburn to pop up to seal the national title for the Pride.

The championship game was a tug-of-war throughout with six lead changes. Tulsa jumped on top 4-0 in the bottom of the first, touching Pride starter Nick Reine for five hits, including a two-run homer by Blakely.

But the Pride responded with five runs in the top of the second to take the lead. Consecutive walks to Elisha Settoon, Trey Marino, Richard Ford and Bryce Jenkins produced a run before Brandon Loria singled to left, scoring Marino and Ford, with Jenkins scoring when the ball got past the leftfielder. Hills then doubled Loria home for a 5-4 Pride lead.

Tulsa tied the game in the bottom of the third on a pair of walks and two base hits.

But the Pride went back up 6-5 in the top of the fourth when J.T. Trapani and Austen Roussel stroked back-to-back singles and Hills delivered an RBI double.

The Pride extended its lead to 7-5 in the fifth when Marino led off with a double, Ford walked, and Trapani singled Marino home.

But the Giants tied the score with two out in the last of the fifth on a walk, a single, a double-steal, and a bloop single off reliever Brennan Marque which fell, allowing two runners to score.

But the Pride countered with a huge seven-run, sixth inning which seemingly put the game out of reach. Hills and Reine hit back-to-back singles and both advanced on a passed ball. Settoon then put the Pride back in the lead with a run-scoring single. After a walk to Marino, Marque smashed a two-run single for a 10-7 lead.

After Jenkins walked, Roussel doubled him home before scoring himself on Hills’ double. But Hills was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Settoon’s single to finally end the big rally in which Hills and Settoon both had two hits.

Though down 14-7, Tulsa would not give up. With two out the Giants boomed back-to-back homers and a long double off of Marque. Hills then relieved and was greeted with consecutive doubles before retiring the side, but not before Tulsa had cut the lead to 14-11.

&#8220That team was very good offensively,” said Pride coach Hunter Gomez. &#8220Our pitchers were making the pitches, but they just kept hitting them.”

The Pride bounced back in the top of the final inning with what seemed to be insurance runs, but in fact turned out to be the winning runs. With one out Ford reached on an error by the first baseman and Jenkins walked. Roussel then slammed a two-run single to give the Pride a 16-11 lead going into the game’s final at-bat.

&#8220Our kids wanted it more than they did,” Gomez said. &#8220We kept driving in runs.”

Hills then stopped Tulsa’s three-run rally short with the tying run on second to seal the national championship for the Pride.

&#8220When they went out there in the last inning, I knew they were gonna get the job done because they’ve been in that situation, been in championships and big games, numerous times,” Gomez said. &#8220Our kids are gonna hang in there and pull it off no matter what. It was a good gut check for them, and they did a great job.”

Hills led the Pride at the plate in the title game with

five hits while Trapani and Roussel both had three safeties. Settoon and Marino had two hits while Reine, Ford and Marque each had one.

In a combined two games against the Giants, the Pride won by a total of three runs. The Pride won six of their eight tournament victories by three runs or less.

&#8220We fought our butts off all week,” Gomez said. &#8220There were some great teams here, and we just played excellent baseball in all facets throughout. We pitched and hit well, and we played great defense. The kids played real gutsy in one and two-run ballgames. They just went out and played good ole Pride baseball.”

The Pride had four players selected to the World Series all-tournament team. First-baseman Settoon, who hit .480 for the tournament with eight RBI’s, along with catcher Reine, who batted .391 with two homers and eight RBI’s, and shortstop Trapani, who hit .345 and also had two homers, made the all-tourney team.

Roussel, who hit .519 for the tournament with 10 RBI’s and allowed only two runs with 24 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Roussel pitched the entire nine innings in a 3-2 win over Tulsa earlier in the tourney.

The Pride, a travel team of select 14-year olds from Independence, Ponchatoula, Loranger, Mandeville, Lutcher and LaPlace, is coached by Gomez, a former Ponchatoula High and LSU standout pitcher, and managed by Jacob Trapani. The Pride won the 2006 Louisiana state championship in June. Since the team was formed three years ago, the Pride has won two state championships and over 20 tournament titles.

Trapani said the national title was especially gratifying since the World Series crown has been the Pride’s goal since the team was formed three years ago. Also, it could very well be the team’s last tourney together since next year the players will all be playing high school baseball.

&#8220It’s been a terrific ride,” Trapani said. &#8220When you win the World Series, against supposedly the best of the best, there’s no better way to finish than this.”

&#8220It’s really been great to see all of these kids succeed and accomplish something really, really big. It might well be the biggest thing some of these kids do in their lifetime.”