Originally posted on Perfect Game.
No-hitter lifts AZ T-Rex Baseball Club to 18u WMD championship
GOODYEAR, Ariz. – At a tournament when both of the top playoff seeds used elite-level pitching to advance to the championship game, it was only fitting that the game itself would produce the top performance of the four-day event.
Little known and lightly regarded 2018 right-hander Jacob Stark was unexpectedly handed the ball to make the start for No. 2-seed AZ T-Rex Baseball Club in the title tilt at the 18u Perfect Game WWBA West Memorial Day Classic at Goodyear Ballpark, and promptly threw a six-inning no-hitter at No. 1 All Star Baseball Academy 17u in a 9-0 rout stopped an inning early by the tournament run-rule.
Stark didn’t allow a hit or a run during his six innings of duty, striking out three and walking five. He was never dominant but the ASBA hitters could never knock off him off balance, either. And his performance was particularly noteworthy because he had absolutely no time to prepare himself for the assignment.
“I’m a reliever and they brought me up to this team to pitch in relief,” he said after accepting congratulations from his teammates. “I didn’t find out I was going to start until about 10 minutes before the game. The coaches were, like, ‘Who’s going to pitch?’ and one of our catchers said, ‘Well, Stark hasn’t thrown for a while’ so they said, ‘Throw him on the bump.’
“I just went out there and threw; I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do. Once we started scoring a little bit, I just let the defense do the work.”
This was actually Stark’s third appearance at the tournament but his first start. He threw 8 1/3 innings over the four days and allowed two earned runs (1.68 ERA) on one hit with six strikeouts and nine walks. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder from Mesa, Ariz., was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
“He’s the kind of guy that we know can usually throw strikes and we know he has pretty good velocity, good command of the zone,” AZ T-Rex BC head coach Rex Gonzalez said of Stark. “We saw him the other night close out a game and I just felt like he was a guy who could at least get us going in the game. He kept his pitch count pretty low so we just kept running him out there, and obviously with no hits, you don’t really want to mess with somebody like that.”
The T-Rexer’s had their bats warmed-up in the mid-90s degree heat Monday afternoon, as well, scoring their nine runs – eight earned – on 13 hits. 2017 Trevor Hauver doubled and tripled, drove in two runs and scored two others; 2017 Andrew Swift singled twice, drove in a run and scored twice; and 2016 Connor McCord(Western Oregon signee) also had a pair of singles and an RBI.
All Star BA 17u (4-1-0) from El Mirage, Ariz., and AZ T-Rex BC (5-0-0) from Scottsdale, Ariz., earned the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds and byes into Monday’s tournament semifinal round because of their dominant pitching staffs. ASBA outscored its three pool-play opponents by a combined 22-0; T-Rex was at 20-1.
The ASBA staff hadn’t allowed a run all weekend until AZ T-Rex scored in the first inning of the championship game. 2017 right-handers Anthony Quattrocchi and Clay Schwaner, and 2017 lefty Michael Sears combined to pitch 15 seven-hit, shutout innings with 18 strikeouts against three walks.
AZ T-Rex’s Boyd Vander Kooi, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander/corner-infielder and an Oregon commit from Mesa, Ariz., ranked No. 114 nationally, pitched a six-inning, two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts in his team’s tournament opener Friday night. He was also 5-for-6 (.833) with a triple, three RBI and four runs scored at the plate and was named the Most Valuable Player.
“The tournament basically came down to good pitching,” Gonzalez said. “ASBA does a great job – they’re a great program – and think both of us have a pretty decent program and we showed it today. They may not have hit the ball today but our pitcher just had a good game. You’ve got to give those guys credit. They’re a good ball club and they have some hitters over there, as well.”
The PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic championship is a first for the AZ T-Rex Baseball Club although many of these players were on the roster that finished third at this same event last year and third at the 2014 16u PG WWBA West Memorial Day Classic.
Gonzalez plans on taking his T-Rex show on the road once again this summer with PG national tournament stops at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint in Cartersville, Ga., for the prestigious 17u PG WWBA National Championship July 1-8 and back here in the Valley for the 17u PG World Series, being held for the first time this year at the Chicago Cubs’ Sloan Park spring training complex in Mesa. He’s confident he has not only the best 17/18u team in the Valley but one of the best in the country.
“Anytime we get a chance play PG we strongly encourage it and we love doing it,” Gonzalez said. “I think we can compete on the national scene. Like I tell our guys, every time you step out here it’s a measuring stick. There’s going to be a lot of good ballplayers out there and you’re just another guy; everybody’s working hard and you just have to keep working hard every day and let the chips fall where they may.”
In a pair of semifinal games played Monday morning on the Indians’ side of the Goodyear Ballpark Complex, All Star Baseball Academy 17u wasted no time in eliminating the No. 4 So Cal Halos (3-2-0) from Santa Paula, Calif., 9-0 in five innings; T-Rex out-blasted AZ PROspects 18u (3-2-0) from Litchfield Park, Ariz., 12-6.
ASBA 17u pushed across six runs in the second and added three more in the third and that was enough to secure the five-inning victory over the Halos. The All-Stars had nine hits, with Jesus Aldaz and Nick O’Brien both picking up a pair; Aldaz doubled and tripled, drove in a pair of runs and scored two, and O’Brien doubled and also drove in and scored a pair of runs. Quattrocchi threw a five-inning, two-hit shutout, striking out six without a walk.
Nick Brueser hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth and added a solo shot to lead-off the bottom of the sixth, and Hauver smashed a three-run bomb in the bottom of the second to power T-Rex’s 11-hit attack in the win over the AZ PROspects 18u. Hauver added a single, drove in four runs and scored three runs; Brueser also scored three times.