BOCA RATON - Esteban Puerta continued his torrid hitting and Michael Klement closed out the final 2 innings to lead the South Florida Elite Squad Black to a 13-10 victory over the CBC Storm on Monday afternoon to win the 2010 PW 16U Florida State Finals at FAU Baseball Stadium. Puerta, who was named a co-MVP with teammate Ivan Pelaez, went 2-for-3, scored 3 runs and added an RBI. The 2012 grad finished the tournament scoring 10 runs for the Elite, continuing to find himself on base in critical times of every game. Puerta's tournament stats were 10-for-17, 10 runs scored, 5 RBI, two doubles and two triples.
In a game that was a back and forth affair that featured 27 hits, the game began to get that feel of whoever was up to bat last would win. CBC came into the game averaging well over 10 runs a game for the tournament, and they continued to score 10 more in the championship. The team who was able to get some pitching late in the game would win. With the Elite Squad burning through arms, Michael Klement came in the 6th inning and worked 2 innings of shutout baseball to provide the late game pitching that propelled the Elite to the state championship. The Elite used 6 arms in the game, showing the value of co-MVP Ivan Pelaez. Pelaez worked 8 innings in the tournament, allowing just 1 hit, no runs and punched out an amazing 17 batters to set an FSF 16U record for strikeouts. But all Pelaez could do in this game was watch from the dugout as he had pitched 5 innings the day before.
The Elite started potential pro prospect Hayden Hurst, who worked 3 innings and yielded just 1 run. It was Hurst's first appearance since the high school regular season and his action would be limited to protect his arm. Hurst's velocity was slightly down at 85-88mph from his typically electric stuff since it was his first action back in awhile - but that didn't effect his performance as he cruised through 3 innings of work. With Hurst on pitch count, the Elite bullpen struggled to contain the hottest offensive team in the tournament. CBC leadoff hitter and center fielder Jake Jacob continued his MVP bid by going 2-for-4 with a triple, hitting all 4 balls hard and providing the spark at the top of the lineup that he had done all week long for CBC. Jacob's outs were a ball laced to the RCF gap where Cody Fulton made a diving catch. Jacob's other out was a laced line drive to SS, that skipped once, and was scooped beautifully by UM commit Nick Basto. Basto showed off an above average arm to get the speedy Jacob's at first to keep the CBC catalyst off the basepaths. 2B Patrick Rivera also continued his hot hitting with a huge 2-RBI single to tie the game in the 5th.
Possibly the most underrated at-bat of the game was CBC's Connor Miller vs. the Elite's Nick Travieso. Travieso is one of the top pitching prospects in the country with a low 90's fastball, and CBC's Connor Miller, a future division 1 bat, was able to battle Travieso for an extended at-bat. If you let a pitcher like Travieso settle in and start rolling, it could have been a quick game. But a lot of credit has to go to Miller, who continued to foul off pitch after pitch, and eventually worked an HBP nearly 10 pitches later. Quality at bats like these gave CBC confidence that they could hang and battle with the loaded Elite pitching staff, resulting in a classic championship game.
The SF Elite's Chucky Vasquez also had a great tournament at the plate and went 4-for-4 in the championship game, which propelled him to a tournament batting title. However, Vasquez's hits in the championship game resulted in no RBI and him scoring once, which had a small effect on his MVP candidacy. Regardless, Vasquez has a big arm behind the dish and has shown an ability to handle a high end pitching staff. His hitting ability is just gravy for the future division 1 backstop.
The game appeared to be headed to a blowout early, as the Elite jumped out to a 6-1 lead by the middle of the 4th inning. But it was only a matter of time before the CBC Storm bats would wake up and they did in the home half of the 4th. CBC put up a 4-spot in the 4th, and a 5-spot in the bottom of the 5th to grab a 10-7 lead. With thunderstorms threatening yet again, 5 innings would be a complete game, and the Elite trailed by 3 late in the game and with no momentum heading into the 6th.
But the Elite lineup found a way to produce again with Jose Gomez taking advantage of some wind from the rolling clouds and hit an opposite field bomb to right field. The Elite followed to answer with 3 runs in the top of the 6th to tie the game. Elite coach Ed Marti summoned Michael Klement to pitch once the game was tied and the rest was history. The Elite tacked on 3 more runs in the top half of the 7th and Klement shut the door in the bottom half to trigger a celebration in the infield.
With the victory, the Elite Squad organization has won the 18U Florida State Finals (dating back to last year) and the 16U now in somewhat of a back-to-back fashion. The Elite Squad were custom fitted for their state championship rings following the game, which will be personalized for each player with their "SF" logo on the face.
The All-Tournament Team will be posted within 24 hours with the tournament's Top Prospect Team following after.