TAMPA - A real classic pitcher's duel went down this morning at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL as the first annual George M. Steinbrenner Classic concluded, hosted by the New York Yankees.
TJ Renda (2011, Apopka) got the start and worked his 80-83mph fastball on the corners, complimented by a very effective changeup and breaking ball. Renda's changeup is very good, as he uses outstanding armspeed to provide deception on the pitch. Renda is usually in the low to mid 80s, but pitched plenty earlier in the weekend and may have been low on gas. He was relieved by Devin Smith (2011, King), who continued the shutout working at 83-86mph. Smith's breaking ball will be an effective pitch at the next level. The final pitcher was Trey Oest (2012, Durant), who sat 87-89mph as the junior picked up the win. Oest spun a decrptive curveball, but mainly challenged hitters with his upper 80's fastball.
Bullets starter Chase Sparkman (2011, Brandon) was the tough luck loser (although not officially charged with the loss), tossing 7 innings of shutout baseball against the Juice. The lefty sat 79-82mph with good command and change of speeds. When the game entered extra innings tied at 0-0, RHP Chris Williams (2012, Steinbrenner) would eventually relieve Sparkman. Williams sat 82-85mph but would eventually walk in the winning run with bases loaded and 2 outs and Richie Martin at the plate to give Chet Lemon's Juice the title. It was a tough way to end the tournament for the Bullets, and Williams is a collegiate prospect who will definitely bounce back from a bad day.
One of the most underrated plays of the game was when the Bullets got a leadoff man on to start the 7th. With no outs and man on 1st, the Bullets did a sac bunt which went right down the 3rd base line. But Juice 3B Ryan Coward (2011, McKeel Academy) charged in on the ball, stopped on a dime and made a very quick release to 2B to get the lead runner in a bang-bang play. I can't stress enough how quickly Coward got rid of the ball, it was as if he does PFPs (pitchers fielding practice) and realized he couldn't take the extra step. If Coward takes a split second longer to get rid of that ball, the Bullets were in business with 1st and 2nd and no outs. That play by Coward changed the dynamics of that inning and eventually lead to the Juice victory.
The Bullets played outstanding defense all game, lead by SS Matt Brandy (2011, Alonso). Brandy made every play at SS - including routine plays, slow rollers, and bang-bang plays. Every single one of his throws from shortstop was chest high over the bag for the first baseman, as he provided support for Chase Sparkman.