The IMG Academy High School Wood Bat League ended with a bang on Saturday in the championship game between the Hurricanes and the Conquistadors. But, before we get to the final matchup between the #1 seed and the #2 seed, let's look at how they advanced to the title game.
Semifinal Game #1 - 1. Hurricanes vs 6. Lightning
After an upset victory in the opening round against the Marauders, the Lightning took on the 1-seed in the Hurricanes. Playing some of their best baseball at the right time, the Lightning made their presence known. Led by the dynamic duo of Trevor Schott and Chris Reyes who both tallied three hits, the Lightning were able to plate 2 of their 3 runs against one of the league's most dominant pitchers in the Hurricanes' Sam Mason. In 8 innings of work, Mason whiffed 15 hitters adding on to his already-league-leading 49 strikeouts. While the Lightning managed to put up 3 runs, the high-flying Hurricane offense was simply too much. Led by the heart of the order in Ray Filiberti, Luke Miller and Edward Marte, the Hurricanes scored 5 runs before Drew Ponce came on to nail down the save and send the Hurricanes to the championship game.
Semifinal Game #2 - 2. Conquistadors vs. 4. SeaDogs
With one spot left in Friday's championship game, the Conquistadors took on the up-start SeaDogs who defeated the Manatees to advance on Tuesday. These two teams were far more evenly matched than expected as 9 innings wouldn't be nearly enough to decide who would face the Hurricanes. There were signs of a shootout early on with the Conquistadors scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the second and the SeaDogs matching with 3 of their own in the third. The SeaDogs would continue to pile on runs scoring 8 runs in 3 innings thanks to the top of the lineup: Jorge Leon, Josh Duster and Jordan IMG Academy. The SeaDogs were able to build an 8 run lead heading into the bottom of the 9th. With the season all but over, the Conquistadors responded in dramatic fashion, staging the biggest comeback of the season in the biggest game to date. With a flurry of singles, the first 5 hitters of the inning scored with the final hit from Andrew Itzcowich to tie the game and send it to extra innings. After both teams threatened on several occasions, Itzcowich struck again in the 14th with a walk-off single, plating Garrett Schultz and sending the Conquistadors to the championship.
Championship Game - 1. Hurricanes vs. 2. Conquistadors
The two top teams that spent the regular season separating themselves from the rest of the Wood Bat League met in Friday's title game. After the IMG Academy High School Wood Bat League award presentation (results can be found here), both teams sent aces to the mound in the form of Ben Suslavich and Zach Hess. Check out these numbers: Suslavich - 3-0, 0.62 ERA, 22 SO, Hess - 5-0, 2.57 ERA and 27 SO. While both pitchers would eventually pitch as they had all season, it was clear that nerves played a role early. The Hurricanes struck first in the first when Drew Ponce scored on a sac fly from Ray Filiberti. Doug âDougieâ Rovello would also score in the first when Luke Miller smacked an RBI-single to right field. Miller would also have 2 great plays on defense with a diving stop at at third baseas well as an unassisted double play.
The Conquistadors battled their way back scoring a run in the 3rd and 4th inning. Dan Kennon singled home Peyton Thomas in the 3rd and Zach Hess helped his own cause by singling and scoring in the 4th with the help of Daniel Contreras. After the 4th, both pitchers would settle down and breeze through the rest of their night. Suslavich exhibited great control of his off-speed pitches while Hess found a groove and pitched well to contact. Hess also benefited from great defense in the 5th with back-to-back great plays from Contreras and Bobby Leyman.
The game would remain tied at 2-2 when both pitchers exited in the 8th. After the Conquistadors failed to take advantage of a single from Bobby Leyman in the top half of the 9th, Rovello struck again for the Hurricanes with a lead-off double in the bottom of the 9th. With the reigning batting champion stepping up to the plate in Ray Filiberti, the Conquistadors elected to walk the clean-up hitter and face Luke Miller. Miller would proceed to reach on a fielder's choice, advancing Rovello in the process. With runners on first and third and one out, the Conquistadors pitched around Edward Marte to give themselves a force at every base. With the bases now loaded and one out in the bottom of the 9th, enter utility-man Luis Hernandez:
Congratulations to Luis and all of the Hurricanes for their championship season! This year was truly a special one for all of the Wood Bat League players, coaches and trainers. The improvement we witnessed was tremendous and there were exciting games each and every day. We hope that you enjoy your summer and we hope to see you back on campus again soon!
For those players who saw significant improvement in their game and are interested in attending IMG Academy as full-time students, please email email@example.com.