Top Tier 16u Nationals- Navy Weekend Recap

Evanston, IL—It was nothing but bright sunny skies this past weekend at Northwestern University. Playing in a wood bat tournament last weekend, the 16u Nationals-Navy team came out to Rocky and Berenice Miller Park stadium in hopes to build on their season as they head in to the midway point of their summer.

The team had four competitive games this past weekend playing against the Lockport Vipers, Force Ohio, Prestige Baseball and Jet Box Baseball. Overall, the weekend didn’t go quite as planned. With an early morning game on Thursday, the 16u Nationals Navy came out without their usual up-tempo pace, causing them to drop their first game in a closely contested battle. The team dropped their second game as well, putting them at 0-2 before they would rally back to win their final two games in exciting fashion. Finishing 2-2 wasn’t enough to make it out of their pool however, so the weekend was cut short. Still, the rally the team had was definitely something they can build off headed into this next weekend.

In Game 1, the Nationals-Navy watched the game slip away early as they could never fully recover in a 4-3 loss to the Lockport Vipers. In the first inning, the Vipers took the lead on a costly three base error. Lockport then kept that lead all they way until the top of the fourth inning when Myles Derbigny hit a two-out, two RBI, double to bring Top Tier back within one run, making it 3-2. Right-handed submarine pitcher Luis Salinas led the way on the mound for Top Tier, pitching a quality game in the defeat. He threw seven innings and gave up three hits while allowing two earned runs.  Despite outhitting the Vipers six to three, Top Tier just could not find a way to capitalize on late opportunities. There was a chance to tie it with a man on third, two outs, in the bottom of the seventh. Ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards for the Nationals-Navy and they would drop the opener, 3-2.

“It just sucks,” said Salinas. “I think we played pretty well, we just didn’t capitalize in certain key situations.” 16u Nationals-Navy head coach Eric Bunnell was also not pleased with how many missed opportunities his team left on the field. “Whether it was from the plate, leaving guys on base, running into outs on the base paths, or throwing to wrong bases, we did a few things that put us in a bad spot,” said Bunnell. “When you do too many of them its going to cost you, and it did for us.” 

For Game 2, Jack Landmesser got the start for Top Tier and would faceoff against Force Ohio Huffman. The Force Ohio Huffman offense would strike first and take an early lead on a clutch, bases loaded single. The Nationals-Navy just couldn’t seem to get much going with the lumber. Force Ohio Huffman would scatter a few more runs over the rest of the game and claim a 5-0 victory.

“We need to have a competitive edge when we come out for Game 3,” said catcher Michael Passarelli. “When we do work as a team and have that competitive edge, we can beat anyone we go up against, we just need to come out with a stronger sense of urgency.”

The weak ground balls and mental mistakes would prove to be a fluke in the past. The Nationals-Navy came out firing on all cylinders in game 3, intent on playing a much more improved brand of baseball. Ultimately, the team came out more focused and the results ended up showing on the score board.

Zack Starr was given the start to go against Prestige Baseball Yellow in Game 3. He got off to an incredible start, retiring six of the first seven batters to begin the game. Everyone in the stands could see how determined Starr was as he filled the zone up, pouring in strike after strike.

In the end, it all came down to a walk-off single which propelled 16u Nationals-Navy to a dramatic victory over Prestige Baseball, 2-1. After striking out eight batters on the day, it looked as if Starr’s solid start on the mound was going to result in a loss. Top Tier trailed 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh before Starr was able to single with the bases-loaded to help lift the team to a huge victory. “It feels great to be able to come through for my team!” said Starr. “We haven’t been able to score a lot lately, so it was nice to get the job done in the clutch.”

Undoubtedly, Top Tier was able to come out on top thanks to the mental toughness displayed by Starr. Time and time again on the mound he found himself in situations with runners in scoring position and he shut the offense down every single time. “I just worked on throwing strikes and letting my defense work,” said Starr. “I wanted to get groundballs and fly outs for my defense.” Starr allowed just one run on four hits and a walk over seven innings of work.

After the way Friday afternoon finished against Prestige Baseball, Top Tier looked to keep things rolling. Coach Bunnell looked to RHP, Brock Bevil to start Game 4. The team would be looking for another great outing from one of their most consistent pitchers. Bevil didn’t allow a single run as Top Tier 16u Nationals-Navy defeated Jet Box, 3-0 on Saturday morning. He allowed zero runs on just three hits and no walks while striking out three over seven innings of work.

The pitching was strong on both sides as Jet Box was able to retire six Nationals-Navy batters via strikeout. However, the game took a turn early when the Nationals-Navy opened up the scoring in the second inning, striking first with a Jack Landmesser RBI double in the 2nd inning, giving Top Tier an early 1-0 lead.

For the game, Bevil retired an impressive 21 out of 24 batters faced. Time after time, Jet Box was hitting weak ground balls to the short stop or lazy fly balls to the outfield. “I’m definitely a contact pitcher so I need my defense behind me,” said Bevil “The defense just performed really well today and that’s all I can ask for.” The 16u Nationals-Navy defense was superb throughout their last two games of the tournament, playing error free baseball and recording two wins.

Next week coach Bunnell and the team will be heading off to play in the CABA World Series in Cleveland, Ohio next weekend.

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