Florida tops N. Texas in first AEBC title game
CARY, N.C. -- Florida's James Wilson shut down North Texas en route to a 6-3 win to claim the title game of the inaugural American Elite Baseball Championship -- a tournament created to help select players for next year's 14U USA National Team Development Program.
Florida coach Jason Miller knew the game would come down to stopping the North Texas bats, which had been raking all week. After leaving that task to Wilson, the left-hander responded with six strong innings, allowing just four hits, three walks, two strikeouts and an unearned run.
"The story today was Jason," Miller said. "He had those big Texas hitters off balance all day long. That was really his game to win, and I couldn't be more proud. It was a lot of fun watching him out there today."
Led on offense by Ari Arteaga, Florida jumped on top early with three runs in the first and never looked back. Carson Montgomery scored the first run of the game for Florida, with the final run of the first coming on a double steal. Ari Arteaga came home on the play to put Florida ahead for good.
"You talk about selfless kids and teams coming together -- the beginning of the game for me was the moment you really saw that in these kids," Miller said. "Every single player was up for each other after that first inning.
North Texas put a run on the board in the fourth inning, but they gave up three more in the bottom of the fifth to fall behind by five runs. In a last-ditch effort, the Lone Star State put up two more runs on the Florida closer, but the rally came up short in the final frame.
Silver medals weren't quite as special as gold for North Texas, but the experience and support was enough to make the AEBC a memorable tournament.
"I think this is a lifetime experience for these kids," North Texas coach Chris Godwin said. "Every game, literally, I have about 30 or 40 text messages saying congratulations. I know these kids got the same support. I know of two or three different watch parties in the Dallas area for almost every game.
"The way USA Baseball set this up was phenomenal. This is a great event that not a lot of people knew about. But after what just happened here, everyone is going to know about it."
The process for USA Baseball doesn't come to an end after the AEBC Championship Game, however. Of the over 240 players who started the five-day tournament, 12 will be selected for the 14U National Team Development Program next summer. The final selections will be announced on Sept. 10.
Two spots will also be awarded to players who earned a role on the 15U National Team for next season. That duo is set to be announced on Monday afternoon by USA Baseball. Now the waiting game begins for all 16 programs to find out who will make their way onto the National Teams.
After five days of grueling competition, Florida stands alone as the winner of the inaugural AEBC tournament. While the ultimate goal may be to earn a spot on USA Baseball, a gold medal was the only thing on the minds of Florida.
The next goal for Florida? To repeat in 2016.
"For most of these kids, this was their last game as a 13-year-old," Miller said. "So they went out as winners, not many teams can say that. Now the pressure is on next year's team. Florida is the team to beat next year when they come back."