Reds go undefeated to win Senior Division RBI tourney

July 19th, 2023

CHICAGO -- The RBI Central Regional Tournament took place here over the weekend for all three levels (Senior Division, Junior Division and Softball Division). The winners of those respective tournaments were guaranteed a spot in the Nike RBI World Series in Florida in July and August.

The host team -- Cubs Nike RBI -- was among eight clubs to participate in the tournament. The others were: White Sox Nike RBI, Royals Nike RBI, Indianapolis Nike RBI, Reds Nike RBI, Twins Nike RBI, Guardians Nike RBI and Tigers Nike RBI.

The stage for the Senior Division was set on the final day at Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium between the Reds and White Sox. Both teams were looking to add another championship to their program’s history.

The White Sox are the Senior Division’s defending RBI World Series champions and winners of three of the past six Central Regional Tournaments. As for the Reds, they won it all in 2021. But Cincinnati capped off an impressive tournament run by defeating the White Sox, 5-3, in a back-and-forth championship game.

The Reds went undefeated in Chicago (5-0) and will head to Florida to compete in the RBI World Series beginning July 30.

“It feels great,” Reds head coach Byron Famble Sr. said. “But before they were the World Series champs, we were. We missed the opportunity last year for the showdown. It feels good, and this group is looking to go get another [championship].”

Photo by RBI alum Marcos Sandoval

The Reds cruised through their first four games in the Regional Tournament on Friday and Saturday. They scored more runs than any team in those four games (35) and outscored their opponents by 19. To begin the championship game, though, the offense was surprisingly quiet. The Reds had just one hit through three innings before they tied the game at 2 on RBI hits from Isaiah Hill and Nate Lomax in the fourth.

More offensive production followed in the late innings. In a 3-3 game in the sixth inning, the leadoff hitter walked to begin the frame, and Avery Battle put together arguably the best at-bat of the game in which he fouled off 10 pitches before working a walk.

Both runners eventually scored on a wild pitch and an RBI single by Connor Seiter. Seiter, who pitched the last 2 1/3 innings, also closed things out in the seventh by striking out the final batter of the game.

It’s a moment the pitcher will remember for the rest of his life.

Photo by RBI alum Marcos Sandoval

“It feels amazing,” Seiter said, who dealt with a bloody nose in the postgame celebration. “I’ve been here three times as a freshman, sophomore and junior and never won one. This feels amazing, actually. I have no words for how this feels.”

The Reds’ Softball Division also won their championship game on Sunday against the Guardians’ RBI program. So, Cincinnati will send two teams to the RBI World Series for the second time in three years, having also done so in 2021.

Photo by RBI alum Marcos Sandoval

MLB’s Nike RBI program is a “youth outreach program designed to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth.” It’s a great way for kids to play the game they love, and Cincinnati’s coach is a helping hand in that.

“This particular group is very special because they’re learning how to win,” Famble Sr. said. “These guys might have had seven wins last year. So it’s big, and we’re teaching them how to win and how to grow and how they expect to play.”

This Reds team will now head to the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., to play in the Nike RBI World Series beginning on July 30.

“It’s going to be fun,” Seiter said. “We’re going to come and battle like always and come in with the same mentality that we’re going to win every game. And hopefully, we can get the job done.”