SY Titans top BPA DeMarini for NYBC title
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- David Lawrence is running out of motivational techniques.
Lawrence, coach of the SY Titans, found himself bursting at the seams with pride and emotion on Monday, when his team was crowned the champion of the National Youth Baseball Championships.
The Titans, a late qualifier to the tourney, capped off their fantastic run with a 12-2 mercy rule victory over BPA DeMarini in the championships. And in the moments after their victory, Lawrence told his players to cherish the moment and to take a little time away from the baseball diamond.
"As punishment for winning, you're getting a month off," quipped Lawrence.
And who could blame him? The Titans, playing out of Santa Ynez, Calif., played an even 100 games during their 12-year-old season, and they traveled all over the country in pursuit of the NYBC title.
Lawrence saw his team qualify by winning a tournament in Memphis three weeks ago, and then he watched as the Titans put together a dominant performance on their biggest stage. Alejandro Murillo had a no-hitter for four innings Monday, and Cooper Benson homered twice in the win.
But despite the top-notch performances from that pair of players, Lawrence stressed that it's been the entire team working together. All 13 of his players got to bat in the championship game, capping off a season that saw the Titans earn a 75-24-1 record and a national title to boot.
"It's unbelievable just to make it here. It was obviously a goal of ours this season, but it's been something we've been thinking about for four or five years," said Lawrence. "So many of these kids have been playing with us for a long time. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of hours, a lot of time and travel and money. Hopefully, it's something they'll cherish for the rest of their lives."
Cecil Fielder, a two-time home run champion in the Major Leagues, served as the ambassador to the NYBC title game, and he gave a noteworthy speech to the players before the game. Fielder told the players to remember the moment and to savor playing with their teammates while they could.
The drama dissipated early on Monday, as both Benson and Gavin Haimowitz homered in the bottom of the first inning. Benson homered again in the second inning and the Titans left that rally with a 6-0 cushion, and they'd lead by nine runs before BPA DeMarini notched its first hit.
The Titans had earned a narrow 3-2 victory in Sunday's semifinal, and Benson hit a game-tying homer in the sixth inning of that one. One day later, he was the key element in a full team effort.
"If you had to pick one guy you want up in a situation like that, it's him," said Lawrence of Benson, the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "He wants the ball every time we're in a closer situation, and when the game is on the line at the plate, he wants to be up there. He's a pretty special player."
BPA DeMarini, based out of Lake Forest, Calif., eliminated the two-time defending champion Houston Banditos in the quarterfinals and ousted fellow Californians Diamond MVP in Sunday's semifinal. But they ran out of steam Monday, and coach Wade Jackson found solace in the team's journey.
"There's a lot of people out there that didn't think we deserved to be here. And we proved a lot of people wrong," said Jackson. "The boys know that. They battled for 12 months, and it's been a long 12 months from the beginning to this end. I'm just going to tell them, 'Be proud. Not a lot of 12-year-olds got to do this.' Their last three games as 12-year-olds have been on national TV."
BPA DeMarini scored 10 runs in the quarterfinals and 12 in the semifinals, but it didn't get a hit until the fifth inning in Monday's title game. The visitors managed to scratch out two runs in that inning, but the Titans were just too much, and they scored three more times to salt away the win.
"We missed our spots. And they hit the ball. And they shut us down," said Jackson. "I didn't think anybody shut us down this weekend, and then finally someone shut us down. Hats off to Alejandro [Murillo]. He pitched a heck of a game and he shut us down until that one inning."
Indeed, Murillo was just too much. The right-hander also took the victory in the quarterfinals, and he struck out nine of the 19 batters he faced on Monday. Murillo didn't walk anyone in 9 1/3 innings of this tourney, and Lawrence said his team's pitching was a huge part of its success.
"Our pitching staff has been pushing each other. One of the coaches in the dugout said it reminded him of the Braves in the 90's -- [Tom] Glavine and [Greg] Maddux and [John] Smoltz," he said. "One guy goes out there and throws a gem, then the next guy one-ups him. Alejandro has been our horse. He's probably been our best pitcher. Him and [Isaac] Coffey have been battling it out all year. They're both outstanding."