HOUSTON -- Tanner Witt of Houston and Blane Bolcerek of Brenham, Texas, won their respective age group in the inaugural MLB Junior Home Run Derby regional.Witt, the 14-and-younger winner, and Bolcerek, the 12-and-younger winner, qualify for the national championship at Petco Park in San Diego on Saturday, July 9. Each
HOUSTON -- Tanner Witt of Houston and Blane Bolcerek of Brenham, Texas, won their respective age group in the inaugural MLB Junior Home Run Derby regional.
Witt, the 14-and-younger winner, and Bolcerek, the 12-and-younger winner, qualify for the national championship at Petco Park in San Diego on Saturday, July 9. Each winner will also travel to San Diego for All-Star Week on an all-expenses-paid trip with a designated guest and tickets to events such as the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby.
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"I'm very excited," said Witt, 13. "I'm ready for the challenge."
Sunday's regional competition took place at the Astros Urban Youth Academy. In the second of two rounds, Witt bested the other three competitors by homering on 10 of the 20 pitches from the ATEC M1 Pitching Machine to secure his place in San Diego.
"I was expecting to win it," said the right-handed-hitting Witt, whose father Kevin played parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues. "I loved the challenge. It pushes me."
In the final round, Witt hit first in the order and put up the high number that proved to be enough.
"I was nervous at first," Witt said. "But once I got a few swings, a few home runs, then I started to relax and calm down and get the hang of it."
While Witt dominated the 14-and-younger competition, in the 12-and-younger final round, the right-handed-hitting Bolcerek was a surprise winner over Beau Edwards, who hit seven home runs in the first round, five more homers than anyone else in the round.
The scores were reset for the final, where Bolcerek hit five home runs to Edwards' four homers.
"This is unexpected," Bolcerek, 12, said. "I was just going to try my hardest and hope to win it. I was nervous. but I was relaxed."
Bolcerek batted second in the final round order and Edwards batted third. Bolcerek put up a number that held up.
"The ball was inside on me and I was getting jammed," Bolcerek said. "So I backed out and I was able to make better contact with the ball."
In the 12-and-younger competition, the fence distances ranged from 180-225 feet. The distances ranged from 200-250 feet in 14-and-younger.
The Astros Urban Youth Academy is one of eight national qualifying sites across the country for the MLB Junior Home Run Derby.
"We're proud to host and we hope we'll be a site every year," said Daryl Wade, director of the Astros Urban Youth Academy. "We have a great facility. We've been looking forward to this weekend.
"Major League Baseball is making a huge effort into bringing the game to kids of all ages and all areas of the country. It's a great opportunity for them to come out here and show their skills."
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com.