MINNEAPOLIS -- Chicago White Sox RBI teammates Kendal Ewell and Angel Cantelo have been locked in a head-to-head competition of who can drive the ball furthest each game all season.So when Ewell launched a solo homer in the biggest game of the season on Friday, Cantelo knew he needed to
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chicago White Sox RBI teammates Kendal Ewell and Angel Cantelo have been locked in a head-to-head competition of who can drive the ball furthest each game all season.
So when Ewell launched a solo homer in the biggest game of the season on Friday, Cantelo knew he needed to one-up his friend.
"As soon as he was coming back into the on-deck circle, I bumped helmets with him and told him, 'Hey, I got you right now,'" Cantelo said.
Sure enough, Cantelo followed with a longball of his own, a rocket over the left-field fence that sent Chicago's dugout into a frenzy and helped spark a four-run inning en route to a 7-4 win over RBI Arizona in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Senior Division championship game at Siebert Field on the University of Minnesota campus.
Chicago head coach Marcus Rodgers took the White Sox's junior squad to the championship game a year ago in Cincinnati, only to fall short in the title game. On Friday, with a large faction of that group now playing for his senior squad (ages 16-18), Chicago scored seven unanswered runs in the final three innings to lock up its first senior title.
"It's huge for the program," Rodgers said. "The White Sox do an amazing job of supporting these kids. They do an amazing job of putting resources into them so that they can be as successful as possible. So it's huge, and kind of our way to say thank you for all of that. We really appreciate the things that go into this."
Arizona's offense had been one of the hottest in the tournament over the past week, and showed no signs of slowing down on Friday. Justin Flebbe hit a two-run double in the third for a 2-0 lead, while Ramon Ramirez Jr. smashed an RBI double and later scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0 in the fourth.
With their team on the ropes, Ewell and Cantelo delivered back-to-back blasts in the fourth, and Jacob Schroeder and Pierce Jones each drove home runs later in the inning to knot the game at 4.
An inning later, Arizona walked the bases loaded before Brandon Laux scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Cantelo then lifted a sacrifice fly to pad the lead, and Chicago added another run in the seventh.
Arizona sent its Nos. 4-6 batters to the plate in the seventh with hopes of rallying, but Chicago reliever Tommy Washington sat them down in order.
Jeffrey "J.P." Massey tossed 5 2/3 innings and struck out five for Chicago, and Cantelo was named the MVP of the title game, going 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
"It was rough," Cantelo said. "We were down, 4-0, we were kind of dead. All of a sudden, Kendal comes up and hits a home run to right-center, then I hit one to left. From there, it was all confidence. We knew we would start rolling."
For Rodgers, Chicago's title is proof the baseball culture is continuing to grow in the neighborhood in which he grew up. Rogers spent three years playing college ball at University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, and he then returned home because he wanted to provide kids in his community with lessons he didn't learn until he reached college.
"I grew up in Englewood -- one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country," Rodgers said. "To a two-parent household where my mom and my dad worked hard for myself and my brother, to just put us in positions to be successful. It was paramount for us that we had those opportunities. And I just want to give these other kids those opportunities as well."
Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.