USA BASEBALL NATIONAL TEAM IDENTIFICATION SERIES
Congrats to the 13u North Texas Team USA, Head Coach Chris Godwin, Coach Tommy Hernandez and Coach Steve Hecht for bringing home the Silver Medal, losing to Florida Team USA 6-3 in the championship game.
Florida Clinches AEBC Championship, 6-3, Over North Texas
CARY, N.C. -- James Wilson shut down North Texas for Florida en route to a 6-3 win to claim the title game. Florida's offense, led by Ari Arteaga, jumped on top early and never looked back for the first ever American Elite Baseball Championship.
Florida coach Jason Miller knew the game would come down to stopping the North Texas bats, which were raking all week. After leaving that task to Wilson, the lefthander responded with six 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. (Laughs) 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."
Florida started the game hot at the plate again, tallying three runs in the bottom of the first inning. 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 double steal 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 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 that 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 September 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 is 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."
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Semi Final Game Recap:
Late-Inning Comebacks Set Stage for Historic AEBC Championship
A pair of enthralling late-inning comebacks decided who would make the Championship Game. By the end of the semifinals on Saturday, only Florida and North Texas were left standing in the American Elite Baseball Championship.
The Central vs. West showdown seems like a perfect way to end the tournament for North Texas coach Tommy Hernandez.
"Our goal when we came here was to play five games," Hernandez said. "Getting a chance to prove ourselves against the best team on the West Coast is special. They want to win the last game of the season. That's what we've preached all season with our team ... we'll be ready."
Northern California got off to a solid start in the second semifinal with one run in the first inning, but fell behind in the second after allowing North Texas to score three runs. Both teams were relatively silent after that before NorCal broke things wide open with six runs in the sixth frame.
That should have been a dagger for North Texas-but it wasn't. Eight runs in the bottom of the sixth gave North Texas a resounding 11-7 win and secured a berth to the Championship Game. The top team from the Lone Star State used lessons learned from Friday to key the comeback victory.
"It really started yesterday when we were down three runs after the first," Hernandez said. "They came back with six in the bottom of the first yesterday and did the exact same thing today. These boys never once had a doubt in their minds that they could win."
In the first semifinal, Florida opened up an early lead against North Atlantic with a combined seven runs in the second and third innings. North Atlantic rallied in the fifth and sixth to take an 8-7 lead, but Florida wasn't done. Florida finished with a five-run seventh to pull out a 12-8 win.
More importantly, the team faced adversity after never trailing for more than one inning in the previous three games.
"I told the boys early on that we've had an easy path to this point," Florida coach Jason Miller said. "We started out with that pattern again. Then a few errors and walks and all of the sudden we're down. ... They showed a lot of heart and could have rolled over.
"I'm excited because now they've had pressure on them. So this was a great test for them before Sunday's game."
Simply making it to the championship game is an honor for the Florida team, but it's special for the players hoping to be picked for the 14U development program. All four teams who played on Saturday will play Sunday, but the championship will be held in the stadium.
The game will be broadcast on MLB.com and USABaseball.com, meaning all eyes will be on the 13-year-old prospects at the National Training Complex.
"For these kids, getting a chance to play in the stadium on Sunday is huge," Miller said. "I think this is a great format. The old format was relaxed, but it was hard to keep the kids focused. These kids are able to become a team and feel like they are playing for something. We're seeing more out of them for that reason."
Both teams enter the title game undefeated with four wins over some of the best 13U programs in the country, so the pressure will be nothing new. With USA across their chests and a spot on the National Team on the line, Sunday's championship showdown will mean much more than just another game.
Full Recap of Tourney:
North Texas 6, Capital 4
Down 5-4 in the 7th inning, North Texas rallied for three runs to pick up the win in their first game of the AEBC. With two outs and a 1-2 count, Jonathan Huff doubled to right field and turned a one-run deficit to a one-run lead for his team. A Patrick Turner base hit scored Huff to add an insurance run and North Texas closed the door in the bottom of the 7th to seal the comeback victory.
North Texas 6, Midwest 2
A pair of big innings allowed North Texas to claim their second win of the AEBC. John Gregson had a 2 RBI single in the third, and Alan Benhardt led the way for North Texas from the mound with three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three batters.
North Texas 8, RBI 5
The majority of the scoring in this game came in the first inning, when RBI scored three runs in the top of the first and North Texas immediately answered with six runs of their own. The scoring slowed down on both sides until the sixth when each team scored two runs. Patrick Turner went 3-3 at the plate for North Texas to lead the way.
North Texas 11, Northern California 7
North Texas had a lead for most of the game, up 3-1 until Northern California exploded for six runs in the top of the 6th inning. It was all singles and sacrifices except for a Jake Delaney RBI triple in the long inning. North Texas retaliated in the bottom half, regaining the lead with eight runs of their own. Nine of the first 10 batters of the inning reached base for North Texas, and Alan Bernhardt came on to close the door.
Florida 6, North Texas 3
Florida captured the gold medal at the inaugural American Elite Baseball Championship after two three-run innings and a strong outing on the mound by James Wilson.