LL Cool J started out his rap on “Mama Said Knock You Out” with the line “Don’t call it a comeback.”

LL Cool J started out his rap on “Mama Said Knock You Out” with the line “Don’t call it a comeback.”
In the case of Rawlings Hitters Baseball at the Premier Junior Championship, please don’t call it an upset that Hitters Baseball earned its second consecutive title with a 10-2 run-rule win Sunday afternoon over Texas Stix Baseball South at historic Joe Becker Stadium.
On the surface, it might seem like an upset, since Hitters Baseball went through No. 1 seed Austin Wings Black (semifinals), No. 2 Texas Twelve Maroon (quarterfinals), and No. 4 Stix South.
Overall, for the second year in a row, however, Rawlings Hitters finished tournament play 9-0. …
And that’s despite playing without top prospect Jarred Kelenic, a Louisville commit who’s already considered a potential top 10 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
“This is what we gear up for all winter long,” Hitters Baseball head coach R.J. Fergus said. “This is why we push the kids so hard for in the winter, then we push them so hard in the spring and summer seasons and everything else … it’s just to be able to come out here and play nine games and not lose. Against this competition, it’s just incredible.
“We thought Jarred and Alex Binelas would be out here, but obviously they have other commitments and things like that, so it just shows to you all the way through the strength of our program. Even though Jarred’s not here, you’ve still got a Northern Illinois and an University of Illinois outfield. You’ve got Illinois behind the plate and a few other Division I guys.”
Calvin Leeland — an incoming senior from Martin Luther High in Greendale, Wisconsin — is one of those players who stepped up this week and he drove in three runs and collected a pair of hits in the biggest game Sunday.
“That’s crazy,” Leeland said of winning without Kelenic and Binelas. “That’s just knowing we lost a player that means a lot to us and you’ve just got to step up and fill the role.”
Over the course of nine games, Hitters Baseball committed only six errors, something that definitely pleased Fergus and surely the pitching staff the most.
“Bottom line is, we just played defense all week,” he said. “We have a phrase in our academy from 10 years old to 18 years old. ‘What do you do when the ball is hit to you? What is expected of you? You catch it and then you throw the ball to the next guy.’ That’s what the expectations are and you try not to make baseball too hard.”
Hitters Baseball’s defense — no errors and a key double play — especially stood out on a day when Stix South committed five errors.
“They made a couple mistakes defensively,” Fergus said, “and what we did was just get a little momentum. The guy left his ball up a little bit and one thing we do is hit the ball hard. There’s no doubt about that one.”
Stix South led 2-1 entering the fourth and then Hitters Baseball erupted for five runs in the fourth and four in the fifth, leading to an abbreviated championship game in the sweltering late July heat.
“This is our ninth year coming,” Stix South head coach Nate Phillips said. “This is a great event. Just put on really well. Great teams. Kids love coming out here. Umpires are great, teams are great, coaches are great, just a good time coming out here.
“That’s a really good team (Hitters Baseball). Kind of ran into a buzzsaw. Obviously, ninth game of the weekend, kids might have been a little bit tired, but it’s not an excuse. No, you’ve got to credit them. That’s a really strong team over there.”
Stix South finished the tournament 8-1.
After 1 1/2 scoreless innings Sunday, Will Buchholz gave Stix South a 2-0 lead on the strength of a two-run home run to right.
A walk and two errors led Hitters Baseball to its first run in the third.
Stix South starter Garrett Chappell started the fourth by hitting Luke Howard on the third pitch. Then, after that, the wheels fell off.
Bryce Parrish singled, both Howard and Parrish advanced on an error, and Ryen Ryba walked to load the bases.
Michael Lepow tied it up with a RBI single, Leeland put Hitters Baseball up 4-2 on a two-run single, and Tyler Acosta made it 6-2 on a two-run triple.
Third baseman Leeland, second baseman Malik Peters, and first baseman Howard turned a 5-4-3 double play to end the bottom of the fourth and then leading off the next half-inning, Illinois State commit Gunner Paterson blasted a solo homer to center for a 7-2 lead.
The runs kept on coming with a Ryba RBI single, a Lepow RBI single, and a Leeland RBI single, giving Hitters Baseball their prerequisite lead for a run-rule victory.
Parrish finished off his complete game four-hitter by retiring Stix South in the fifth.