The Premier Baseball 13U Championship in Joplin last weekend featured some familiar heavyweights and one team made ad hoc.
The familiar heavyweights included representatives from the South Texas Sliders, the Fort Worth Cats, the Albuquerque Baseball Academy, and the Building Champions.
The team created specifically for the 13U Championship was the Southwest Missouri All-Stars, a dozen players from Neosho, Carl Junction, Webb City, McDonald County, and even Adair, Oklahoma with coaches Eric Hughes (Neosho), Bruce VonderHaar (Webb City), Bass Conseen (Adair), and Franky Rowden (Carl Junction).
The players were Reid Snyder, Collier Hendricks, Quenton Hughes, and Colten Southern from Neosho; Bentley Rowden, Dexter Merrell, and Charlie Hull from Carl Junction; Gage Chapman and Drew VonderHaar from Webb City; Coty Dumond and Tucker Walters from McDonald County; and Ty Conseen from Adair.
The All-Stars reached the consolation semifinals Sunday, where they lost an one-run battle with the Oklahoma Nationals at Wendell Redden Stadium.
“It was fun,” Hughes said after the 4-3 loss Sunday. “It was a blast. Considering that we practiced two times and threw a team together about a week ago. Craig Hull (from Joplin Sports Authority) put everything together for us and he did a good job of finding us some players. It was a lot of fun. The boys enjoyed it and we saw some of the best teams in the country. If you can’t have fun with that, then you can’t have fun with anything.
“I got a phone call on Saturday afternoon. We put a team together and had a practice on Monday. It was last minute and we just made some phone calls to try to get 12 kids out here that want to play and love baseball.”
The All-Stars finished 1-5 overall over four days of baseball, but it was one of those experiences that transcended wins and losses for 12 young men and their coaches.
The All-Stars had a rough start Thursday during pool play at historic Joe Becker Stadium, losing their first game 10-0 in five innings to the Fort Worth Cats Red and then falling behind 6-0 to the South Texas Sliders Vlasek in their second game.
The All-Stars erupted for 10 unanswered runs against the Sliders Vlasek, before they surrendered that four-run lead and took a 14-11 loss.
The All-Stars won their only game 6-5 against the Albuquerque Baseball Academy Orange in a consolation bracket game Saturday at Joplin High School. The All-Stars lost to ABA Orange 9-4 Friday at Wendell Redden.
“When you haven’t played together, it takes a little time to gel together,” Hughes said. “We started gelling, last two days especially. The last three games we played, we played some really good baseball. That team right there is one of the best teams in Oklahoma and we competed with them. They won on a walk-off. What can you say about a group that got together at the last minute?”
The All-Stars found a sponsor for the tournament — Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, giving the boys the opportunity for pizza and the coaches the opportunity for pizza and frosty beverages.
“It was a fun group,” Hughes said. “Good kids, good parents, and a great coaching staff.”
— The Oklahoma City Athletics Titans Dion came away with the championship, earning a 14-6 victory in six innings Sunday against the Waco Storm at Joe Becker.
Waco Storm’s Cooper Ivison enjoyed a grand tournament, as he knocked two grand slams last weekend, both at Joe Becker.
Ivison’s first grand slam came Saturday, on a ball that landed in the left-center bleachers, and his second came Sunday in the championship game loss against the Athletics Titans Dion.
Last year’s 13U tournament winners, Building Champions Bell from Kansas City, won the Incoming Freshman Championship on Sunday in Springfield.
— The 13U Championship is one of five championship tournaments for Premier Baseball, with the others incoming freshman, freshman, sophomore, and junior.
The Junior Championship event is scheduled to come to Joplin on July 16 and play from July 17 through July 21. That event will guarantee future MLB talent will play somewhere during the five days.
Premier Baseball, according to its numbers at the top of its site, boasts 115+ current MLB players, 250+ total MLB players, 2000+ drafted MLB players, 11000+ total college commitments, and 600+ current college commitments.
In recent years, 2018 New York Mets first round pick Jarred Kelenic led Rawlings Hitters Navy to the Junior Championship in 2016. Kelenic currently plays for Single-A Advanced Modesto Nuts in the Seattle Mariners organization; he was part of a trade that included second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielder Jay Bruce.
Houston Astros top prospect and 2016 first round pick Forrest Whitley — currently at Triple-A Round Rock — helped the South Texas Sliders win the Premier Junior Championship in 2015.