The Florida Surge (pictured above) from Bradenton won its first USSSA tournament in 12 tries this past weekend at the Spring Break Slugfest. Manager Michael Stockton’s club went 5-0 overall and outscored opponents by a combined 34-15 to boost its record to 18-21-1.
The Surge were one of 10 teams to compete in the 13-Open division of this NIT event with close to 90 attending over 11 different divisions. With the exception of the Avon Baseball Club from Indiana, each of the teams were from the host state. Two of which carried Major designations – the PTI Rockets and Sun Coast Elite Baseball – they looked like the favorites heading into the event.
The boys from Bradenton began its slate versus the Tampa Bay Boltz, a fellow AAA team. The Surge got off to a quick start with a 4-3 victory and solid appearances on the mound from Justin Higgins (2.2 IP), JT Leanos (2.1 IP) and Troy Guthrie (1 IP). The followed that up with another victory to conclude pool play over Hit Factory Russo Elite, 3-1. The contest went seven innings which taxed the arms of the Surge as Chandler Thiel and Rylen Stockton each pitched three innings while Dominick DeFrank threw a single frame.
The Surge earned the first overall seed after pool play heading into single elimination bracket competition. The only other 2-0 team, Sun Coast Elite Baseball, had a slightly worse average runs allowed figure (2.0 vs. 3.0) and was seeded second. Each of the 10 teams advanced to the second and final stage.
In the opening round of the single elimination bracket, Hit Factory Russo Elite smashed its opponent to set up a rematch with the Surge. The second meeting was similar to the first with the lower seeded Surge coming out on top, 7-2. Rylen Stockton once again pitched three solid innings, but JT Leanos was a new arm for the Hit Factory to solve and he did a great job.
In the semifinals the Surge smacked the West Coast Scorpions Purple, 10-2. In their highest offensive output of the tournament, Stockton used just one pitcher to navigate the Scorpion lineup, Chandler Thiel. The righty pitched all five innings to lead his team into their second title game – first since October.
In the title tilt against the 6th seeded, yet Major classified PTI Rockets, the Surge once again broke out their bats and plated 10 runs to win 10-7. They are clawing their way back to .500 at both the overall record level and In Class (against fellow AAA squads).
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