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Broward Patriots Earn Fall Classic 18U Championship

The 2017 HSBN Fall Classic 18U champion Broward Patriots.

Championship Photo Gallery

Fall baseball is primarily meant to prepare players for the spring season, and for the past seven years the HSBN Fall Classic has provided a competitive environment that emulates what to expect playing varsity baseball. Previous champions of the Fall Classic have typically gone on to have strong seasons and accolades in the end, and 18U finalists the Broward Patriots and the Paladins certainly have plenty of positives to carry into the 2018 season.

A grueling two weeks of tournament action concluded with Sunday’s 18U title game, where the Patriots rode some hot hitting to a 14-4 victory that claimed the tournament crown. The Patriots (7-0) went undefeated by playing the kind of baseball that manager Bruce Aven loves to see from them. When they got a runner on base they bunted to move him over, when a guy was on second they tried to hit the ball the other way and when a runner was on third they were trying for a fly ball that would drive him in.

“I was excited for these guys, because the majority of these guys haven’t played any varsity baseball. This was a chance that we got a lot of learning experience that we don’t get playing in regular fall ball,” Aven said. “They are all ninth or tenth-graders. They are good players and not your average ninth or tenth-graders, but it’s a varsity tournament and you just don’t know. Kids get there and get nervous the first time out, and we had some of that. But, for the most part, the guys just played the game like they were supposed to play the game.”

The Patriots did not panic after falling behind in the top of the first inning and answered right back by tying things up in the bottom half of the frame. Hunter D’Amato walked and Matt Ruiz was hit by a pitch, and Santiago Garavito smacked a double to left field that drove them both in. Lou Zayas kept things going with an RBI single, he then advanced off a single from Joey Cicini and scored thanks to a sac-fly RBI from Dominik Ramil.

A pair of runs in the second accounted for the difference. Devin Futrell walked, advanced off a sacrifice bunt from Danny Diaz and moved to third when Anthony Nelson reached base on an error. Matt Ruiz then delivered a two-RBI double that drove in the winning runs. Ruiz had a big game, reaching base all four plate appearances, including a triple in the sixth that then led to him scoring the final run of the contest.

Danny Diaz also had a nice day at the plate, going 2-for-2 on the day. Diaz drove in a pair and then scored in the fourth inning, and added an RBI single as part of a four-run fifth inning that helped the Patriots pull away. Zayas doubled to start the fifth, Kolbe Aven reached on an error, and Ramil and Luis Castillo both had RBI singles.

The 2017 HSBN Fall Classic 18U runners-up Paladins.

The Paladins landed the first blow with a big, four-run first inning that put them out in front, but they struggled to string together another big frame the rest of the way. Brandon Holifield singled to center to lead off, and Austin Koelher, Blake Butler and Robert Fernandez all followed with singles, with Fernandez connecting on an RBI drive to left field to get the scoring started. Jeff Cohick delivered a sac-fly RBI, Kyle Spohn a fielder’s choice RBI and Fernandez came in on a throwing error to give the Paladins a 4-0 advantage.

The Paladins managed just three more hits the rest of the way. David Coterun came on in relief to earn the victory, tossing four-and-a-third shutout innings with a walk and four strikeouts. Max Stasio tossed the final frame, striking out two while allowing a hit and a walk.

A long week of baseball left the Paladins short-handed with fresh pitchers by Sunday’s title game, but does little to sour a solid tournament performance. The club received lots of strong pitching that should provide depth on the mound this spring, and the hitters were successful from one to nine to provide a promising look at what the offense is capable of.

Meanwhile, heading into his seventh season as the manager at American Heritage, this is the deepest the trough has ever been for Coach Aven. The coaches have seen them in meaningful games now, so it is no longer an unknown what these young guys can bring to the varsity team.

“I got a good look at these kids, and I’ve got a problem on my hands because these kids could probably play varsity for any team in Florida,” Aven said. “I was able to see guys perform that can step in. I had a lot of kids that produced and stepped up for us. Right now, with this group of kids, we’ve got kids who can go in and play. They are not as polished, but now they walk away in the fall knowing they can do this. So their motivation is going to be stronger and if they get a call up they are not going to be nervous because they feel a part of the team already. That is huge and I’m glad we did the tournament.”

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