Sluggers win USSSA tourneyPublished 10:33pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Coach Orel Schleeper and his Sluggers 15U baseball team were not sure what to expect when they recently entered the USSSA East Coast Wood Bat College Series Tournament.
The Sluggers faced showcase teams and one squad, the Hitters, that Schleeper said was coached by Old Dominion University baseball players. The carefully chosen Sluggers squad used a compelling blend of local talent on both offense and defense to not only compete, but win the whole tourney.
In the semifinal game, the Sluggers’ Drew Hansinger pitched a complete game as the Mid-Atlantic Pirates only scored once. The Sluggers offense piled up six runs in the second inning, two in the third, and four in the fifth to achieve a 12-1 slaughter-rule blowout.
In the championship game Sunday against the Old Dominion Hitters, Matthew Meyers took the mound and pitched a complete game, 101 pitches, which Schleeper said is right where the count should be.
“It was incredible,” Schleeper said. “He was groovin’.”
Meyers threw four strikeouts and gave up only one run off one walk.
“I felt pretty good,” Meyers said. “And my defense, they really helped a lot too. (The Hitters) were hitting the ball, but they were hitting the ball right at them.”
This was the third year Schleeper had assembled this team, but this group has been particularly special.
“We’ve never put a team together where we had this good a defense,” he said. “Hitting, pitching, fielding — it’s a really sharp team.”
Schleeper praised the fielding of Chris Henderson, who, he said, “made some spectacular plays out in left field.”
Center-fielder Kalev Henery also provided impressive defense.
The Sluggers never trailed against the Hitters as the offense got things going early.
Chris Henderson and Devin Williams scored in the first inning. Schleeper drew attention to the blazing speed of Henderson, the younger brother of L.A. Dodgers draftee Josh Henderson.
“(Chris) had two infield hits where he outran the ball that was hit to the shortstop,” Schleeper said.
Mike Blanchard scored in the fifth inning, and Henderson scored again in the sixth, as the Sluggers won 4-1.
Schleeper, a veteran baseball coach who also leads the Suffolk Christian Academy team, said the Sluggers squad is unique “because we hand-picked them. We did a tryout.”
Except for Grant Taylor, every member of the team is 15 years old.
“We decided this year, since they were all 15, we’d keep them in the U15 division and see how we’d do,” Schleeper said.
Including games played since last weekend, the group is 20-2 this year. Before the USSSA tourney, the Sluggers played in the Southeastern District Wooden Bat League against local high schools. They also have faced off against Amateur Athletic Union squads.
“It’s been an ongoing thing for us. We’ve been kind of earning our stripes and working our way up, and we like to do it with all of our local kids,” Schleeper said.
The roster is composed of students from schools such as Nansemond River High School, King’s Fork High School, Isle of Wight Academy and Portsmouth Christian School.
“It turned out real well,” Schleeper said. “We were real happy with them.”
“We play as a team and we don’t play for ourselves,” Meyers said.