Tidewater Tigers trump Canes at USSSA

Published 10:33 pm Friday, June 21, 2013

The 13U Tidewater Tigers travel baseball team celebrates after defeating the talented EvoShield Canes North squad, 4-3, to win the championship of the USSSA Top Gun State Open tournament in Hampton on Sunday. Pictured are, front row, from left: Justin Walker (Capron), Brandon Roberson (Windsor, N.C.), DJ Smith (Gates County, N.C.) Patrick Driggers (Smithfield), Rodney Pierce Jr. (Surry) and Hayden Myers (Smithfield); back row, from left: head coach Robert Tew (Suffolk), assistant coach George Riddick (Suffolk), Andrew Riddick (Suffolk), Jarret Henderson (Suffolk), Robby Tew (Suffolk), Rapheal Morales (Gates County, N.C.), assistant coach Wade Myers (Smithfield) and assistant coach Rodney Pierce (Surry). (Carrie Tew photo)

The 13U Tidewater Tigers travel baseball team celebrates after defeating the talented EvoShield Canes North squad, 4-3, to win the championship of the USSSA Top Gun State Open tournament in Hampton on Sunday. Pictured are, front row, from left: Justin Walker (Capron), Brandon Roberson (Windsor, N.C.), DJ Smith (Gates County, N.C.) Patrick Driggers (Smithfield), Rodney Pierce Jr. (Surry) and Hayden Myers (Smithfield); back row, from left: head coach Robert Tew (Suffolk), assistant coach George Riddick (Suffolk), Andrew Riddick (Suffolk), Jarret Henderson (Suffolk), Robby Tew (Suffolk), Rapheal Morales (Gates County, N.C.), assistant coach Wade Myers (Smithfield) and assistant coach Rodney Pierce (Surry). (Carrie Tew photo)

A Suffolk-based 13-and-under travel baseball team called the Tidewater Tigers faced off against a team with a national-level sponsor and stars from across the East Coast on Sunday in the championship game of the United States Specialty Sports Association Top Gun State Open tournament in Hampton.

The Tigers proved to be the better team, employing clutch pitching and timely hitting to win 4-3.

Tigers head coach Robert Tew was proud of his team for performing well against the EvoShield Canes North, which he described as “an all-star team of all the all-star teams” that had kids “from all up and down the East Coast, from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, all up (the) Mid-Atlantic.”

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But a roster still needs time to gel together as a team.

“They were a great collection of talent,” Tew said. “Fortunately, what kind of made the difference in that game was we were a team that practices together, and we’ve had a core of guys together for our fifth year as an organization.”

“Every single kid on the team contributed, and we didn’t play perfect, but we were good at the right time, in the crucial parts of the games,” he said.

The Tigers went 1-1 last Saturday in the pool play for this tourney, which featured 13 teams. Tew explained the goal for Saturday.

“You just want to advance to the Gold bracket for Sunday’s play, so then you have a chance to win the whole tournament, because the Silver bracket is pretty much like a consolation bracket,” he said.

The top eight seeds made it to the gold bracket, and the Tigers managed to get the eighth seed.

This forced a showdown against the No. 1-seeded Tidewater Bombers, and the Tigers ended up prevailing, 14-4.

They followed it up with a 6-4 win over the Virginia Crush, leading to the championship game.

“We had guys that did well, but there wasn’t any one person or two people that carried us,” Tew said. “It was a total team effort.”

To start with, quality pitching played a significant role in the title game. Rapheal Morales pitched the first two innings, and then Rodney Pierce Jr. provided solid relief for the next four innings. Then Jarret Henderson of Suffolk, who pitched the whole semifinal against the Crush earlier in the day, took the mound in the seventh when it was a one-run game.

“He came in and went three up, three down and shut them down,” Tew said.

The Tigers enjoyed a total team defensive effort, led by catcher Robby Tew of Suffolk. Including the last two innings against the Crush, he caught nine straight innings to end the day.

First baseman DJ Smith made at least four plays in which he got runners out in crucial moments. If the throw to him was slightly off-target, he stretched or picked it out of the dirt to still get the out.

Second baseman Justin Walker turned a key double play, and utility player Andrew Riddick of Suffolk played solid defense in left field, at third base and shortstop at different points. Hayden Myers delivered two clutch plays in the outfield.

Then, on offense, Brandon Roberson and Patrick Driggers came through with hits right when the Tigers needed them.

The state tourney win was the second for the Tigers, who had claimed one a couple of seasons ago, when they played at the 11U level.