Prime Wins Extra-Inning Thriller Over TB SoCal in 17U National Team Championships Arizona Gold-Medal Game

In what turned out to be a back-and-forth, extra-inning thriller, Prime triumphed over TB SoCal 4-3 in the gold-medal game of the 17U National Team Championships Arizona, taking home the top prize and avenging its second place finish at the 16U age group a year ago.

The story early on in the contest was some less than stellar defense being played the two sides, and whether each team could take advantage of the opportunites granted to them by the other. Both teams scored their first runs in the second inning in nearly identical fashion, with errant throws from each catcher on backpick attempts to second base allowing runners to come across without a ball even being put in play.

TB SoCal got another chance to capitalize on some miscues in the field by Prime in the fourth. After two errors -- one on a grounder to third and the other on another overthrow to second base on a stolen base attempt -- and a walk put runners on the corners with no outs, two productive outs in the form of a ground ball by Dylan Smith and a sacrifice fly by Antonio Lujan were all that was needed to give the team a 3-1 lead.

After struggling to string together much offense for most of the game, the Prime bats finally woke up in response to their newfound deficit, answering back right away to get themselves back into the ballgame. Back-to-back base hits by Trevor Busby and Andre Saldivar Jr. followed by a sacrifice bunt from Isaiah Diaz put the team in business early in the fifth, and much like its opponents did the inning prior, it did not miss its chance to cash in. Keedan Nadeau singled into left during the very next plate appearance to drive in the first run, and right after that, Nathan Christman beat out a ground ball to short to avoid an inning-ending double play and score the other runner, bringing things level once again.

With the score now knotted up at three apiece, the pitching for both sides really started to lock in. Busby -- who came in for starter Trent Christianson and worked out of a jam in the fifth -- and TB SoCal reliever Michael Yousef took turns holding serve in the last two innings of regulation play, keeping the opposing lineups off the scoreboard with little real threats to work through. Yousef sat down the first six hitters he faced, while Busby allowed just a walk and a hit batsman.

International tiebreaker rules placed runners on first and second for both teams in the eighth inning, and when Prime came up for its at-bats, it took advantage of this beautifully. Nadeau came up to the plate to lead off the frame, and on the first pitch he saw, he laid down an excellent bunt to the third base side of the infield that not only moved the runners over, but put himself on first to load the bases with nobody out. This set up a perfect opportunity to finally break through, and semifinals hero Cole Hansen did just that two batters later, lining an 0-2 pitch into left field for a sacrifice fly that gave his team the lead for the first time since the second inning.

Prime now found itself on the edge of victory, and on the second pitch of the bottom half of the inning, Busby put them even closer by inducing a ground ball double play to bring them just one out shy. A walk and a stolen base put the tying and winning runs in scoring position and heightened the drama, but another ground ball to second base slammed the door shut, capping off a magical tournament run for Prime and avenging its loss in the same game one year ago.

Dugout Chatter

  • "Our guys scratched and clawed. They believe in each other and they trust each other. I told the guys before the game, 'This is just a regular game. Don't overthink this game, and just pass the baton on to the next guy.'" - Prime coach Rene Leal on his team's resiliency in both the semifinals and the gold-medal game.
  • "Before the game, I told the guys, 'We're in this exact same spot that we were last year,' and I had Trent [Christianson] throw again. He started last year and wasn't successful, but today he was really successful. To me, he was the MVP." - Leal on winning in the gold-medal game after falling just one win short at 16U in 2022.

Notable Stats

  • Christianson allowed just two hits and one earned run with four strikeouts in his 4.2 innings of work, and Busby spun 3.1 innings of no-hit ball with four strikeouts after coming in to relieve in the fifth.
  • Nadeau was the catalyst at the plate, notching three hits -- including the bunt single to lead off the top of the eighth -- and driving in one of the team's four runs.
  • Four other players for Prime recorded one hit apiece, with those being Christman, Busby, Saldivar Jr., and Landon Young.
  • Saldivar Jr. also scored two of the team's four runs, including the go ahead run in extra innings on Hansen's sac fly as one of the international tiebreaker runners.