TB SoCal Edges Past MVP Hustle 2-1 in 15U National Team Championships Arizona Gold Medal Game

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- TB SoCal capped off its undefeated run at the 15U National Team Championships Arizona Saturday afternoon, defeating MVP Hustle in the gold-medal game by a final of 2-1 to take home the tournament's top prize.

The final game of the week was a nail biter from the very beginning, with the two teams trading scoring opportunities early and often throughout the day. Both squads threatened to draw first blood right from the jump, with each of them placing a runner in scoring position in the opening frame, but a strikeout by TB SoCal starter Jason Dunham in the top half and a great throw by MVP Hustle catcher Tyler Young to nab Owen Bone trying to steal second in the bottom half kept the score knotted at nothing apiece.

TB SoCal struck first blood in the second inning, jumping on MVP Hustle starter Joshua Adams. After Adams hit leadoff batter Jacob Wicker to start the frame, Moises Razo followed with a deep shot to the warning track in right-center field, plating Wicker and giving the team its first lead of the day. Hogan Hawkins got in on the action two batters later, blooping a ball out into shallow left field to score Razo and double the TB SoCal advantage.

MVP Hustle answered back shortly after this, though, rallying to scratch across a run of its own in the top of the third. Preston Conkin and Isaias Tirado quickly reached base via a bunt single and a hit-by-pitch respectively, and after a wild pitch advanced them both to scoring position, Angel Cervantes brought home Conkin on a sacrifice fly that brought the deficit back down to one.

After sitting down the TB SoCal hitters with relative ease throughout the middle of the game, the next promising scoring opportunity for MVP Hustle came in the top of the fifth, when it had runners on first and second with two outs after an error and walk in consecutive plate appearances. Reliever Dane Cunningham came on in relief of Dunham and stranded both runners, though, inducing a clutch ground ball out that kept the team’s miniscule lead intact.

Both teams traded zeroes going into the final inning of the game, leaving MVP Hustle with three outs to go and needing at least one run to extend their tournament life. A Bryant hit-by-pitch put the tying run on base with two outs, but Cunningham slammed the door right after, inducing a ground ball off the bat of Andrew Lulet that ended the game and sent the TB SoCal dugout sprinting out to the infield in celebration.

The gold medal won by TB SoCal is the sixth in the program's history at the National Team Championships Arizona and the seventh medal overall, both of which are more than any other organization to participate in the event. In addition, this is the second consecutive gold medal won by this specific TB SoCal team, as they were victorious in the 14U Champs AZ tournament in 2022.

For MVP Hustle, its silver medal goes down as the second medal in program history, with the first being a gold at the 2018 16U Champs AZ tournament.

Dugout Chatter

  • "It's a huge accomplishment for these kids. It took every single kid we had on the roster. We realistically had maybe two more innings of pitching left, so everything had to work out the way it did. We threw strikes and we played defense, and that's the name of the game when you get into these stages. Play defense, and good things happen." - TB SoCal head coach Benny Bonilla on his team's gold-medal winning performance.
  • "They just expect it. It's a fortunate thing that they come out and expect to win, with whatever it takes and however it takes. We found a way to get through it, and now they get to go home with another gold medal." - Bonilla on his team's second consecutive gold medal after winning one at the 14U Champs AZ tournament last year.

Notable Stats

  • TB SoCal pitchers managed to only give up a lone run across seven innings, with Dunham lasting 4.2 innings while allowing just four hitters to reach base and striking out three. Cunningham picked up the save in relief, tossing 2.1 scoreless frames with just one hit and one walk given up.
  • Hawkins accounted for two of TB SoCal's three hits on the day and drove in one of its two runs. The only other hit for the winning team came on Razo's deep triple that opened up the scoring in the second.