Blue Wave boys bound for Cooperstown

Local team headed to Cooperstown to compete in huge tournament. The squad enters with great momentum after big wins.

August 14, 2011|By Bruce Bourquin, Daily Pilot

Where the bronze busts of legendary baseball players reside in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a team of baseball players from the Newport Beach area are competing in a national tournament.

The Blue Wave won four straight games, giving them strong momentum going into the two-week long tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y.

They are among 96 teams from across the country that were selected to play Aug. 20-26, in the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament.

"I'm extremely proud of these boys," said head coach Darric Merrell, a former standout pitcher with Cal State Fullerton 2001-03, who played for five minor league seasons from 2003-2007 in the Colorado Rockies' organization. "They've become little men. They've grown up. There's a distinct brotherhood among them. They're great all-around kids."


On July 31 in San Clemente, the 12-and-under Blue Wave team won its second consecutive local tournament, in the 12U division of the Triple Crown second annual Full Gorilla Classic.

The Blue Wave beat No. 1 seed So Cal Dynasty, 5-2, in the championship game.

On Aug. 20, most teams will play two games per day, with seeding taking place after Tuesday night's games.

Teams that are seeded low will likely play four or five games on Aug. 24, while teams that are seeded high will only have to play one or two per day.

Teams must win four games in a row on Aug. 25 to get to the championship final.

The turning point for these Blue Wave players came last July, when they lost a scrimmage to a group of 10-year-old All-Stars. The Blue Wave players were mainly 11 years old back then.

"That was an ego kick for all of us," Merrell said. "The kids never looked back from there. They showed up with the mindset of working hard. They did not take anything for granted. They had a great work ethic. I'm thankful for what they did."

Evan Larsen and Fritz Miller have hit for the most power, and Alex Shadid and Larson have both been go-to pitchers, Merrell said, although "everyone's stepped it up" no matter who the pitcher's been. Everyone can pitch, except for three players.

Larsen has normally played third base or caught when he's not pitching. Miller usually plays at first base, with Neil Ontiveros also playing there, and Shadid plays shortstop.

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