by Marcos Aragon
CHANDLER — After coming back to avoid an early upset on Sunday morning, Prevail Baseball faced off against Vipers Baseball for the 14u title game at the Arizona Spring Championships.
The Vipers were not able to strike first; instead, Prevail jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
Prevail (Huntington Beach, CA) defeated the Vipers (Mission Viejo, CA), 7-0, behind their two pitchers, Tony Martinez and Aaron Minnicucci. The duo combined for eight strikeouts and kept the high-powered offense of the Vipers at bay -- the top-seeded Vipers offense scored 67 total runs entering the championship game.
Prevail head coach Bryan Perez explained that the pitching on his team and its defense are the strengths they can rely on in any game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can go innings,” Perez said. “We put ourselves in the right position to capitalize on the way the ball is hit to us.”
Minnicucci said his confidence was high coming into the game to replace Martinez in the sixth inning.
“We were up by a lot, (Martinez) had shutout innings...I knew our defense would back me up and stuff. Once again (Martinez) threw a hell of a game, and our bats would come through.”
Martinez agreed with his coach that the strengths of the team are good pitching, along with a great defense behind it.
“Even though our pitching is really good and we throw strikes, our defense backs us up really good,” Martinez said.
Prevail never looked back after taking the lead, but the team had first-hand experience of a team blowing a lead after Prevail came back on the RC Bulldogs in their earlier game, winning 11-9. Martinez controlled the pace of the game but knew in the back of his head that they couldn’t take their foot off of the gas.
“In the first inning, I think we scored a lot of runs and we got our momentum after that," he said. "We didn’t stop and we tried to keep it up. We felt confident but we didn’t want to lose our ground because that’s what happened to (RC Bulldogs) today: they scored a lot of runs and we came back. We didn’t let our guard down.”
Even though Prevail is the champion, Perez noted that the larger point of the tournaments is to groom the players and help them become better ballplayers in their respective next levels.
“Keep getting better. I’m a firm believer in if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse,” Perez said. “I don’t like complacency. I always tell the kids ‘always do something to get yourself better’. That’s why we’re in these tournaments - to get looks mostly and to develop them into the high school baseball players they need to be ... winning is just a byproduct.”