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The Granite City Warriors 15U St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association team finished 12-6 and captured the consolation tournament championship this summer.
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Bennett Smallie (left) of the Granite City Warriors 15U SLABA team receives his Most Valuable Player award from the all-star game on July 31.
Things were golden for the Granite City Warriors 15-and-under St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association squad this summer.
The Warriors finished 13-6 and won the consolation tournament championship after winning just two games a year ago. They also had four players participate in the SLABA All-Star Game and one of them — Bennett Smallie — earned Most Valuable Player honors.
“That was a good squad,” Granite City coach Scott Smallie said.
After getting off to a 2-3 start, the Warriors won four games in a row and stayed over the .500 mark for the rest of the season.
Bennett Smallie, Freddie Edwards, Aaron Gibson, Brennan Haddix, Francisco Figueroa, Tyler McCauley, Clayton Miller, Jacob Woods, Troy Shrum, Cameron Hibbetts, Nicholas Singleton, Devin Shemwell, Nolan Briagas, Pavol Hutchins, Logan Gordon, James Grote and Cade Bartling make up the 15U roster.
“Almost all of those kids will play with the 17U team next year,” Scott Smallie said. “They’ll be young. Most of them will be 16, but you have the returnees from the 17U combined with the 15U kids to make our summer team next year. So they’ll be competitive for the high school season and next summer. It will work out really well for us.”
The 17U team lost its first seven games and finished 3-14 this season. The Warriors beat Roxana, Belleville East and Triad for their only wins.
The Warriors finished 0-2 in the playoffs, losing to the South-West Stars 7-2 and O’Fallon Blue 2-1.
“It was one of those things where they were all close games,” Smallie said. “We just didn’t get the big out or the big hit or make the big play on defense or make the big pitch when we needed to. A lot of times, we tell them during the summer that we’re just there to get reps to get better and by all means, that’s what they did.”
Drew Wielgus, Christian Fraiser, Andrew Halley, Cordele Macklin, Matt Woods, Nick French, Latrell Smith, Tyler Dagon, Isaiah Mizell, Nathin Toney, Hunter Needham, Elijah Halley, Bailey Thompson, Jack Bloome, Austin Bonvicino, B.J. Niesporek, James Marler, Grant Beanland, Trevor Nolan, Jacob Grayson, Tyler Wheatley, Jamie Roustio and Oliver Mitchell make up the 17U roster.
Wheatley, Macklin and Needham were the Warriors’ representatives in the SLABA 17U All-Star Game, which was played on July 31 at O’Fallon, Mo. Last year, Wheatley and Needham played in the 15U all-star contest.
Wheatley was voted the team’s MVP after hitting .323 and finishing with a 2.19 ERA on the mound. Needham, who started at second base at the all-star game, hit .379 and Macklin batted .345.
In the 15U SLABA postseason tournament, the top four teams play in a best-of three championship bracket. Granite City was tied with Waterloo Black for the fourth and final spot, but Waterloo Black advanced to the championship bracket because it beat the Warriors earlier in the season.
Granite City was sent to the consolation bracket and earned the No. 1 seed. The Warriors went 4-0 in the eight-team tournament.
“Two of the four games we had pitchers throw complete games,” Smallie said. “The other one, Cade Bartling, threw six innings and Freddie Edwards came in and got the save. In the last one, Cameron Hibbetts pitched and Aaron Gibson came out and finished out of the game. So we had really solid pitching in that tournament, which helps when you have to play that many games in that short of time.”
The Warriors came from behind to beat the fifth-seeded Easton St. Louis Tigers 4-3 in the championship game on July 20. Two days before, Granite City beat the Tigers 7-2 in a winner’s bracket game.
“In the last game, we were down 3-1 in the last inning and Freddie bunted and he got on by an error and went all the way to third,” Smallie said. “A couple of guys got on by walks and Pavol Hutchins got the game-winning hit. So that was pretty cool. Not many teams get to say they won their last game of the year, so that was a pretty neat experience for those kids.”
Smallie said pitching was the team’s biggest strength this season. Edwards went 3-2 with a team-high 31 strikeouts and a 1.52 earned run average, Bartling finished 4-1 with 17 strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA, Haddix was 3-0 with a save and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and Gibson was 2-0.
“The amount of strikeouts our pitchers got this summer really helped out our defense,” Smallie said. “They didn’t have to handle the ball. The pitchers can get the big strikeouts with runners on base and that made it much easier on the defense.”
Edwards, Bartling, McCauley and Bennett Smallie were the Warriors’ representatives at the SLABA 15U All-Star Game at O’Fallon, Mo. Haddix, who hit .400, was the starting second baseman for the North all-star team.
Bennett Smallie, the coach’s son, was named the MVP for the North all-star team, going 1 for 1 with a walk, two stolen bases and a run scored.
“He was voted in as a reserve. He got in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and in his first at-bat, he got a walk,” Scott Smallie said. “In his second at-bat, he came up with runners on first and second. We were losing 6-5 and he got a hit to left field and ended up scoring the tying run in the top of the seventh.”
The South won the game 7-6.
Granite City completed its third season in the SLABA league, which is composed of 16 teams, eight from Illinois and eight from Missouri.
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