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Sparks attain 3-peat at Kernels

September 24, 2019 | Kyle Schrader

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The Cangelosi Sparks continued their dominance in Iowa winning their third straight title at the WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship. The win was attained by the Cangelosi Sparks 2020 Black team, who beat the Sparks 2020 White squad by a score of 9-1 in the championship game to earn a paid invitation to the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter.

The 2020 team got on the board early with a three-run first inning and capped off their scoring with a four-run fifth that allowed them to end the game early via the run rule. Drake Westcott and Tommy Jurack hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning, Ty Batusich added a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth, Jack Payton added another two-run two-bagger in the fifth and Westcott closed out the scoring with another run-scoring double.

Zach Hise was throwing heat over his 3 2/3 innings of work. He did allow a run on four hits and a walk, but he struck out five thanks to his 86-91 mph fastball. Reed Gannon worked the final 1 2/3 innings, allowing just a pair of base hits during that time.

“This year we’ve got some depth on the mound for sure,” Cangelosi Sparks 2020 Black head coach and the organization’s Director of Youth and High School programs Tyler Thompson said. “We just preach each weekend ‘let’s get better.’ So we get everybody to move up a tick, get things going and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Cangelosi Sparks 2020 Black entered bracket play as the No. 2 seed, outscoring their two pool play opponents 24-1. That dominance continued in five playoff games, winning those games by a combined margin of 23-2. In seven games they shut out four of their opponents and allowed only one run in each of the other three.

MVP Tommy Jurack

Three of the eight teams that advanced to Monday’s quarterfinal action – Cangelosi Sparks 2020 Black, Cangelosi Sparks 2020 White and Cangelosi Sparks 2021 Black – were from the Cangelosi program. All three teams won to advance to the semifinals, with the 2020 and 2021 Black teams playing a mixed intrasquad game that allowed the 2020 Black squad advance to the championship. 2020 White advance by beating Longshots Baseball Teal 7-2 in the other semifinal pairing.

“It makes it a headache for me come Monday (asking) ‘who are our arms,’ and ‘who’s got enough pitching?’” Thompson said with a laugh. “But obviously we’re proud of all of our other teams, making it and advancing … I know it’s about exposure and I know it’s about winning, but we really try to let everybody know it’s about being a good teammate and doing things the right way.”

After going 1-for-1 with a walk, the home run and a pair of runs scored, Jurach was named the tournament MVP. Overall he went 7-for-9 (.778) with three doubles the homer and four walks, scoring seven runs and also driving in seven.

Most Valuable Pitcher Jack Crowder

Jack Crowder was an easy choice for the event’s Most Valuable Pitcher. Crowder got the starting nod for Cangelosi Sparks 2020 Black in their quarterfinal matchup against Chicago Scouts Association, allowing just two base hits in six innings of work, striking out 11 thanks to a mid- to upper-80s fastball that peaked at 90 mph in a 3-0 win. Crowder, like Jurack, has committed to play collegiately at Illinois.

This marks the third year in a row for the Sparks taking the Kernels Championship, a team that has dominated Perfect Game events in the state of Iowa the last two years. In 2018, in addition to the Kernels Championship, teams from the Cangelosi program had won the Midwest Freshman and Midwest Underclass Qualifier championships. Earlier this year, a Cangelosi team claimed the title at the 14u Midwest Invitational in addition to having their 2021 team advance to the semifinals at the 16u WWBA National Championship in Georgia.

And now the Sparks have a shot at another title, the WWBA World Championship crown in Jupiter.

“It’s the ultimate experience, there’s nothing like it,” Thompson said. “The last two years we’ve advanced and last year when we advanced we won a playoff game. We’ve got high expectations for this team. We finally have some depth, especially on the mound, but even offensively I feel like we’ve gone down (to Jupiter before) with like five or six threats offensively and this year I feel we’re a lot deeper than that.

“We’re all looking forward to it, it’s going to be fun.”

Kyle Schrader