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MAUSTON, Wis. – Wrapping up a tremendous summer season, the GRB Rays Yellow squad won the 2021 16u Midwest Premier Baseball Top Prospect series by knocking off the GRB Rays – MKE Green squad by a score of 8-5 in the championship game. The Rays Yellow team finishes the year 32-8, one of the best in the history of the entire GRB program, advancing to the championship game at three different tournaments.
Like so many championship games, both teams seemed to be running somewhat on fumes when it came to their pitching staffs. Daelen Johnson, who tossed a complete game in pool play, had enough left in the tank for one inning to start the title game. From there primary infielder Braden Vandermoss took over and provided 4 2/3 valuable and admirable innings before he was removed with two on and two outs in the sixth inning.
Andy Nordloh, who can usually be found behind the dish catching the staff, got them out of that jam, and while he did give up a run with one out in the bottom of the seventh, he didn’t let it rattle him, stayed focused and locked in to record the final two outs.
“It’s a really good team, a really good group of kids. It’s been like this all year where they play for each other – they play hard, they compete hard and they grew,” said Head Coach Ralph Kalal, fondly referred to by the players and parents as “Mr. Coach.” “It’s great for this season to have the success that we’ve had after their high school season last year, their freshman year, gets canceled because of COVID.
“This is one of the best summers I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve been with this organization for six years, and this is by far the most successful – from a wins percentage standpoint and a development standpoint – that I’ve ever been a part of. They love each other and they love the game.”
After scoring a single run in the top of the first on a wild pitch with the bases loaded, the GRB Rays Yellow team did most of their offensive damage in the top of the second inning with a pair of big base hits, each hit to the opposite field. Chayce Osterhaus got things started by hitting a double to left-center field, bringing home a pair of runners, and Daelen Johnson, who moved to right field after starting the game on the mound, poked a ball to right to bring home another runner.
A fourth run crossed home plate on a passed ball, giving GRB Rays Yellow a commanding 5-0 lead. They added one more run in the fourth and two more in the fifth to round out their scoring.
Similar to their impressive 4-0 run in pool play, at no point did the GRB Rays – MKE Green squad give up, and they answered Yellow’s five-run second with two runs of their own in the bottom half. They added single tallies in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings before the game came to a close.
Max Martin was especially effective at the plate for GRB MKE, hitting a pair of doubles, one that led to the first run in the second inning and another that led to his team’s last run in the seventh.
GRB was well represented in Sunday’s semifinal tilts as the GRB Rays Green squad also advanced. A fourth team, the GRB Rays 2024 team – a late entry to the tournament with a roster made up of 15u-age players – went 3-1 in pool play, the best record for any team that didn’t advance to bracket play.
And with wins over two other GRB teams to claim the Midwest Premier Baseball championship, Kalal feels pretty good about being named GRB’s unofficial, official coach of the year.
“I’ve never actually played another GRB team,” Kalal said. “To play two to get to the championship and then win the championship is pretty cool. I’ll have those bragging rights moving forward for the year.”
In the GRB Rays Yellow/Green semifinal matchup, a 4-2 win for Yellow, Caden Popp went the full seven innings, striking out four along the way without giving up an earned run. Popp did a really nice job sequencing between an upper-70s fastball that he commanded well and a wicked breaking ball that elicited quite a few weak and awkward swings. He also singled and scored his teams fourth and final run in the sixth.
At the plate it was Jackson Adams who played hero in this game, hitting a triple over the head of the right field to lead off the game, which led to GRB Yellow’s first run. In the bottom of the third he started a two-run rally with one out, hitting yet another ball over the head of the right fielder for a double.
The GRB Rays – MKE Green team advanced to the championship game with 5-4 win over Building Champions in the semifinals. Down 3-2 heading to the top of the fifth inning, Dominic Kibler came up big in a big spot, yanking a two-run triple down the right field line and into the corner that pushed the Rays ahead for good. Kibler scored what proved to be the deciding run on an RBI groundout. Building Champions got one run back in the bottom half but that wrapped up the game’s scoring.
• There were numerous highlight defensive plays in the championship game that deserve mention. Chayce Osterhaus looked incredible smooth at shortstop on one slow grounder, charging, scooping and firing all in one motion to nail the runner at first base while showing off his impressive athletic talents. Daelen Johnson made a near-unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch that robbed GRB MKE’s Brady Davidson of extra bases. They also turned a really nice double play to get out of a jam in the bottom of the first.
Although not in the championship game, Andy Nordloh gunned down a runner at second base from behind the plate in the top of the first inning in their semifinal matchup that squelched a potential rally in the making. From top to bottom it seemed as though every single player on their roster contributed in some significant manner and was mentioned in the daily recaps.
• In addition to Braden Vandermoss’ impressive pitching outing, he also added an RBI single hit back up the middle in the top of the fifth that gave GRB Rays Yellow a 7-3 lead at the time.
• GRB MKE’s Eddie Rynders hit a “turf” triple with one out in the bottom of the sixth and came home one play later on a sacrifice fly to make the game 8-4. It was a hard base hit to left field that took a higher-the-expected bounce off the turf, catching the left fielder off guard.
• From the GRB Rays 2024 squad, Logan Dunn took to the mound in consolation play and showed off his impressive pitchability. He worked with a 79-81 mph fastball that isn’t overpowering but is very effective given how well he commands the pitch. His future is in center field, but it’s yet another good look to see a player’s overall talent base.
• You can continue the previous thought with Logan Frank, who I mentioned more than once in the previous daily recaps for his hulking, big-bodied stature and imposing presence in the lefthanded batter’s box. He took to the mound for the GRB Rays Green team in their semifinal matchup, and while he picked up the loss, he showed well throwing an 80-81 mph fastball for consistent strikes, with some dip, that topped out at 83. He also mixed in an upper-60s curveball that he dropped in well and kept hitters off balance.
• Righthander Noah Dreier made the start for GRB Rays – MKE Green in their semifinal game against Building Champions and sustained his low-80s velocity quite well. Most of his pitches came in at 82 mph, but he ranged from 80-84 while mixing in a sharp 69-72 overhand curveball while pulling the string on a mid-70s changeup. He has an athletic profile and repeats his delivery very well. Lefthander Ashton Kampa came in to pitch in the bottom of the fifth throwing upper-70s to low-80s heat and a big ‘ole curveball to secure the semifinal win. He used a pair of those hooks to record a pair of strikeouts, both looking, to finish the game.
Fellow righty Ryan Hamann started opposite Dreier for Building Champions in the semifinal matchup and produced similar stuff Hamann was 80-85 early before settling in at 78-80 by the third inning. He also mixed in a 70-71 mph curveball that showed promise. What really stood out with Hamman was his 6-foot-4, 180-pound stature as even his uniform looked like a second person could climb in and still have room to move around. Building Champions deserves overall recognition as several of their players, particularly on the pitching staff, have bright futures ahead of them and they weren’t even at full strength.
• At one point in their consolation game Hitters 2024 had four base hits and all four were triples. Outfielder Cade Palkowski, one of their top prospects, added a fifth, this one of the “turf” variety, yet another well-struck base hit that took an unexpectedly big hop over the right fielder. Palkowski turned on the jets and got to third standing. He also laced an oppo double later in the game, showing off his talents barreling up a baseball. Slugging first baseman Aren Robinson had a pair of RBI singles in this game.
• The Hitters 2023 team had an impressive sequence in the fifth inning of their consolation game. With runners on second and third and nobody out, righthanded pitcher CJ Trask induced a pair of ground balls to third base that Jack Olson cleanly fielded, checked and held the runner at third before firing strikes to first to record the first two outs. After walking the next batter, Trask took matters into his own hands and got the final batter of the inning looking with the bases loaded.
• PBA rangy righthander Noah Musolf deserves a quick mention for his low, near sidearm slot and ability to get outs with a hard running and sinking 79-80 mph fastball.
• Team Illini had a strong showing overall and had they advanced to the semifinals they likely would have sent righthander Sam Cardwell to the mound. He instead pitched in their consolation game and is immensely projectable with a lean and long-limbed 6-foot-2, 157-pound frame. He will get bigger and he will throw harder, sitting at 80-83 mph with his fastball in this game, although he has been up to 87 at other events. He also mixed in a 70-71 mph curveball, although his command wavered at times. Righthander Dalton Miller came in after Cardwell and also threw in the low-80s (80-82) with a loopy 66 mph breaking ball from a low three-quarters slot.
• Lleyton Grubich is the type of player you want to make sure you remember for the future, and with a name like that it may be hard to forget. A plenty projectable 6-foot-1, 185-pound lefthander, Grubich threw a sinking 80-81 mph fastball from a lower slot while mixing in a 76-77 mph slider that clearly gave opposing hitters some timing troubles. Between sequencing and deception he already has a couple of intangible elements working in his favor on top of a good foundation of a quality 1-2 punch.