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Senior Ruffnecks Shine in Alabama

2019 Senior Ruffnecks

The 17U Ruffnecks earned an invitation to the first Perfect Game Elite Championships in Hoover, Alabama July 17-21.  Only 32 teams from around the country were invited to attend, all with talented rosters.  Indeed, most rosters were filled with committed players to Power 5 conferences.  As a program we are humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to compete in such an event.  Indeed, the Senior Ruffnecks did not disappoint.  The squad gave a good account of themselves by winning their pool and earning the #8 seed in the Gold Bracket playoff round.  Every game was tightly played, with solid pitching, defense, and competitive at-bats.  In Game #1 the Ruffnecks faced a talented team from Louisiana.  Silas Reed pitched well in a back and forth affair.  Outfielder Kevin Skagerlind continued to establish himself as a top echelon defensive and offensive player.  He threw out the tying run at the plate to end a threat in the 5th.  Skags also went 1 for 3 with 2 stolen bases.  Raul Diaz got the game winning hit in the 6th, pushing the ‘Necks ahead 3-2.  It was all the Ruffnecks needed as Henry Gustavson pitched the final two frames with total control and effectiveness for the save.

In Game #2, lefthander Tom Chmielewski threw 5 innings against the Florida Aces, surrendering 2 runs in the 5th.  Ben Reyes came on in relief for two innings. Reyes gave up no hits and struck out three for the save in a 4-2 win.  Skagerlind continued his offensive tear by going 3 for 3.  Aidan Harrington was outstanding in the field and contributed a big hit.

Pre-Game at PG Elite - Alabama

Game #3 featured starter Seamus Barrett who was spectacular in a 2-2 tie.  Barrett went 6.2 innings, struck out 10 and gave up 4 hits.  His fastball was in the 87-90 range with an effective change and breaking ball.  The game was a “play for the pool” stakes game, and the Ruffnecks showed a ton of grit and determination.  Lucas Stowe led the way with two big hits, including a triple.  Skagerlind again delivered with an RBI single.  The defense was errorless, with several outstanding plays by Kai Grocki at 3B. The catching corps of Holt Fletcher and Raul Diaz was spectacular all tournament in the 95 heat and humidity of the Deep South.

After earning the #8 seed, the Ruffnecks faced a strong 643 DP team from Georgia.  The ‘Necks took a 3-0 lead into the top of the 7th inning behind a strong outing from Andrew Steinhubel on the mound.  The sands in the hourglass ran out in a manner only seen in the game of baseball.  Unable to get the final three outs for the win, the ‘Necks surrendered 11 runs in the top of the 7th in an 11-3 defeat.  Crazy… but baseball!  The end did not diminish the accomplishments nor did it dim the spotlight the team brought upon itself.  The event was one of the very best, most competitive baseball tournaments the program has ever attended.  Dozens of professional scouts, college coaches, and observers saw a Ruffnecks team worthy and competitive.  It was a fine finish to a demanding travel schedule for the summer of 2019, one in which the competition is outstanding.  We salute our worthy opponents!

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Former MLB Pitcher Gomes to Join Staff

Wayne Gomes at 13U/14U Practice

Former Major League Baseball pitcher, Wayne Gomes, is set to join the Ruffnecks coaching staff this summer as pitching coach for the Seniors/17U squad.  He joins skipper John Toffey, and assistants Brendan Casey and John Brickley.  With “Brick” and Gomes, the Ruffnecks have two men with MLB experience to mentor our players during the summer season.  Mr. Gomes enjoyed a 6 year career in the Major Leagues, mostly with the Phillies.  He pitched for the Boston Red Sox in 2002.  After retiring from baseball, Gomes built a successful business with his wife in the health care industry in his home state of Virginia.  He also founded the Virginia Baseball Academy in his home town of Hampton, VA where he remains active instructing and working with young athletes.  Gomes is a graduate of Old Dominion University and is in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.  He was also inducted into the Hampton Roads African American Hall of Fame in 2010.

“The addition of a pitching coach with these credentials is huge for us this summer,” says Coach Toffey.  Indeed, the staff now consists of four qualified, dedicated, coaches.  Coach Gomes provides direction and experience to a staff of pitchers on the Senior team that has enjoyed success.  Several are headed to top tier Division I colleges.  “The pitchers will benefit from knowing there is a coach focused on their preparation, mechanics, and mindset,” adds Toffey.  Coach Brickley (who also runs the SAT Prep course for the team on the road) remarks, “Someone with Wayne’s background and knowledge is amazing for these kids.  And being a graduate of Old Dominion, he understands the value of heading to college.”

The Ruffnecks continue striving to enhance the experience for players in substantive ways.  Coach Toffey with the final word… “Playing tournaments, travel, and summer baseball is great, but we have focused and serious kids who have fun, and want to get better.  Coaching is important to these kids.  We are lucky to have Wayne join us.  I look forward to learning from him and watching the development of our pitchers.”

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