Thursday, March 15, 2012

Prep baseball: Winning at the Sarasota Baseball Classic means plenty to IMG

(photo by John Lembo)

IMG Academies won the Premier Division of the Sarasota Baseball Classic this afternoon in thrilling fashion thanks to Alfredo Escalera.

The senior's walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh gave IMG a 1-0 win over Miami Coral Reef in the championship game at Sarasota High.

The players mobbed Escalera at home plate following his blast, and with good reason: IMG is an independent member of the Florida High School Athletic Association, meaning the school cannot compete for district, state or regional titles.

"This is our championship. We have a couple of more tournaments for the year and that's about it," Escalera said. "We can't play for state, so this is our championship."

Escalera had three of IMG's five hits Thursday and came within a triple of hitting for the cycle.

He was selected to the Rawlings/Perfect Game Preseason Florida Region All High School Senior Second Team.

"Alfredo's a guy that had a lot of pressure on his shoulders coming in this season," said IMG coach Jason Elias, adding the 17-year-old will be the country's youngest draft-eligible player. "(Wednesday), we took him out of the lineup...And one of the assistants back home said, 'I think Alfredo's going to have a big day (Thursday).' Big's not the word for it. He really stepped up."

IMG's tournament days are not done. The team leaves Saturday for the Big League Dugout National Invitational in Arizona, and will play in the Central Florida Spring Break Slam in Orlando on March 26 and the Hard 9 National Classic in California on April 9.

"Hopefully, this propels us to continue to have good things happen," Elias said.

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