FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — After a third place finish last year, the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL) bounced back to recapture the 16-and-under (16U) division as the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) National Championships got underway at the Emera Baseball Complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Just the 16U and 18-and-under (186U) divisions were contested in Freeport this past holiday weekend. Tee Ball (six-and-under) ran as an exhibition between Freedom Farm, two teams from the Grand Bahama Little League (GBLL) and a team from the Legacy Baseball League, and the other divisions will be contested over the next three weeks in Eleuthera and New Providence.
The popular 12-and-under (12U) division will take place in Eleuthera from June 20-23, and the eight-and-under (8U), 10-and-under (10U) and 14-and-under (14U) divisions will be determined in New Providence between the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) Field of Dreams Complex and the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL) Park, from June 27-30.
The winner of the 12U Division at the nationals will represent The Bahamas at the Little League Caribbean and Latin American Championships, from July 13-20, in Willemstad, Curacao. The winner of that tournament will advance to the Little League World Series, from August 15-25, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
As for the gold medal game in the 16U Division, Freedom Farm took down JBLN, 9-0, on Sunday. Leading up to the gold medal game, they defeated GBLL, 6-2, on Friday; knocked off Central Andros, 15-0, also on Friday; lost to JBLN, 7-3, on Saturday; blasted GBLL in the semifinal game, 12-1; and then blanked JBLN, 9-0, in the championship game.
Shaquille Anderson from JBLN won the best hitter award in the three-day tournament, Tyler Munroe from Freedom Farm was the best pitcher, and Pherron Moss from Freedom Farm was named as the most outstanding player. GBLL won the bronze after they defeated Central Andros, 15-0, on Sunday.
The championship game was actually close until Freedom Farm blew it open in the top of the fourth inning. They scored eight runs off just three hits in the top of the fourth to blow the game open. JBLN had no answer, and a half inning later, the game was over, via the time limit.
FFBL Team Manager Jeff Francis said they actually wanted to finish the tournament undefeated, but JBLN caught them off guard on Saturday.
“At the start of the game on Saturday, we weren’t expecting the pitcher to be throwing around 50 miles per hour the most. My hitters were anxious and we were way out front. I was trying to tell them to sit back and hit the ball but we were still way out in front. Their shortstop had a good hitting game too, and an error by the left fielder with the bases loaded was like the nail in the coffin,” said Francis. “We knew we were going to bounce back today. It feels awesome for us to win it after a disappointing tournament last year. Unfortunately, we didn’t go undefeated, but we were able to pull off the championship, so we’re satisfied with that.”
JBLN Team Manager Warren Levarity said Freedom Farm starting pitcher Jeorge Araujo had them off stride for most of the shortened game. Araujo surrendered just two hits in four innings.
“I have to give their pitcher credit. He had a good fast ball and a slider. That kind of kept us off balanced,” said Levarity. “That slider that looked like a fast ball fooled us a lot. It was hard for us to adjust to that. We were trying to wear him down, but it was too late. It was 1-0 for the first three innings, so we were right there. We just imploded in the top of the fourth inning. We ran out of gas and they took over.”
GBLL entire team consisted of players out of high school in Grand Bahama. Shortstop Brent Burrows, a 10th grader at Bishop Michael Eldon School, said that they were disappointed that they didn’t get to repeat as champions in the 16U Division, but added that they will continue to work and improve their skills. They went from first to third in the 16U Division.
“I think that we could have done a bit better but we weren’t focussed and didn’t play to the best of our ability on Saturday (semifinal loss to Freedom Farm),” he said. “Our pitching needs some work. It wasn’t as strong as we would have liked it to be. It was disappointing, but we just have to come out and continue to practice everyday and get better.”
In the gold medal game, Araujo picked up the win for Freedom Farm while Gabar Collie suffered the loss for JBLN. Araujo gave up just two hits and struck out five in four innings. Collie gave up four hits in three innings. It wasn’t until the fourth when it all came apart for JBLN. Tavaris Minnis and Amahj McPhee came on in relief of Collie in the fourth, and neither of them could stop the onslaught of runs by Freedom Farm.
At the plate, Farron Edgecombe finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored for Freedom Farm. Kristin Munroe was 1-for-2 with a run scored and a RBI, and lead-off batter Adari Grant had one hit in his only official at-bat and scored a run.
In the bronze medal game, GBLL scored six times in the first inning against Central Andros and never looked back. They went on to win easily, 15-0. Keyron Knowles was the winning pitcher as he fired a no-hitter and struck out 10 batters. Tristan Adderley suffered the loss for Central Andros.