Park Sharon hosted its fall classic invitational baseball tournament last week. The tournament featured three of the top 11-and-under little league teams in North Carolina and the top team in South Carolina.
It drew several hundred players and spectators. The hosts came away with a pair of impressive wins to add to their already sterling resume.
Park Sharon is a recreation-based program where anyone can play their sports offerings. From that league spawned two travel teams at the 11U level. The event was hosted by the Park Sharon Nationals, the top travel team at Park Sharon and the No. 3-ranked team in the state for their age division.
“It’s a very competitive team and it’s very tough to get on it,” Nationals General Manager Derek Copeland said. “It’s a true melting pot, but they’re really good players and great kids.”
There are 11 players on the team. Two travel in twice a week for practices and to all of the games from Asheville. One player comes from Greensboro. The remaining eight will eventually feed into schools in south Charlotte, Matthews and Mint Hill.
The team opened the tournament with an 8-4 win over Red Sox Jones, a top-ranked team in North Carolina.
With the score tied at 4, shortstop Ethan King hit a grand slam home run to get the Nationals to the finals.
There, the Nationals scored a 12-4 win over Team 24 Ashley, the top-ranked team in South Carolina.
In that win, pitcher Connor Salerno struck out 10 batters and was named the MVP pitcher of the tournament.
Centerfielder Joey Gadams hit .665 for the tournament from his leadoff spot and was named the overall MVP.
Copeland said he’ll probably try to organize another tournament in the spring, but this is the springboard to the Nationals fall season.
“It’s great what it is now and it’s going to keep growing,” he said. “We’ve had several teams ask us to be a part of it next year. It’s a really good way to get the fall season started.”
The Nationals compete in the Perfect Game series and will play the regional qualifier in Greensboro beginning Sept. 21.
Last season, they won the regional qualifier and advanced to the Perfect Game World Series in Georgia, where they finished eighth out of 38 teams from all over the country.
The goal is to win it this season.
“We’d like to continue to grow and develop, obviously, but we’d really like to win one of the World Series events,” Copeland said. “The Perfect Game down in Atlanta is the one we’d like to win the most and what we consider to be the premier event.”
The team is coached by Michael Pirro and his son, Matt Pirro, a former Wake Forest star who played with the Washington Nationals.
The 2019 Park Sharon Nationals 11U are: Justin Iannetto (No. 2), Ethan King (3), Joey Gadams (7), Lawosn Copeland (8), Jame Price (10), Zach White (14), Landon Shoczolek (18, not pictured), Cameron Keenan (20), Pierce Miller (22, not pictured), Keaton McKinstry (23), Connor Salerno (25), Thomas McKillop (33) and Landyn Wright (34).
Their next big tournament is the Beast of the East in October in Charlotte.