By Kennedy Meehan
Behind extra-inning heroics and lock-down pitching, two Wrightsville Beach youth baseball players earned a trip to the national championship in New York in July and are working at raising money to fund the trip.
The Wilmington-based Rock Solid Red travel 11-and-under youth baseball team earned a spot in the 2017 National Youth Baseball Championship after winning the southeast qualifier round on April 30 in North Myrtle Beach, with Wrightsville Beach pitcher-catcher tandem of Mason Botbol and David Collins making key contributions.
“We were winning 3-1 going into the last inning, and then they tied it up going into the last inning,” said Botbol, recounting the excitement of the tournament. Going into the extra innings, Rock Solid was down one run, but had managed to get runners on base.
“Dave hit a double with runners on second and third and brought both of them in to win the game,” Botbol said of his Wrightsville Beach teammate, David Collins.
Both Botbol and Collins batted a perfect 1.000 in the regional championship game. Botbol also pitched a shutout during the team’s run through the regional tournament.
With the victory in North Myrtle Beach, the Rock Solid baseball team will compete in the country’s premier championship for travel baseball for youths ranging from 9-14. The team will be representing both North Carolina and South Carolina in the 11u division at the championships, held in July at the 27-acre Baseball Heaven Complex facility located in Yaphank, N.Y. The team is raising money to attend the tournament. Donations can be made at its GoFundMe site here: https://www.gofundme.com/rock-solid-youth-baseball
Before winning the North Myrtle Beach regional tournament, Rock Solid Red swept the Beast of the East AAA Baseball Championships in Charlotte.
“We practiced really hard that week because we were really nervous about it,” Collins said while describing the atmosphere of practices prior to this tournament.
The practice paid with another solid pitching performance from Botbol, who pitched a shutout in that tournament’s championship game.
“We crushed everyone that tournament,” Botbol said.
That tournament victory also earned them a place in the Adidas USSSA World Series in St. Augustine, Fla.
“It was pretty surprising because we didn’t know we were going to do that well,” Collins said.
The two local players expressed their support for the Rock Solid Baseball and Coastal Athletics and appreciation for their coach, Kenny Flythe.
“We’ve been a team together for about four years now and we always hangout outside of baseball. At the facilities, we mess around and we play ping pong. We’ve gotten to know our team very well, so when we make plays we can be relaxed and trust them,” Collins said. “Coach Kenny is funny and when we go to practices he makes it fun. He’s not one of those coaches that doesn’t let us have any fun. He wants us to be talking and picking our teammates up, which I think is a big part of why we do so well.”
Rock Solid can be credited with coaching many local legends such as former Major League Baseball players Trot Nixon and Fletcher Bates. Bates is the owner of Coastal Athletics, which Rock Solid is run through.
“Trot Nixon coaches a different team, but we go to a bunch of the same tournaments and when we play at different times, he always comes and watches and is supportive,” Collins said.
Botbol and Collins aren’t just putting up stats on the baseball field. The sixth graders are also straight A students, each with 4.0 grade point average at Noble Middle School.
“David is an outstanding student. He works hard in and out of the classroom, so it is no surprise that he is on a successful baseball team,” Maureen Meehan, the AIG teacher at Noble, said
Francie Godwin, sixth grade science teacher at Noble Middle School, commented on how extremely hard working and conscientious of a student Botbol is.
“This kid has a great work ethic and studies hard, gets along well with his peers and helps other kids. Mason’s one of the kindest students I’ve ever taught,” said Godwin.