More than 200 teams traveled from Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to participate in the 2018 Pittsburgh Cap Classic. This year’s championship game on Sunday saw defending champions Mon Valley Miners of Monogahela, Pennsylvania suffer a brutal 7-0 loss to the Midwest Mayhem of Painseville, Ohio.
The Cap Classic — this year held June 21 through June 24 in baseball parks across Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia — is held every year in the Greater Pittsburgh area. The tournament is considered one of the largest high school-and-under baseball tournaments on the East Coast, and has sold out every year since its inception in 2010. Speaking to the growth of the tournament in recent years, the opening ceremonies took place at PNC Park for the first time in the tournament’s history.
But this year’s Championship game was surrounded with controversy. At the top of the second inning, the coaches of the Midwest Mayhem halted the game when they discovered the Miners pitcher, Alex Zigarobich, wasn’t registered on their roster. After the Mayhem accused the Miners of substituting an illegal player in, the umpires and coaches compromised to let the game continue if the illegal player exited the game. The Miners were forced to put in a new pitcher, which changed the nature of the game dramatically.
The Mayhem put up seven runs throughout the rest of the game, with the Miners going through three different pitchers in an effort to replace the ace who was forced to leave in the second inning. Richard Mineo of the Mayhem hit a home run in the sixth inning, while Devin Ryan had two steals and an RBI and also recorded three strikeouts as the Mayhem pitcher.
Ryan Perretti and Colin Mack of the Mayhem also recorded steals, with Mack recording an RBI in the fourth inning. Layne Perks, Nicholas Aagesen, Hunter Swivel and Andrew Zibuk provided RBIs in the last three innings, highlighting the offensive dominance of the Mayhem.
The handshake between the two teams after the game ended was heated as players, parents and coaches from both teams made comments about the Miners illegal pitcher. The Mayhem coach, Brian Frantz, ultimately told his team to back off and enjoy the win.
Frantz was unshaken by the controversy surrounding the game, preferring to focus on what his team accomplished. He touched upon the three areas that he believed were crucial to his team’s success.
“Great offense, fantastic defense, and pitching was insane,” he said. “It’s a real positive win … we won fair and square. That’s real big for our boys.”
Frantz only briefly mentioned the illegal Miners player and how it affected his team and the overall shape of the game, calling the Miners’ pitching situation “unfortunate.”
“Bottom line is, play with the players on your roster, and win the game, which they couldn’t do,” Frantz said.
The Cap Classic is still seen by some teams as an opportunity to improve themselves in ways that they couldn’t back home. The Lake Erie Tritons were eliminated in the semi-finals by the Mayhem but still had high praise for their competition. Coach Brian Amstutz of Lake Erie Tritons High School, who seeded No. 5 in the tournament, has high hopes for the future for his team after the Cap Classic.
“The biggest thing for us is to get away from the teams we constantly play … to get new looks from other teams,” Amstutz said.
The Miners assistant coach Frank Reynolds explained his team’s own perspective on their loss — simply a miscommunication.
“[Zigarobich] was on vacation … they came back, we made it to the championship game. He’s been on our team for five years,” Reynolds said. “The parents thought they weren’t going to be back in time and didn’t bother registering him.”
But regardless of the outcome of this tournament, Reynolds stressed the importance of the basics when it came to what his team learned from the tournament.
“We just play good fundamental baseball, pretty much learn every game,” Reynolds said. “It’s just little things, and that’s what makes you better.”