The Panther went down to Georgia


Photo Credit: Mary Lange

Lange smacks a double during the WWBA tournament, helping his team secure a 5-1-1 record.

by Max Felsenstein, Sports Editor

This summer, 259 teams from around the country traveled to 44 different locations around Georgia with expectations to win the 2014 16U Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association National Championship.

For Glen Rock High School junior Matt Lange, the trip was the tournament of a lifetime, despite not bringing home a trophy.

After seven games, Lange’s summer ball team, Wladyka Baseball, finished 5-1-1 falling just one game short of playoff contention. After dropping their final game to the eventual third place team (and seventh nationally ranked), the Orlando Scorpions, Lange solidified himself as a premiere player throughout the country.

Going 5 for 16 on the week with five doubles, Lange succeeded against quality pitching and was eventually named to the All-Tournament Team, which only 784 players (out of approximately 4,500 players)  in the tournament qualified for.

Zach Miraz, Lange’s teammate with Wladyka, said, “I think he has star potential. If we had to choose an MVP for our team that week, he was definitely the frontrunner.”

Lange’s week began with a bang as Wladyka Baseball captured a 5-4 victory over the Greensboro Batting Center Prep Stars from Greensboro, NC.

Having a tie is almost as bad as having a loss in these types of tournaments because your fate lies in someone else’s hands.

— Matt Lange

Wladyka Baseball then went on to win their next two games over Pony Express Baseball (Ind.) and Ontario Blue Jays-Red.

Lange’s team then hit a bump in the road when they took on SEB Black (Ga.). The game ended in a 3-3 tie after the tournament’s two-hour time limit was reached.

Although down, they were certainly not out.

“We battled our way back,” Lange said. “Having a tie is almost as bad as having a loss in these types of tournaments because your fate lies in someone else’s hands.”

They rebounded the next day, shutting out Southern California Elite, 3-0. Still undefeated at 4-0-1, Wladyka had their hands full with their next two games, taking on the Batting 1.000 Colts and Orlando Scorpions.

With an early lead, great pitching, and timely hitting from Lange, Wladyka beat the Batting 1.000 Colts, setting up a one game, pool-play playoff with the Orlando Scorpions.

This was not just any game for Lange and his teammates; this was their toughest assignment throughout their young baseball careers.

As for the Scorpions, they were a battle-tested team, already with 9 players committed to Division 1 Institutions: one to Duke, one to Central Florida, one to South Florida, two to South Carolina, and four to Florida State University.

The Scorpions had their ‘ace dealing,’ Cole Ragans, a 6’4,” left handed pitcher, and one of their four players committed to Florida State. Ragans had 16 strikeouts on the day, but that didn’t prevent Wladyka from hanging on until the very end.

In a deadlocked game entering the sixth inning, the Scorpions were threatening with runners on second and third after Duke commit, Chase Cheek, provided a late game, two-run single to give the Scorpions a 2-0 lead and the eventual win.

“We proved that we could play with anyone in the country: Orlando, California, North Carolina, you name it. We can compete with anyone,” Lange said.

In a recent power ranking, Wladyka Baseball was ranked nationally as the 77th best travel team and third in NJ by Perfect Game USA, the world’s largest baseball scouting service.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized nationally, hopefully next year with a playoff appearance in Georgia, we can move higher on the list, maybe even first,” Lange said.

But before that, Lange has the Glen Rock High School baseball season, as he’s projected to be this year’s first baseman.

Glen Rock’s first game is at 4 p.m. at home against Ridgefield Park on Friday, April 3rd.