In a national tournament where teams streamed in from all over the country and the talent overflowed, only one player would receive the ultimate honor of being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player: five-year veteran of the 16-and-under Delmarva Shorebirds, Luis Barrientos.
“I didn’t expect it,” Barrientos said this week of the MVP honor. “The whole team did [well] and every team down there was good.
“You had to be on your A game every game,” he added.
Barrientos, primarily a third-baseman, made his mark as a pitcher wherein he allowed nine hits over 16 1/3 innings pitched and earned a 2-1 record with 13 strikeouts. He proved to be the lynchpin for their United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) World Series Championship winning team.
He started only one game, a 4-1 loss to Puerto Rico, which was the Shorebirds’ lone loss in eight games, but he proved to be most valuable as a reliever, according to assistant head coach Fred Wetzelberger.
“Luis just walks out on the field and throws strikes,” Wetzelberger said. “He’s a great starter, but if we get into a jam we can always put him in there because he doesn’t get nervous.”
Barrientos’ first relief appearance in the tournament came in their first game against last year’s USSSA tournament champ, a Mizuno-sponsored Florida team, after they trailed 5-0 heading into the second inning. Barrientos pitched near-flawless baseball for 5 2/3 innings, allowing only one run, in the bottom of the seventh, before making way for Sean Baeder (Hodgson Vo-Tech High School) to get the final out in a 7-6 comeback victory.
His second relief appearance came in the championship game against the Puerto Rican team that had beaten him earlier in the tournament.
Barrientos took the loss hard, according to Wetzelberger, but responded by pitching five no-hit innings on their way to a 7-2 USSSA Championship victory.
“Luis was torn to pieces [about the loss] but he pitched a great game,” Wetzelberger said. “We just didn’t hit.
“He pitched three great games for us,” Wetzelberger added. “He has great location and mixes his pitches well. He’s very coachable and is constantly in the game.”
Barrientos said he’d prefer to start the game because he “can get ready to throw my game.” But as he’s at his corner infield position – one that earned him an honorable mention All-State selection this past spring for Indian River High School – he’s constantly assessing the batters, in case he’s called as a reliever.
“I’m always looking at the batters – what they’re swinging at and what they’re not, and I try not to put any pressure on myself,” he said.
Next season, Barrientos said, he plans to play Legion baseball for the Post 28 Sussex East Warriors and begin attending showcase camps to improve his skills in the hope that he will play collegiate baseball somewhere – preferably somewhere warm.
“I’d love to go to a really nice college that’s a good baseball college,” he said.
When asked if he had a dream choice, Barrientos said he was looking to Miami University.
But in a couple years, if Barrientos continues to develop, playing collegiate baseball won’t be a dream but a reality.
“Everybody in Sussex County knows Luis, and I have no doubt that, as his body matures and he puts on weight, he’ll develop into a college player,” Weztelberger said.