Bryan Loriga Wins World Championship

Hat’s off to Bryan Loriga.

Behind an unforgettable performance in Sunday’s POWER SHOWCASE championship at Miami Marlins Park, Loriga swung his way to becoming the newest World Champion. The Florida high school sophomore narrowly edged Malikai Wickley with an unprecedented and incredibly dramatic conclusion in which he made his title push when down to his final out.

After taking the Underclassmen Group title with his showing, Loriga then waited out the five finalists in the Featured Group to emerge as the overall group leader with 11 total home runs in the finals. From an out away from defeat, suddenly Loriga found himself wearing the title of World Champion.

“This feels amazing right now that I just pulled this off,” Loriga said. “It just feels amazing.”

Loriga is no stranger to the POWER SHOWCASE, after competing in the last two Miami events and also winning the 2017 15U title. Now he has reached the mountaintop at the POWER SHOWCASE with a title and recognition that can never be taken away.

Wickley certainly did not make it easy for him, after also delivering an impressive show that had the Texas slugger holding a comfortable lead. Making some good swings and slowly building his lead after moving past fellow Underclassmen Group finalist Jon Johnson, Wickley sat on six home runs when he reached his final out. The high school junior reached within and found something special, finding his best swings and crushing four straight homers to build a comfortable lead with 10 total home runs.

“He is a great hitter and he hits,” Loriga said of Wickley. “He is a good ball player and he brought out the best in me.”

In a game as superstitious as baseball, fans certainly can agree that Loriga’s choice to toss aside his ball cap midway through his round may have made all the difference. With the cap on his head Loriga managed just four home runs and found himself down to his last three outs. Two straight jacks followed, including a 433-foot blast to deep center field. Loriga then found himself down to his last out with a long way still to go.

Five swings later Loriga’s fortunes had completely changed, as he clubbed bomb after bomb and refused to lose with the title taste nearly in his mouth. A 368-foot shot cleared left field, then two straight soared over the Budweiser bar on the left field concourse, including the farthest home run of the entire showcase at 457 feet. A 373-foot bomb to left evened things up with Wickley, and Loriga then completed the trip to Titletown by crushing a 425-foot shot to left field.

“I didn’t really want to watch it because I knew I was going to be nervous the entire time,” Wickley admitted. “Bryan did a heck of a job and hat’s off to him. I put up ten and I knew I had to make it interesting for him, because he won it last year. He is a power hitter, he knows his swing and he knows what he is doing. He gets to his backside really well and obviously he launches baseballs.”

Both finalists certainly exhibited their impressive mental toughness and fortitude. Together they combined for nine home runs on the final two outs of the round, proving that each is capable of delivering in the clutch when the stakes are the highest.

“I felt myself trying to get too big and not really in my swing,” Wickley said. “My swing is most powerful when I am short and quick to the ball, and I felt myself getting away from that. So on my last out I told myself, “Reset, take a couple of pitches, do your swing and just do what you do’. Hat’s off to Bryan; it was a heck of a job. This was a lot of fun and an experience I will remember forever.”

As the dust settled and reality of what he had accomplished set in, Loriga reflected on the unique path that his title run took. As one of the last participants in Friday’s Preliminary Round, he was the next in turn when the round was postponed due to curfew, which meant Loriga’s turn did not arrive until the next afternoon. But he shook that off and smacked his way to the group lead with 11 homers, which also earned him the privilege to select the batting order in the finals and set himself up to hit last.

“When I didn’t hit that day when I was waiting from 3:00 until 11:00 PM, I went home and thought about it and I felt that everything happens for a reason,” Loriga said. “It was probably better for me to get some rest and come back tomorrow and just hit. I tried to carry over what I did from the first round, but it almost didn’t work when I was one out away. But I pulled it out.”

 

By: Rick Duteau