Hall of Famers highlight Urban Invitational
UCLA, Southern victorious on Day 2 of tournament
COMPTON, Calif. -- With two Hall of Famers on hand, MLB Network providing live coverage and college marching bands blaring, it was a festive atmosphere on the second day of the Urban Invitational presented by the U.S. Army at the MLB Urban Youth Academy on Saturday.
It was the marquee day for the three-day tournament, which helps spotlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities by giving them national exposure. Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and Southern University (Baton Rouge, La.) appeared in the tournament for the third consecutive year, along with UCLA and Cal State Northridge.
Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Rod Carew as well as former MVP and Cy Young Award winner Don Newcombe helped make it a star-studded day, kicking off the day's first game by throwing ceremonial first pitches to former Dodgers greats Kenny Landreaux, Tommy Davis and Al Downing.
That first game matched the exciting atmosphere, as Southern won a 12-9 thriller over Cal State Northridge in a game televised live by MLB Network. Victor Rojas and Harold Reynolds called the action, and the games were also streamed live on MLB.com.
"It looked ugly early, but we made it look beautiful real late," Southern coach Roger Cador said. "I felt we could be decent offensively and maybe not hit the ball out of the park, but get piecemeal runs and make things happen, and that's what we did today."
Northridge led early, 4-0, and had a two-run lead in the seventh inning before Southern broke out for five runs in the bottom of the seventh, anchored by James Armstrong's three-run triple.
For his efforts, Armstrong -- who also scored two runs -- was named the game's MVP along with Northridge's Billy Swanson, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI. Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations; academy director Darrell Miller; Col. Victor Petrenko; and Command Sgt. Major Victor Rivera were on hand to present the awards.
"It's an honor and privilege to get an award like that," said Armstrong. "We had to make some adjustments and play better fundamental baseball, and I think we did a good job of that today."
It was a frustrating loss for Northridge considering that it won in an 18-4 rout over Bethune-Cookman in the first day of the tournament, but Matadors coach Steve Rousey offered no excuses.
"They hit the ball, so what are you going to do?" Rousey said. "It's not like we walked a bunch of guys, so we have to give them credit. We threw some hittable pitches, so we need to work on that."
Meanwhile, No. 23-ranked UCLA continued its impressive run in the tournament with a comfortable 10-3 win over Bethune-Cookman, one day after a 16-2 rout of Southern on Friday.
Sophomore right-hander Trevor Bauer allowed three runs on just four hits over eight innings while striking out 13. Steve Rodriguez hit two solo home runs, and Marc Navarro hit a two-run homer.
Bauer was named the MVP of the game, and Bethune-Cookman's Justin Hoyte was named MVP for his team after hitting a two-run homer. But Bauer was happier about his team's win than his MVP performance.
"I'm not going to deny that it's pretty cool and fun to happen, but as far as personal goals, it's not really motivation," Bauer said. "I'm more about team stuff."
Though Bauer didn't boast about his masterful performance, his coach, John Savage, couldn't help but gush.
"Trevor is really good," Savage said. "He's got a repertoire of pitches, with a four-pitch mix, and can hit 94 [mph]. He's special. He just really competes."
Bethune-Cookman, which has won four consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles, surprisingly is the only team without a win in the tournament, and has been outscored by a combined 28-4 margin.
"It's definitely not what we anticipated or how we wanted to start our season, but things like that are going to arise, so we just have to learn from it," coach Mervyl Melendez said. "Trevor Bauer was unbelievable today. Sometimes you just have to give credit where it's due."
But the day brought much more than just baseball. Perhaps the most exciting part of the festivities was a battle of the bands between Southern University's "Human Jukebox" and Bethune-Cookman's "Marching Wildcats." Both bands electrified the crowd and provided plenty of entertainment between the first and second game.
"This is exciting," Armstrong said. "You have the band out here and four great teams playing. It's a great environment, and a good place to play, so we're enjoying it."
The day began with a high school battle of the bands featuring Compton High School and Dominguez High School before the academy held a clinic for local Little Leaguers and its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.
The academy also hosted a college fair for the third consecutive year, with more than 20 colleges and universities providing information to parents and young adults regarding college preparation, undergraduate and graduate degree programs, financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
It was all part of an exciting day at the Urban Youth Academy that couldn't help but impress the participants.
"I think it's just wonderful," Cador said. "The competition we face is a great measuring stick for us and a wonderful opportunity for our players with it being on MLB Network. So it's just a huge thing for us."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.