Jake Gordon couldn’t imagine a better way to prepare for his first season of college baseball than suiting up for another summer with Academy Elite.
The North Shore Country Day graduate played with the Glenview-based club for the third year, and Gordon said this squad was the best one yet.
The 18U Nationals completed its season with a championship Sunday at the Diamond Sports Promotion World Series at Illinois State. Academy Elite beat the DuPage Dragons 15-5 for the title to finish 7-0 in Bloomington.
“This is great preparation for college baseball, no matter what level you will play on,” said Gordon, who will play at Division III Lawrence University in Wisconsin.
According to Academy Elite’s website, 12 players on the Nationals are committed to play college baseball, including Loyola graduate Pat Rahill, who is heading to Notre Dame. Every player graduated high school this year except Lane’s Cody Davis, who will be a senior.
“This is by far the best team I’ve been on here,” said Gordon, who played second base for the Nationals. “The talent was unbelievable on this team. Everybody in the lineup could hit.”
Academy Elite scored a tournament-best 65 runs. The Nationals beat the Central Illinois Outlaws 15-3 in the semifinals before topping the DuPage Dragons by 10 runs in the championship game.
Gordon said the team’s 5-4 win over the DuPage Diamondbacks probably was the game that pushed the Nationals to the title.
“We had a big comeback against them, and I think it gave us the confidence to keep going,” he said. “We then played with so much energy.”
Phil Apostle, the club’s president, said he believed this group was destined for greatness early on this summer.
“You could tell they were special,” he said. “It all culminated in a fantastic finish. They really jelled at the right time.
“It was a bunch of kids that really enjoyed playing with each other.”
This was the second year in a row the Nationals won a summer-ending tournament under coach Zach Martin, a New Trier graduate. Academy Elite finished last year with a championship in Iowa City, Iowa, with several of the same players.
Like Gordon, Charlie Apfelbach played with Academy Elite for three years. The Glenbrook North graduate started in center field for the Nationals at Illinois State last weekend. He had two hits in the championship game.
“We had high expectations,” said Apfelbach, who will play at Denison. “It was a great team effort, and everything went perfectly.”
Apfelbach’s success this summer came after the Spartans went 33-4 in the spring and played for a supersectional championship. Glenbrook North graduates Jason Pomeroy, Ryan Slawin and Sean Thomas also played for the Nationals. Pomeroy, a late addition to the team, started on the mound for the title game Sunday.
“What a way to end my high school career,” Apfelbach said. “Hopefully, this will carry on. I’m ready to take on the next challenge.”