THE Guyana Football Federation (GFF) will kick off its nationwide U-20 tournament – the KFC Independence Cup – on April 27 (to May 20) with the regional playoffs, while the National playoffs will run from May 31 to June 9. Up for grabs – $500 000 for the winning team, while second and third will pocket $300 000 and $200 000 respectively.The Edward B. Beharry Group (under their KFC brand) is the titled sponsors for the tournament that will be played on a ‘win or go home’ format, featuring over 100 clubs, drawn from the GFF’s Regional Member Associations (RMA) for players born on or after January 1, 1999.Charissa Rampersaud, KFC Guyana Training Manager, reasoned that her entity’s role is not only to assist the country’s youth in realising their dream and reaching their optional, but also to be able to provide a platform that will see them grow in the sport.Rampersaud noted that KFC is delighted to be part of the footballing experience and that they’re looking forward to seeing the players in action.Ian Greenwood, the GFF’s Technical Director, speaking at the tournament’s launch yesterday at KFC’s Vlissengen Road location, spoke profoundly of the role the tournament plays in the development chart of the federation, the opportunities it will present the nation’s best players, especially since Guyana will compete at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, and the Independence Cup will be used to scout players.Meanwhile, GFF president Wayne Forde said the goal of the federation is to have leagues at the U-13, U-15, U-17, U-20 and the senior level, adding that “our (GFF) hope at the end of this format, the KFC group along with other non-competing partners will see the outcome of the tournament and will be able to sit and partner to help us to get to a point where we can run a full-fledged league with a similar play-off at the end.”Quizzed about how much scouting can be done in a knockout tournament, Forde noted that “the knock-out tournament is reduced as compared to a league; if we are able to do 25% scouting, it is 25% scouting that we were not able to do one week ago.”Meanwhile, he explained it is the company’s effort to help young persons to achieve their goals. It further aligns with KFC’s goal to assist young people in being well-rounded and productive members of society
The baseball team welcomed Wake Forest to Dedeaux Field this weekend, and the Trojans nabbed their first series win of the season to push their record above .500.The No. 21 Trojans took down the Demon Deacons 2-1 in the three-game series winning the first one 9-4 before dropping a 4-5 loss on Saturday. USC finished strong though with a 2-1 performance Sunday afternoon.The team still sat even with a 3-3 record when Sunday rolled around for the series finale. Senior Brent Wheatley took the mound, and the right-hander locked horns with Wake Forest sophomore Drew Loepprich in a pitchers duel. Wheatley turned in six strong innings of work, scattering one run, three hits and two walks throughout while striking out six batters, and the Trojans and Demon Deacons remained knotted at one run apiece through the top of the eighth inning.USC finally broke the deadlock in the bottom of the eighth. Senior outfielder David Oppenheim drew a one-out walk and redshirt junior Reggie Southall was put in as a pinch-runner. He promptly swiped second base and moved to third on a ground ball from junior catcher Jeremy Martinez, and Oppenheim scored on a wild pitch to push the Trojans in front. A clean inning from senior closer Marc Huberman sealed a 2-1 USC win and the team’s first series win of the season.Head coach Dan Hubbs praised his players’ fighting spirit when facing a pitcher who was on his game.“I was proud of them for grinding out a game,” Hubbs said. “We put up some runs over the first two days, and then we showed we could win a 2-1 game.”After a tough outing to begin his season last weekend, Wheatley said he took a simplified approach into Sunday’s start, and it paid dividends.“I had a different mentality,” he said. “I was just trying to throw hard and make good pitches.”Two games led up to Sunday’s deciding contest. Senior pitcher Kyle Davis toed the rubber for the Trojans to kick off the series on Friday, and the veteran right-hander turned in seven strong innings, however, he allowed four runs in a sloppy fifth inning. Martinez and freshman centerfielder Lars Nootbaar had big nights at the plate as the USC bats backed up their ace in a 9-4 win.“We saw the fastball a lot, and we took advantage of it,” Nootbaar said.Martinez, who smashed his first home run of the season on Friday, also tipped his hat to associate head coach Matt Curtis for preparing the offense for the Demon Deacons’ pitchers.“Give a lot of credit to coach Curtis,” Martinez said. “We had a scouting report … so I was just trying to stay inside, put a good swing, and [the ball] just happened to run right into my barrel.”Junior pitcher Bernardo Flores started game two, and like Davis the night before, fought through one tough inning but was sharp otherwise, allowing four runs across six frames of work. Flores left the game with the score knotted at four thanks to a game-tying solo shot from sophomore third baseman Adalberto Carrillo— his second of the season. Redshirt junior Joe Navilhon replaced Flores and struck out the side in order in his first inning of relief.After cruising through two innings, however, Navilhon ran into trouble in the top of the ninth. The right-hander made an errant throw to first base on a leadoff bunt attempt, and freshman first baseman Dillon Paulson dropped the throw from Carrillo on the subsequent sacrifice bunt.Senior pitcher Brooks Kriske then entered the game to try to put out the fire, but Martinez fired a low throw past Carrillo trying to pick off the runner at third, scoring the go-ahead run. The Trojans committed three errors in one inning and were unable to rally in the bottom of the ninth, dropping a 4-5 contest to set up Sunday’s deciding game.Although he was disappointed with the ninth inning fiasco, Hubbs said it shouldn’t have come down to that at all.“That’s not where the game was lost,” Hubbs said. “The game was lost when we left 14 guys on base. We had all sorts of opportunities to score a lot of runs, and we didn’t.”It is still early in the season, however, and Hubbs said his squad, carrying high expectations, just needed to settle down.“A lot of guys did some good things,” Hubbs said. “We just have to have some guys be able to relax in the moment and get it done.”Next up, the Trojans hit the road on Tuesday for a tough tilt against Long Beach State before a weekend that includes hosting Oklahoma and Mississippi State as well as the annual game against UCLA at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.