It sounds much like a common situation in Major League Baseball – a team is short a starting pitcher, it makes a call to one of its minor league affiliates and rushes a healthy arm to the big leagues for a start.
That same opportunity presented itself to Polk County Middle School eighth grader Gunnar Alm, who got an unexpected chance to pitch – and be part of a national championship – in the 2020 World Wood Bat Association 14U World Championship, held Oct. 16-19 in Panama City, Fla.
Alm left Columbus early on the morning of October 17, bound for Iva, S.C. to compete in a tournament with Canes South 2024 Regional Team, his normal travel squad. Alm often trains with Mike Williams, the pitching coach for Canes National 2025, the travel organization’s top-level squad, and Williams made the call on that Saturday morning that changed Alm’s weekend plans.
“They had some sore arms, so Mike called to ask Gunnar if he could come pitch,” said Billy Alm, Gunnar’s father and the head baseball coach at Polk County High School.
So the Alms left South Carolina and made the drive to Florida and the WWBA tourney, which featured 36 teams from around the nation. Canes National finished 3-0 in pool play and earned the fifth seed in the tournament’s single-elimination bracket.
Canes’ first game in the elimination round came against Richmond Braves 14U American, and Alm received the start for that matchup. The left-hander made the most of the chance, pitching six and two-thirds innings and striking out five while earning the victory in a 4-2 triumph.
Canes National went on to finish the tourney a perfect 7-0, claiming the championship with a 4-0 win over Team Orlando 14U in the final.
For his effort, Alm was named to the event’s All-Tournament team.