EMERSON, Ga. – The Memphis, Tenn. based Memphis Tigers are representing their city and state well so far in the 15u WWBA National Championship, getting off to a 3-0 start in pool play after a sound 4-0 win Sunday morning over the D1 Renegades.
“Winning is contagious, so hopefully we can continue winning,” said Memphis head coach Dale Perritt. “They [the players] know our expectation is to come down here and win seven in a row to get to the next level. The biggest thing is the kids understanding how we have to get there. It’s a game-by-game basis and we can’t look too far ahead.”
Behind another great pitching performance, which seems to be the trend for the Tigers so far, Memphis was able to pull out the win despite stringing together just five base hits.
“So far our pitching’s been really strong, we just have to get the bats going as we face tougher competition,” said Perritt. “Before we got here the bats were working really well. We expect our pitching to be good throughout.”
Cory Simmons tossed a complete game shutout, giving up just two hits while striking out seven Renegades hitters. He showed exceptional command on the mound, tossing 67 of his 84 pitches for strikes and he kept the ball low, resulting in 11 groundouts.
“You can’t ask for anything better than that,” Perritt said. “The two hits both could’ve been outs. He could’ve thrown a no-hitter.”
Simmons is the third Tigers pitcher in three games to throw a complete seven-inning game. Right-handed pitcher Bailey Wimberley went the distance in the team’s opening game, giving up just one earned run en route to a 5-4 win over the Blue Chip Bulls. Fellow righty Jacob Sawyers tossed a gem the next day on the way to a 3-0 win over Chain Gold. He gave up just three hits and a walk while collecting five strikeouts on just 79 pitches.
“Our defense and pitching is, by far, where we are strongest,” said Perritt. “We’re not gonna make many errors, we’re gonna make a lot of plays, we’ve got a lot of athletes on the field, and we’ve got a lot of speed on the field.”
Pitching has been the story thus far, though. The team has combined for a 0.33 earned run average (1 earned run through 21 innings pitched) with a 16:6 strikeout/walk ratio. While all that goes a long way towards winning baseball games, Perritt believes it’s the team chemistry that separates this team from the pack.
“They all get along, they love to play the game, and they love each other,” Perritt said. “There’s no animosity whatsoever. They cheer for each other, even when they’re sitting the bench and that’s what you’ve gotta have.”
According to the Memphis Tigers website, the foundation of Memphis Tigers Baseball’s history began in 1966 with the formation of a youth baseball team called the Davis Park Tigers. The Davis Park Tigers started by playing a 50 game schedule in a local little league
In 1969, four men by the names of Keith Hagan, Don Mills, Frank Donato, and Bob Chase chartered the nonprofit East Memphis Boys Athletic Association and were able to financially support multiple teams who competed under the East Memphis Tigers name.
Sometime in the 1970’s the organization dropped ‘East’ and became the Memphis Boys Athletic Association which, according to the website, was to reflect the continuously expanding community that the organization represented.
Today the organization plays under the name Memphis Tigers and enjoy continued success of helping kids reach their goals of playing baseball at the next level, whether that be college or professional.
“It’s a class organization and we expect excellence not only on the field, but in the classroom and just being good kids,” said Perritt. “We represent local kids. We wanna take care of kids in our town within about a 100-mile radius. We take pride in competing at a high level with local kids.”
For the high school class of 2014, Perritt estimates around 32 players had committed to play at a college or university, with about half of them going to Division I programs.
The Memphis Tigers players also have the help of former Major League players as coaches and mentors to the program, bringing experience and a unique insight into the game with them.
Those names include the 16u head coach David West, a former southpaw who pitched in the Major Leagues for ten seasons, and organization president Andy Cook, who had a cup of coffee with the New York Yankees in 1993 when they won the World Series. He has a World Series ring to prove it.
Tucker Ashford, the second overall draft pick in the 1974 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, is also helping Perritt with the 15u team.
“They bring the experience of understanding the big picture of the game and bring it to a focus for the kids of ‘what is our goal; what are we working toward’,” said Perritt. “The rewarding part is to see all these kids get scholarships and move on and still play the game at the next level. I’m excited to see what they do in the future.”
While the Memphis Tigers are hopeful of making the 15u WWBA National Championship playoff bracket and maybe hoisting the championship trophy on June 27th, Perritt reiterates the importance of keeping focus on the immediate task at hand.
“We know we have the [East Cobb] Astros as our last game and we know that’s a big name down here, but we’ve gotta keep our focus on one game at a time.”