Photo: Tyler Andrews

Ready to finish the job

Tournaments : : Story
Tyler Andrews        
Published: Monday, June 23, 2014

MARIETTA, Ga. – The last day of pool play at the 12u BCS Finals at the East Cobb Baseball Complex was anything but normal. With the quarterfinals scheduled to start at 5:00 PM and many teams playing throughout the day vying for a playoff spot, there was a great deal of uncertainty for teams whether they would be the select few that made it into bracket play. Then, the sirens at East Cobb went off. To add to the uncertainty, there was over a four-hour lightning delay. Now, teams were not as much concerned with whether they would make it past pool play but whether they would play at all. 

For Home Plate Vandy, they were part of a group of teams that played early enough in the day to finish their game. With both teams sporting a 2-0 pool record, Home Plate’s game against the Dunwoody Dragons would give the winner a berth into bracket play. In a low scoring affair, Home Plate came out victorious 3-0, and they advanced into bracket play. Starting pitching Clayton Weatherly was marvelous. He pitched all six innings, allowing just two hits, and no earned runs. His seven strikeouts and no walks further added to the greatness of his performance. 

With their victory, they knew they were assured one of the top six seeds, but they were unsure whether they would get the second seed and a bye to the semi-finals tomorrow or if they would receive the third seed and have to play a second game later tonight in the quarterfinals. This would all be based off of the outcome of the 1:30 PM game between S3 Texas and the Greenville Titans. The situation was simple. If S3 won and they gave up less than two runs, then Home Plate would receive the number three seed. If S3 lost or they won and gave up more than two runs, then Home Plate would receive the number two seed. So, the waiting game started for Home Plate. Then, right before the start of the 1:30 PM games, the inclement weather came. This further added to the team’s wait. For head coach Greg Vandagriff and his players, it was not an ideal situation. 

“We got up early this morning,” Vandagriff said. “We had to play at 9:00 (AM). So a lot of us got up at 5:00 (AM) or 5:30 (AM) and had to be here to play. Then, we anticipated possibly playing at 5:00 (PM). And, a lot of the kids live in Macon, which is two hours away.” 

“We were very fortunate some kids live around here. So about for or five stayed at a guy’s house, and some went and saw a movie. So, it was ok, but like we said the worst part about baseball is sitting around.” 

When play finally resumed, the team turned their focus towards the game that affected when they would play their next game. Sitting in the stands ready to play if need be, the Home Plate players, along with their coaches and parents, watched intently. Through the first two innings, it looked as if S3 Texas would run away with the game and grab the second seed. But, in the bottom of the third inning, Greenville scored two runs. And, when the game ended, Greenville had scored a total of five runs. Even though S3 won the game and finished 3-0 in their pool, Home Plate received the second seed on a runs allowed tiebreaker. Vandagriff breathed a sigh of relief knowing that his team would play one less game on their quest to the tournament title. 

“It’s huge right now,” Vandagriff said about getting the second seed. “It just saves pitching. The kid’s have played great all weekend, and to go 6-0 in such a big tournament has been very fortunate for us.” 

Their perfect record thus far in the tournament has been highlighted by a powerful offense. In their six games, they have scored an unbelievable 82 runs. More impressive were their 12 home runs hit by 9 different players. Their ability to hit up and down the lineup is something that has been extremely beneficial in guiding them to the semi-finals in this tournament.

“We have hit throughout the order,” explained Vandagriff. “And that’s been the biggest thing. When we score a lot of runs, we hit throughout the order meaning that our 8, 9, and 10 [hitters] are just as important as our 1, 2, and 3 [hitters].”

A team with this kind of talent is usually due to the chemistry of the group of kids that make it up. This Home Plate Vandy team is no different. The team has been together for four years, pulling kids from all different parts of the state of Georgia. Their familiarity with one another on the field is really what set them apart from most teams. As summed up by Vangadriff, their play is all about “just consistency.” They are simply consistent in the way they play each game because of how long they have been playing together. 

Heading into the final day of the tournament tomorrow, the team looks to keep up their consistent ways and bring a championship back to Home Plate. 

“At this point everybody is good,” Vandagriff said. “Just take it one game at a time. We know we will go out there and do our best. In baseball anything can happen, so we hope we are on the right side of it.” 

With only two wins needed to win it all, this team looks ready to finish off their great run.

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