Two goliaths met at jetBlue Park Sunday afternoon in the form of baseball players from two elite travel baseball organizations. It was a fitting way to end a successful inaugural season to Perfect Game’s new Super25 tournament series. It was East Cobb that came out swinging the bigger club this particular afternoon, soundly defeating FTB, 6-0, in an impressive display of offense, pitching, and defense.
“It’s pretty special, it being the inaugural event, and it’s one that we went into the summer really wanting to win,” said East Cobb head coach Kevin Baldwin. “Winning the regional at our place was cool and then getting a chance to come down here and play the other regional winners is cool and we’re happy about it.”
The Astros set the pace from the start, putting a run on the board in the top of the first inning before their star pitcher, Braxton Garrett, had a chance to even take the mound.
Malique Foreman collected a one-out single to center field on a well-hit line drive before, two batters later, Rankin Woley drove him in with a line drive single to left field to begin his impressive 4-for-4 day at the plate.
The following inning, Brenton Burgess was able to drive in Xzavion Curry with a single through the 5-6 hole to tack on the team’s second run, which was more than enough for the left-handed Garrett to pitch behind.
East Cobb’s biggest offensive output came in the top of the third inning after Carter Kieboom connected for a one-out single to right field to score Woley from third. Curry then hit into a fielder’s choice, which brought in John Devine, who reached base with a well-struck double to right field. The East Cobb Astros took a 4-0 lead early, scoring in each of the first three innings and leaving everyone curious as to how FTB planned on cooling off the hot Astros bats.
After a quick 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning for Garrett, the Astros offense was on display once again. Devine came up clutch with a two-out single with the bases loaded, scoring Conor Davis and tallying another run to make it 5-0.
Doing it with two outs once again, Will Benson, ranked No. 30 nationally in the 2016 high school class, slugged a hard ground ball single before Woley stroked a line drive single to left field that scored Benson from second.
The unpredictable Florida summer weather then reared its ugly head and after an hour and a half of waiting, the rain showed no signs of letting up and the East Cobb Astros 16u were crowned champions of the inaugural Perfect Game 16u Super25 National Championship.
The Astros were able to scratch 16 runs out of the lineup, while letting Garrett do what he does best: dominate hitters with exceptional command and an aggressive fastball.
“It’s always nice when you can go through a tournament and get to the end and not have used your best guy,” Baldwin said. “We feel like every time we get into a game and he’s out there we have a great chance of winning.”
Garrett was on, throwing five shutout innings and giving up just four hits and a walk, while collecting nine strikeouts in the championship victory.
“I just came out trying to pound the zone and help the team win in any way I can,” said Garrett. “Everything was working. Towards the end I started losing command of my fastball, but I picked it up a little bit and finished strong.”
Despite Garrett’s brief moment of command issues, he never looked uncomfortable or affected by the issues. After his team came out swinging the bats and getting on base at an impressive rate, there was no reason for Garrett to worry. His teammates gave him more than enough support.
“I was hoping I would get some run support early and I did, so I owe a huge thanks to my teammates,” Garrett said.
Efficiency was the key to Garrett’s impressive performance. He threw just 72 pitches through five innings of work and was warming up on the mound for the sixth inning before the stadium sirens sounded, alerting everyone of the lightning in the area. Garrett retired 10 hitters on three pitches or less and started each of his five innings with a leadoff out.
He kept hitters off balance the entire outing, throwing a fastball that sat between 86-89 mph and topped at 90 mph, while displaying positive command for his curveball, which he threw 25 times and proved to be a good out-pitch.
“He was dominating with three pitches in any count and getting ahead of guys with a fastball and putting them away with a breaking ball,” said Baldwin. “When he’s throwing it over the plate, he’s tough to hit.”
John Devine and Malique Foreman paced the East Cobb offense through the eight-game tournament. Devine finished with a .545 batting average (12-for-22), collecting three doubles, two RBI, and scoring three runs. Foreman finished with a .481 batting average (12-for-27) and tallied a double, two RBI, and five runs. Nine different batters collected base hits in Sunday afternoon’s championship game.
“Everybody swung the bats great today,” Baldwin said.
The offense didn’t start the tournament hot, however. Coming off a CABA title just a week ago behind another dominant performance from Garrett, the bats must’ve cooled off somewhere between Atlanta and Fort Myers.
The first pool play game for the Astros ended in a scoreless tie before they decided to get it going again. From then on, they finished 7-0 and outscored opponents, 32-7 en route to the title. Wins over the Dallas Tigers-Arias on back-to-back days sent East Cobb on to the championship game.
Until this time next year, the diamond-shaped 16u Super25 trophy will reside within the confines of the East Cobb Baseball Complex in Marietta, Georgia, where the Astros 16u team have earned the title of 2014 Perfect Game Super25 inaugural champions.