MARIETTA, Ga. - How does this sound as a perfect recipe for success:
"We're just going out there and we're throwing a lot of strikes right now and we're not (giving) a lot of free bases out there. We're making all the routine plays and we're putting a lot of people on base. We're playing good, aggressive baseball, stealing a lot of bases and putting pressure on the other teams."
Those were the words spoken by SC Shockwave 17U (National) head coach Lee Gronkiewicz on Friday afternoon after he helped guide his team to its third straight one-sided victory at the 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. Shockwave 17U's win Friday was a 9-0, five-inning walk-in-the-park past the East Cobb Dodgers in a game played at Kell High School, right across the street from the East Cobb Baseball Complex.
SC Shockwave 17U (National)'s stroll through pool play the last three days was nothing short of breathtaking. 17U (National) - there is also a SC Shockwave 17U (American) playing in the tournament - needed only 13 innings to dispose of three opponents by a combined score of 33-1.
The onslaught began on Wednesday with a 15-0, three-inning win over the Pittsburgh Dirtbags. And then the Nationals needed only five innings to beat the East Cobb Giants, 9-1, on Thursday before dispatching the EC Dodgers on Friday.
The 16-team playoffs, which are not seeded this year, begin Saturday.
"The next round is going to be a great competition for us," Gronkiewicz said. "It was just the luck of the draw with the (pool pairings) that we were able to have some shortened games and save some pitching for the next round."
The pitching couldn't have been any more stellar for the Nationals during pool-play. Left-handers Hunter Hill (2013, Little Mountain, S.C.) and Stephen McKnight (2012, Easly, S.C.), and righty Zach Mitchell (2013, Bowling Springs, S.C.) combined to allow only one run on six hits in 13 innings (0.54 ERA) while striking out 20 and walking but three.
"They all pound the zone with strikes and they all compete," Gronkiewicz said of his pitchers. "The key in a wood bat tournament is not giving up free bases. We've got to go out there and pound the zone and let the guys put it in play, and I love our defensive play; we've got good athletes behind (the pitchers)."
Some of those good athletes include NCAA Division I commits Tucker Burgess (2013, Easly, S.C.) who has committed to Clemson; Dillon Palencia (2013, Cowpens, S.C.), to Winthrop; and Corey Thompson (Mauldin, S.C.), a South Carolina recruit.
Another South Carolina recruit that was on the SC Shockwave 17U (National) roster but was a no-show this week was Jamie Callahan; he was taken in the second round of the MLB amateur draft by the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.
The hitting stars for the squad over the first three days of play here have been Hayden Heflin (2013, Summerville, S.C.), Thatcher Coleman (2013, Bishopville, S.C.) and Thompson. Heflin was 4-for-6 with three doubles and six RBI; Coleman 4-for-5 with four RBI; and Thompson 4-for-6 with four RBI. All 11 batters who went to the plate in the first three games collected at least one hit and Shockwave 17u (National) hit .459 as a team.
Again, it's the perfect recipe for success.
"We set up our pitching rotation with the hope that we'd be playing on Saturday and hopefully be playing on Sunday. This is what we expect from this team," Gronkiewicz said. "We have a good nucleus of returning players and guys (committing) to college already; these guys are mostly D-I guys who are going to be playing."
Shockwave Baseball, based in Columbia, S.C., came into existence in 2005 with a stated mission to promote "an atmosphere conducive to continuous improvement and enhancing the learning process while setting new standards for Character, Commitment and Work Ethic on and off the field", according to its website.
Gronkiewicz is in his first season helping coach with the organization. He previously coached the Columbia (S.C.) Blowfish in the summer collegiate Coastal Plains League, and also played professionally for nine years. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 2001 and spent nine years in the minor leagues.
He did get to sample The Show, however. He pitched in one game for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007, and gave up one run on two hits in four innings of work. It was his only big league appearance.
The first round of the playoffs at all three PG-EC Invitational tournaments - 14u/15u, 16u and 17u/ - begin on Saturday. The brackets will be posted at http://www.perfectgame.org as soon as possible Friday evening.