MARIETTA, GA. – In what was a highly competitive extra inning affair, West Raleigh 12u prevailed over Home Plate Vandy 6-3 in the championship game of the 12u BCS Finals at the East Cobb Baseball Complex. After another multiple hour rain delay pushed the start time of the game back, it was only fitting that the final game of the tournament went nine innings.
After trailing 2-0 heading into the top of the sixth inning, West Raleigh 12u tied the score, held Home Plate scoreless in the bottom half of the inning, and forced the game into extra innings. With both teams not willing to be content with second place, great pitching and defense led to neither team scoring in the seventh or the eighth. Then, in the ninth inning, West Raleigh exploded for four runs thanks to a bases clearing triple by Lane Rhodes. In the bottom half of the ninth, with Home Plate already having scored one run and threatening, West Raleigh 12u shut the door and won the game 6-3.
For West Raleigh, an all-star team from North Carolina, their tournament goal was achieved and then some with this victory.
“It’s kind of a surprise,” West Raleigh coach Bryan Holjes said of winning the tournament. “We came down here just hoping to make it to bracket play. That was really the goal. We looked at it as a prep tournament to prep us for the Cal Ripken all star stuff we’ll be playing in later on this summer. We wanted to come and be as competitive as we could.”
They put together an impressive 8-0-1 record throughout the week. After receiving the number four seed after pool play, West Raleigh rolled to a 9-2 victory in the quarterfinals. In their semi-final matchup against the number one seeded IBAHS Knights from Puerto Rico, they did what no team had been able to do all weekend: beat the Knights. West Raleigh used a great pitching performance from Garrett McCraw, who also received the MVP award for the tournament. His performance led the team to a 7-3 victory, and a berth into the championship game.
Home Plate Vandy had a bye into the semi-finals after receiving the number two seed out of bracket play. Their 7-1 victory over S3 Texas pushed their record to a perfect 7-0 heading into the championship game. Their pitching was a big reason why they were in the final game, and one of their starting pitchers, Clayton Weatherly, took home the MV-Pitcher award.
Throughout the entire game, both teams had stellar pitching. The first three and a half innings of the game looked like whoever was going to score first would win the game. When Home Plate’s Derek Radtke blasted a 2-run homerun in the fourth inning to give them a 2-0 lead, Home Plate looked primed to take the title. It was not until the sixth inning that West Raleigh responded as McCraw tied the game on a swinging bunt infield single.
“They just kept plugging away,” Holjes said. “I was proud of them. They never hung their heads. We’ve been scoring a lot of runs. That kid that started for them [Home Plate] really did an excellent job pitching. He didn’t just throw the ball he pitched. We had a hard time scoring for a long time.”
“That second kid that came in was a really good pitcher too. Again, they kept battling and never hung their heads. They kept going out and making good plays on defense. We just kept clawing away until something positive happened.”
Heading into the top of the sixth inning, West Raleigh had a tough decision to make. They needed base runners, and they needed to do something to keep them in the game. Holjes admits they thought about changing their approach at the plate.
“In the sixth inning we talked about taking a strike and decided not to,” Holjes explained. “We decided we wanted the kids to stay aggressive at the plate rather than starting to get passive.”
“We never told them to back off. We told them to keep their foot on the gas and keep doing what they have been doing all weekend and positive things would start happening”
That non-decision ultimately paid off in the long run for them. And amidst being down in the last inning and a close home run called foul hit by their starting pitcher Nolan McLean, West Raleigh persevered and came out on top. When asked what the team would do to celebrate the big tournament win, Holjes laughed and said, “We have to drive home.”
2014 12u BCS Finals runnerup: Home Plate Vandy
2014 12u BCS Finals MVP: Garrett McCraw
2014 12u BCS Finals MV-Pitcher: Clayton Weatherly