EMERSON, Ga. – Just two weeks removed from being crowned 2014 15u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational champions, the Georgia Jackets again flexed their muscles and pulled out the 15u WWBA National Championship title with a 5-0 shutout over Tri State Arsenal Showcase 1-Rizzo Friday morning at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint.
“It’s been crazy, but I’m just glad we’ve been able to pull it out,” said tournament Most Valuable Player Chaney Rogers. “It’s been really good competition, so this is really big for us.”
The Jackets struck for four runs in the top of the first to break a scoreless ballgame, taking away any momentum Tri State might have had.
Javier Valdes led off the inning with a double hit down the right field line before eventually coming around to score on a fielding miscue the very next at-bat. The Jackets took advantage of a couple of walks before Will Lumpkin connected for a sacrifice fly to left field. Kale Ledford capped off the big inning with an RBI single to left field, which made it a 4-0 ballgame.
The Jackets a added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Mitch McLendon laid down a squeeze bunt to score Lawson Hill which made it 5-0.
Valdes tossed a gem for the Georgia Jackets – a seven inning four-hit shutout. He gave up just four hits while tallying four strikeouts. Valdes mastered his command in the game, throwing 70 of his 91 pitches for strikes and starting off 20 of the 27 batters he faced with first-pitch strikes.
“This was Javy’s first big game he’s really pitched so it was great for him to step up for us,” Rogers said. “Our pitching staff’s really deep. We had a couple kids really step up today.”
“Javy, primarily a shortstop, came out here and pitched in this big game and did great,” added Georgia Jackets head coach Jeff Auterson. “The thing I’m most proud of is we ended up starting off pool play with a loss, and we ended up battling our way out of the trenches, still having some belief, opportunities fell our way and the boys kept playing.”
The Georgia Jackets began the tournament with a doubleheader on day one, where they fell to Adrenaline Elite, 6-5, in the tail end of the two games. The Jackets kicked it into high gear after that, finishing the tournament with ten straight wins, including an incredible four straight shutouts.
The Jackets were at their best when it mattered most, turning in some impressive performances on the mound and with the bat. In those four games they outscored their opponents 33-0.
The highlight of Thursday’s bracket play was the perfect game tossed by Jackets right-hander Weston Bizzle. It marked the first ever seven-inning perfect game recorded at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint.
“It was phenomenal,” Auterson said. “For a 15-year-old to go out and do what he did and keep his composure is phenomenal. This was just one of those exceptional moments where he shined and everybody was able to see it.”
It took Bizzle just 87 pitches to throw the game of his life, with 65 of those pitches being strikes. He punched out 12 hitters in the gem and displayed a live fastball that touched 90 mph (miles per hour) and sat in the mid-80’s the entire ballgame.
“My fastball was getting on people more often than usual and my curveball was working well,” said Bizzle. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work and I just knew that nobody was gonna hit me that day. I tried too hard and put too much in to let somebody take that away from me.”
It was Bizzle’s third perfect game of his young career. He had thrown his second just last year as a member of the East Cobb Astros. Bizzle was a major contributor to the outstanding 1.77 team earned run average (ERA) the team combined to tally through 75 innings of work.
Southpaw Austin Weiermiller also stood out on the mound for the Georgia Jackets, throwing 17 innings over the week and giving up just two earned runs (0.82 ERA) while collecting 16 strikeouts. The Milton, Ga. native tossed a complete game shutout in Friday’s semifinal matchup against Elite Baseball Training-Kopacz, surrendering just three hits and a walk in the 83-pitch effort.
“Weiermiller threw a tremendous game this morning,” said Auterson. “Great pitching by both guys today.”
It wasn’t just the pitching that carried the weight for the Jackets. The team took care of business with the wood as well, collectively hitting .336 (103-for-307) with 33 extra-base hits. The offense was paced by tournament MVP Chaney Rogers.
The left-handed hitting Ringgold, Ga. native finished the tournament 14-for-31 (.452 batting average) with six extra-base hits, 12 RBI, 13 runs, and a .528 on-base percentage.
“He was just flat-out seeing it,” Auterson said of Rogers’ performance at the plate. “He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a guy you’re going to be watching for years to come. He just swung the bat tremendous; big hits in big games.”
“I started off a little slow in pool play, but kind of caught fire towards the end and then in bracket play,” added Rogers.
Rogers was a major cog to the Jackets offense that put up 94 runs over their 12-game tournament, averaging almost eight runs per game. He was one of four Jackets who hit .400 or better.
“A couple things fell our way and the guys started feeling it at the plate, said Auterson. “Overall, morale was good. They fought it out and became a team this week, so I think that’s really the big gist of our success is they came together.”
“We battled really hard,” Bizzle said. “Our team always puts in the work. We work really hard in the weight room and on the practice field.”
“It’s a brotherhood,” added Rogers. “It always has been and always will be. We’ve got a lot of athletic kids, a bunch of big kids; we’ve got a great team going.”
Tri State Arsenal Showcase 1-Rizzo southpaw Jason Groome took home the Most Valuable Pitcher honors for the tournament. The 6-foot-5 lefty had a no-hitter going in Thursday’s playoff game against the San Diego Show before a one hour rain delay forced him to end his outing before recording the last two outs.
Groome struck out 10 batters in 6.1 innings of work, while walking just three. His pitch count was at 106 when the rain forced the delay, playing a role as to why he could not come back out to finish it off. He sat between 85-90 mph and topped out at 92.
“I felt really good on the mound yesterday,” said Groome. “To be out on the mound was a nice experience on this field."
“My fastball was working for me yesterday. My changeup and curveball weren’t really working that good, so I just stuck to what I do best, which is throwing heat,” said a grinning Groome.
He was able to throw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 23 hitters he faced.
“My strength is probably my ability to throw first-pitch strikes,” Groome said. “I just look to throw strike one and let my offspeed do the work.”
The Arsenal started the tournament off 10-0 before falling to the Jackets in the championship game. They outscored their opponents 83-30 on the tournament, compiling a .294 batting average and 2.30 ERA in the process.
“All of us just come together as one,” said Groome. “Everyone likes each other on this team. We’re all just one big family.”
2014 15u WWBA National Championship: Tri-State Arsenal Showcase 1-Rizzo
2014 15u WWBA National Championship MVP: Chaney Rogers, Georgia Jackets
2014 15u WWBA National Championship MV-Pitcher: Jason Groome, Tri-State Arsenal Showcase 1-Rizzo