MARIETTA, Ga. – The young prospects from East Cobb Braves 17u collected a lifetime of baseball memories over about a 36-hour stretch Saturday and Sunday.
EC Braves 17u played a late first round playoff game Saturday night, swept aside a pair of opponents in placing games Sunday morning, then shutdown Team Alabama, 3-1, to win the championship at the 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational Sunday afternoon.
The championship win capped a 7-0 tournament for EC Braves 17u, with the final four wins coming in a flurry.
“I’m real proud of the guys, especially since we had a long rain delay in our first round game last night, then getting home late and having to turn around and get back at 7:30 (a.m.) for batting practice and play three games starting at 9,” Braves 17u head coach Kevin Baldwin said after watching his players accept their championship trophy and banner.
“It showed their resilience and their hearts so, yeah, I’m pretty proud of them.”
Braves 17u right-hander David Sosebee, a Georgia signee who was drafted in the 48th round of the recent First-Year Player Draft by the Boston Red Sox, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. He struck out 12 in seven innings of work and allowed only one earned run.
Outfielder Skye Bolt, a class of 2012 prospect who has committed to North Carolina, was the tournament Most Valuable Player after hitting .333 (7 for 21) with two home runs, nine RBI and seven runs scored.
Astros 17u scored29 runs in the three playoff games leading up to the championship.
“We knew we had to score a lot of runs because we were kind of low on pitching – we had a few guys hurt and we had a lot of tired arms,” Baldwin said. “That kind of put the pressure on the offense a little bit … and they really responded for us.”
Shortstop Matt Gonzalez was the hitting star in the championship game, going 3-for-3 with two RBI. Right-hander Stuart Rich started and worked 5 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and one run while striking out five. Matthew Crownover picked up the save, allowing two hits with two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
EC Braves 17u went into the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and Team Alabama was No. 7, so both teams played first-round playoff games Saturday night.
Braves 17u beat Team Mizuno Midwest, 8-0, in the first round; Excel Blue Wave, 8-1, in the quarterfinals; and TGBA 17u, 13-8, in the semifinals.
Team Alabama’s path to the championship game was a little tighter. It beat East Cobb Orioles 18u, 7-6, in the first round; No. 2-seed Marucci Elite, 4-2, in the quarters; and ABA Braves, 5-2, in the semis.
The tournament was run by Perfect Game but it also carried the East Cobb name. They’re all the same, according to Baldwin.
“It doesn’t make it any more special because we try to go out and win every tournament,” he said. “I’m just proud of the guys showing up and representing (East Cobb), but we go out and try to win every one we can. Every time we win one it’s a good thing.”
Before beginning play in the playoffs Saturday night, Baldwin talked to Perfect Game about the objective of playing in tournaments like the 17u/18u PG-EC Invitational.
“It’s all about the kids moving on,” Baldwin said. “Of course we like to win (tournaments) and we strive to win every year, but when it comes down to it, it’s about getting the kids exposure, it’s about getting them to that next level, whether it be college or getting them exposed to some (professional) scouts. If we win, that’s just gravy.”
You can consider what happened on a hot and steamy June afternoon in Metropolitan Atlanta one big, heaping-helping of gravy.