FORT MYERS, Fla. – The East Cobb Titans 14u squad entered the playoffs of the Perfect Game 14u BCS Finals with the No. 4 seed and a somewhat modest 4-1-1 record.
The Titans went on to prove they’re anything but modest when it comes to winning championships.
Armed with an ability to come back from early deficits and a tradition of winning that is inherent in the East Cobb Baseball program, the Titans rallied for a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to salvage a 7-6 victory over No. 7 seed Boca Thunder Baseball in the championship game of the Finals on a rainy Thursday at City of Palms Park.
The Titans (8-1-1) also rallied from a 3-1-1 start to the tournament, winning their last five games en route to their first 14u BCS Finals championship.
“This is the second year we’ve brought a team down here and it’s a great tournament and I love being down here,” head coach Tim Ayers said after his squad accepted the championship trophy and banner. “The kids love being down here and it was good for them. They love playing in a big stadium – they were talking about how much better could it be than being at an event like this and playing in a big stadium.”
At the conclusion of the tournament, Titans right-hander Matthew Olson was named the Most Valuable Pitcher after (unofficially) pitching 11 2/3 innings in two games and giving up seven hits with a 1.85 ERA and 10 strikeouts. The Thunder’s Joshua Parker was named the Most Valuable Player after batting .458 (11-for-24) with 10 RBI and 17 runs scored. He also pitched well, striking out 12 in 12 innings pitched.
The Thunder jumped to an early lead with two runs in the top of the first but the Titans came right back with four in the bottom of the frame.
It remained 4-2 until the Thunder pushed across a run in the top of the sixth, but the Titans seemed to take control in the bottom of the inning when they scored twice on a deep sacrifice fly from big Marcus Mitchell (5-10, 200) and an RBI single from Logan Peterson.
With a 6-3 lead heading into the top of the seventh, the Titans probably felt secure, but Evan Schaffner came up with a big two-run double that tied the game at 6 in the top of the seventh.
The first two Titans couldn’t reach, but Malcolm Boyce came up with a two-out single, Landon Faulkner drilled a two-out double, and Matthew Broadhead delivered the game-winning RBI single as the rain picked up in intensity.
“You have to give credit to the Thunder,” Ayers said. “We were up three and we had our best pitcher on the mound (right-hander Faulkner) and we really thought he was going to shut them down. They did a good job of fighting back and coming back.
“But getting the bases loaded and Matthew Broadhead coming up with that base-hit was big for us.”
The Titans were use to coming back from early deficits.
“(Wednesday night in the quarterfinals) we went down 2-0 and this morning in the semis) we went down 3-0 and both times we came back and answered,” Ayers said. “All we kept telling them was ‘pitch-by-pitch, it’s a long game, so win each pitch.’ They did and we came out winning.”
Jabin Smith was 3-for-4 with a double, a triple and one run scored for the Titans in the title tilt. Boyce was 2-for-3 and scored three runs, Brayden Graham was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs, and Mitchell finished 1-for-2 with two RBI.
Michael Spooner was 2-for-3 with a double and triple, two RBI and a run scored for the Thunder.
The Titans have been together for a year now, since they were 13-year-olds. Big things are always expected from the teams in the massive East Cobb Baseball organization, but this BCS Finals championship might have been a bit of a surprise.
“One of the coaches back at East Cobb called me and said, ‘If you would have told me back in January that you were going to be playing in (the championship game) of the Finals, I would have told you you were crazy.’ They’ve worked hard since January and they’ve done exactly what they’ve needed to do to win. All the credit goes to those guys – they did what they needed to do.”
The East Cobb Titans 14u reached the championship game by beating the No. 13 seeded Tampa Suns, 9-1, in the first round of the playoffs and knocking off No. 5 Meteors Baseball, 12-3, in the quarterfinals. It was a family feud when the Titans beat the ninth-seeded East Cobb Tigers 14u, 10-9, in Thursday’s semifinal round.
Olson was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, Mitchell 2-for-4 with five RBI and two runs scored and Smith 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored in the win over the Tigers.
The Thunder beat the 10th-seeded Homeplate Chilidogs, 5-3, in the playoffs’ first round and edged the fifth-seeded New York Grays 14u in the quarters. They reached the championship game by beating the third-seeded Texas Venom, 6-3, in the semis.
The Thunder scored their six runs on seven hits against the Venom, with Parker, Matthew Luzzi and Christopher Graffeo all driving in one run apiece. Alex Bialakis pitched six innings of three-hit ball, striking out 10.