FORT MYERS, Fla. – With four swings of the bat, the East Cobb Astros rallied from a four-run seventh-inning deficit to earn a date with the Dulins Dodgers in the semifinal round of the Perfect Game 15u BCS Finals at City of Palms Park.
Both the top-seeded Astros (8-0 at the tournament) and fifth-seeded Dodgers (7-0-1) won quarterfinal games Thursday morning at Terry Park. The other quarterfinal winners were a couple of long-shots – the 15th-seeded East Cobb Longhorns (7-1) and the 14th-seeded Orlando Scorpions 2014 (5-2-1).
The Astros, ranked No. 2 in the country, last played the No. 1-ranked Dodgers in the championship game at the PG WWBA 15u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., on July 1, a game won by the Astros, 4-2.
The rematch in the semifinal round at the 15u BCS Finals almost didn’t happen, because while the Dodgers strolled to an 11-2 win over the SBA Canes 15u Black in their quarterfinal contest, the Astros had to rally from a 4-0 seventh-inning deficit to beat Team Elite 15u Black, 5-4.
The rally started with consecutive doubles from Randolph Gassaway, Kyler Neal and Skyler Weber which brought the Astros within 4-3. Two outs later, Neal and Weber were still standing on third and second, respectively.
Diminutive shortstop Cornell Nixon, batting at the top of the order, stepped in and slashed a two-out, two-run, walk-off single down the right-field line that sent Neal and Weber racing home with the tying and winning runs.
“This is a special group. You can’t ever count them out – they battle the whole time,” Astros Coach Dennis Jordan said. “That’s why we’re where we’re at. They have no quit in them. That was a tough situation to be in … but they will not accept defeat. You saw that today in a big, classy way.”
Incredibly, the win improved the Astros’ season record to a mind-boggling 53-0. Their two wins in the playoffs leading to the semifinal didn’t lack for drama, however, as they had to go eight innings for a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Blue Jays 15u in Wednesday’s first round game.
It was a hard climb to the semifinals for the Orlando Scorpions 2014 squad, which was 1-2 after its first three-game set of pool-play games. They rallied to go 2-0-1 in the second set and qualified for the playoffs, blanked East Cobb Team Rawlings, 3-0, in Wednesday’s first round, and then whipped the Georgia Academy TPX Dodgers, 9-1, in the quarters.
“We started off slow but we picked up some good momentum, so I’m hoping we can carry that over to the next game and then get into the championship,” Scorpions 2014 assistant coach Brian Martinez said as he prepared to leave Terry Park and head over to COP for the semifinal game.
“The guys are starting to mesh real well after a kind of slow start, and they’re just having a good time,” he said. “They’re just having fun playing baseball.”
Right-hander Clayton Wills fired a six-inning three-hitter and allowed no earned runs with six strikeouts in the win over the TPX Dodgers. Dash Winningham provided plenty of support with his bat, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and three runs scored. Jason Cryar was 2-for-3 and drove in two runs.
The 15th-seeded East Cobb Longhorns topped the No. 7 Dallas Mets, 7-1, in the quarterfinals. Left-hander Mason Ward gave the ‘Horns six strong innings, allowing only one earned run on five hits and striking out five.