MARIETTA, Ga. – Even before the 2012 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational got under way on Wednesay, OTC Bearcats 16u head coach Russell Williams had seen his share of surprises in baseball.
A Cincinnati Reds draftee out of Bryan County High School (Pembroke, Ga.) in 1987, his playing career continued at Middle Georgia College, Gordon College and finally Armstrong Atlantic State University. Williams, a right-handed pitcher in his day, said he had a shot at joining the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1990-91, but the team contacted him shortly after he had already committed to his time to the U.S. military.
But his passion for the game was still evident as he managed the Bearcats 16u, part of the McDonough, Ga.-based Olympic Training Center baseball organization, which on Thursday lost a 10-2 decision to the East Cobb Astros 16u Gray (2-0).
“We gave it a good shot,” Williams said after the 2 p.m. Pool K matchup. “We just made too many errors early, but we’ll see them again.”
The loss prevented the Bearcats (1-1) from having any chance of advancing out of pool play, which Williams said was one of the team’s goals coming into the tournament.
“We knew we had to win today,” Williams said. “It was going to come down to us and them to make it out of our pool.”
Still, the future looks bright for the organization as a whole, which Williams said was founded in 2006.
“It started with Scott Whaley, Mark Mortimore and Jack Stewart,” he said. “Scott took over when Mark and Jack moved over to BigStix Baseball about five years ago.”
The organization, made up of around 20 teams overall and six 13u-18u Bearcat travel squads, aims to get players ready for college ball and possibly to fulfill dreams of getting drafted to play professional baseball.
“Also we like to keep the guys from the south side of Atlanta there instead of having them come up on the north side to play here,” Williams said.
Williams, who has coached the Bearcats’ 14u, 15u and 16u teams in succession over the past three years, mentioned one player as having potential to play at the next level.
Shane Tucker, a rising sophomore at Union Grove High School in McDonough, shined in the Bearcats’ Wednesday victory over RBI Baseball. A Perfect Game scouting blog noted that the right-hander sat comfortably in the 86-89 mph range with his fastball topping out at 91, on his way to a complete game two-hit victory.
The Bearcats’ play in the tournament will conclude with a Friday morning matchup with the Pro Source 16u Burns, but Williams sounded optimistic about the rest of the season.
“We’re 8-2 on the season,” Williams said. “We’re the only team to score on the Astros so far.”