MARIETTA, Ga. – In a game that saw neither team record a base hit through five innings, the No. 1 seeded Indiana Prospects 16u (4-0) used timely hitting and stifling pitching to best No. 16 Knoxville Thunder Black 16u (2-1-0) 3-1 in a Saturday afternoon first round playoff game at the 2012 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational.
After matching Thunder left-hander Chase Chambers with five hitless frames, Prospects right-handed starting pitcher Gage Rogers served up a Ben Young double off the right field wall to start the top of the sixth. Three batters later, Young crossed the plate on a Rogers’ wild pitch that eluded his catcher, giving the Thunder a short-lived 1-0 lead.
The Prospects responded with a two-out rally, tying the game on pinch-hitter Tristan DeHaven’s bases loaded walk on a full count and forcing Chambers from the mound. Griffin Hulecki immediately greeted relief pitcher Will Neely with a tiebreaking, two-run single to shallow center that gave the Prospects a 3-1 they would not relinquish.
The victory did not come without some high drama though. Following a two-out walk, Rogers was relieved by Jay Prior, who walked his first two batters to load the bases. With the bases loaded and two outs, Prior forced a fly-out to left field to secure the win.
Strong pitching has been a common thread in the Fishers, Ind.-based team’s run to the tournament’s quarterfinals.
When asked to name some standouts through this game, first-year coach George Mallett named “just our pitching staff in general.”
“Our pitching staff has been unreal,” said Mallett. “You can only dream about having a pitching staff that gives up one run in four games.”
The team opened Wednesday with a 1-0 defeat of Team Gwinnett 16u behind Hulecki’s two-hit shutout.
“That kind of set the tone for the rest of the week,” Mallett said.
Logan Weins had a dominant outing on Thursday for the Prospects, fanning 13 batters in a 4-0 shutout of the East Cobb Angels.
“Not giving up any runs allows our offense and defense to play a little bit more free,” Mallett said.
In its final pool play matchup, the Prospects bested the Ninth Inning Royals 5-0 with the help of Nathaniel Rhodes’ work on the mound and its defense.
In giving his thoughts on Saturday's game, Mallett said the opposition battled hard to be “the first team that’s scored a run on us all week.”
“Gage hasn’t thrown a lot this year, but he came out and just put it all out on the line to get us to the next round,” Mallett said.