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Third time's a charm

Tournaments : : Story
Nick Kappel        
Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2012

MARRIETA, Ga. — Nine of the 32 playoffs spots have been clinched with one day of pool play remaining at the PG/WWBA 18u National Championship. One of those spots belongs to Alabama Baseball Academy.

ABA guaranteed themselves a chance to play for the title with a 12-1 win Tuesday afternoon. They’re 6-0 through five days of pool play and have outscored their opponents 53-9.

ABA has allowed two or fewer runs in five of their six contests, thanks to heads-up defense and stellar starting pitching from left handed pitchers Mason Mcdougall (2013, Thompson HS, Ala.), and Tripp Hobbs (2013, Chelsea HS, Ala), as well as right handers Jake Walters (2014, Thompson HS, Ala.) and Cheston Wesson (2012, Sylacauga HS, Ala.). The four have allowed a combined four earned runs in 26 innings pitched (1.38 ERA).

While Head Coach Rusty Riley stresses the importance of good pitching, he believes his lineup is one of the best in the tournament. Based on the numbers alone, it’s hard to argue against that. Only five teams have scored more than the 53 runs ABA has plated thus far: East Cobb Braves 17u (62), Team Georgia (60), North East Jaxx (57), 643 DP Cougars 17u (56) and East Cobb Braves 18u (55).

Andrew Smith (2012, Thompson HS, Ala.) and Clayton Palicki (2011, Madison Academy HS, Ala.) have been the leaders on offense. Smith—who is committed to Wallace State—is 10-for-18 (.556) with 10 RBI in the tournament while Palicki is 6-for-16 (.429) with three doubles, a home run and 10 RBI.

Nick Masonia (2011, Brooks HS, Ala.)—who is committed to Northwest Florida State—is one of the team leaders as well. He holds the career Alabama state home run record (66), but according to Coach Riley, his contributions go way beyond the box score.

Nick is the ideal player you want in your organization,” he said. “He’s the kid that does anything you ask him to do. He’s humble for the accolades he’s gotten over his career, which is amazing for a kid who can play any position and bat anywhere in the lineup. He’s always team first. When it comes down to it, he wants to do what’s best for the team. That’s the type of player you want to represent your organization, and we’ve enjoyed having him."

When asked about his personal achievements, Masonia response proved just how mature he is.

I’m just trying to do everything I can to keep this ball club up,” he said. “This is a very talented group. If I go 0-for-4 and we win, that’s all I care about.”

This year marks ABA’s third straight playoff appearance in this tournament. In 2010, they played as Team Alabama in the 17u National Championship, losing 24-0 in the first round of the playoffs.

That game taught me something about our team,” Coach Riley said. “A few scouts asked me after the game if we won. I told them we lost 24-0. They had no idea because our kids played hard throughout the game and never gave up.”

Last year they lost in the second round of the playoffs. This time, they’re hoping to go all the way. Left handed pitcher Cameron Cummings (2013, Chilton County HS, Ala.) will start ABA’s first playoff game Wednesday night.

This was our No. 1 goal coming in,” Coach Riley said. “Anything can happen. Our rotation is set up pretty much the way we want it. If we can get good, quality starts out of our pitching, I think we have a good chance to make a deep run into these playoffs.”

Win or lose, the players and coaches of ABA are thankful for the opportunity this tournament provides.

There’s no other tournament that has this level of play with teams from all over the country,” Coach Riley said. “It gives all these kids the experience to play in front of college coaches and college scouts. It’s a good experience for them and helps to get them where they want to go. To be able to come here in one spot and have all those opportunities for these kids, you can’t beat it.”

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