MARIETTA, Ga. -- For about 15 minutes Thursday afternoon, it looked like Tri-State Arsenal's Patrick Doudican was going to be the hero of the day.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, with Tri-State trailing the mighty Dallas Patriots-Stout, 2-0, in an important pool-play game at the 14u Perfect Game World Series, Doudican launched a two-strike, two-out pitch over the 345-foot marker in left-centerfield on Field 2 at the East Cobb Complex, good for what looked to be a game-changing grand slam.
It was a game-changer, indeed, except not in the way the Arsenal had hoped.
The Patriots-Stout, losers of only two games all summer, seemed energized by the assault on the victory they felt surely was theirs. They put a six-spot up on the board in the top of the sixth inning and then added another half-dozen in the top of the seventh for good measure, and pocketed a 14-4 victory that left them unbeaten (3-0) in the 14u PGWS with two more pool games to play.
"They respond, they really do. They never get out of the game," acting Patriots-Stout head coach Todd Cash said after his club sent Tri-State to its first loss at the tournament. "That was a big hit for (Tri-State), obviously, a grand slam, and a lot of teams would have folded but our guys just came out to play. We do what we have to do and claw back, and they don't say a word; they just go out and start putting it together."
The Patriots-Stout are in sole possession of first place in Pool B at the 14u PGWS and seemingly in good shape to make the final four at the tournament Sunday morning. Losses are almost totally foreign to this group; it has a record of 68-2 this summer after Thursday's win.
One of the team's losses came in the championship game at the PG WWBA 2016 Grads or 14u National Championship here in Marietta last month. The Pats were named the co-champions with the EvoShield Canes at the 14u BCS Finals in Fort Myers , Fla., last month after a thunderstorm washed out the championship game.
Logan Stout is the head coach of the Dallas Patriots-Stout but wasn't here early this week. In his absence the team is being coached by Cash, a former minor league player in the Giants organization.
"Logan Stout has had these guys for quite a while and he does a great job with them," Cash said Thursday. "They work hard, but I think the biggest thing that sums this group up is that a lot of (teams) play together, but these guys play for each other, and it really separates them.
"They've got a lot of talent but they all realize that you could take each guy off of here and we'd keep rolling," he continued. "They appreciate that about each other, the egos are in check and they really play well to each other."
There was little question that the Patriots-Stout would be one of the favorites entering the 14u PGWS based on their track record this summer. The only element that brought any hint of skepticism was the fact that the Patriots were going to be joined by 11 other teams that fully believe they, too, can win the championship here this week.
"We know that it's invitation-only (tournament) and that the best teams are in here, so we've got up for it," Cash said. "We've had a great year already -- we've played in some big tournaments and we've won some big tournaments -- and we consider this a great way to finish off the year. You're going to see everybody's best."
The Patriots' comeback Thursday afternoon was awesome in the way a sudden, building thunderstorm is awesome. Facing the unexpected 4-2 deficit, they responded with a flurry that hadn't been seen at the tournament up to that point.
Cody Sturgeon (2016, Garland, Texas) was effective both at the plate and from the mound in the comeback win, but especially at the plate. He was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI to raise his average to .500 (4-for-8) with five RBI for the tournament.
He also pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, and while he was the one who gave up Doudican's grand slam (he was charged with only the one run) he got the win and gave up only two hits while striking out three.
Right-hander Michael Neustifter (2015, Carrollton, Texas) started the game for the Pats and was cruising until the fifth. He did his part at the plate and was 3-for-6 with a double and two RBI in three games.
He was also named the Most Valuable Player at the 14u BCS Finals last month when in nine games he was 12-for-22 (.600) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBI, nine runs scored, five walks and a .679 on-base percentage.
Other Pats having a good tournament through the first three games include Antonio Lima (2015, Grapevine, Texas), Austin De Leon (2016, Frisco, Texas) and Olajide Oloruntimilehin (2015, Garland, Texas), the latter who may now hold the record for the longest surname in the PG database with 15 characters. That would surpass Boston Red Sox's catcher and PG alum Jarrod Saltalamacchia with 13 characters.
"These guys are special and we just don't have any problems with them," Cash said. "They don't miss practice, they work hard, they try to get better, they do the things you ask them to do, especially at the plate. They have great approaches at the plate and we don't give away too many outs by guys free-swinging. They do what they're coached to do and that makes them special and a lot of fun to be around."
Cash has been working with most of the guys in this group since they were 9 years old and has enjoyed watching them progress. That at an age now where everyone is going to continue to get better, especially the pitchers. Those young guys are going to watch their breaking balls improve and their confidence along with it as they become unafraid to throw a breaking ball on their first pitch.
Cash knows he's with the right organization in terms of making sure all the young players' needs are met.
"Logan has a great organization and he does a great job of getting kids (college) looks and getting them opportunities to go on and play after high school if they want to," Cash said.
And he also loves working with 14-year-olds.
"They're like a sponge, and you can see them take the things that you work with them on and apply it on the field and see it work for them," he said. "You can see the light come on, and so it is a lot of fun. Just a lot of fun."