The Diamond Devils 17U Blue won the largest age group tournament in baseball history Monday afternoon at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Georgia, defeating FTB Mizuno 2-1 in the championship game of the World Wood Bat Association 17U National Championship.
The South Carolina based Diamond Devils went a perfect 11-0 over the 7 day tournament, which featured 216 teams from across the United States.
Most observers anticipated a high scoring final game between two powerful offensive teams but that didn’t come to pass. Both teams scored a single run in the first inning and had plenty of scoring opportunities the rest of the game, as the Diamond Devils left 9 runners on base and Mizuno left 7, plus had 2 runners thrown out at home plate.
RHP Patrick Andrews (2011, Hilton Head Christian HS, SC) was outstanding on the mound for the Diamond Devils, throwing a complete game 7 hitter to get the win. The 6-3, 180 lb. Andrews works in the 88-91 mph range with his fastball and mixed in a solid low 80’s slider and occasional change up. He had significant help from his defense throughout the contest.
The biggest defensive play of the game bailed out Andrews and the Diamond Devils in the top of the 7th inning. With Mizuno 3B/RHP Dante Bichette on first base and 2 outs, 2B Vincente Conde hit a slicing foul ball down the right field line that RF Tanner English dove for but couldn’t catch while sliding across the foul line. But English popped up quickly and threw a strike to catcher Brett Austin to nail Bichette at the plate to prevent the go ahead run from scoring.
Pinch hitter Austin Gambrell, taking the place of English, who injured his non-throwing arm on the dive the previous inning, doubled to left field to start the bottom of the 7th off Mizuno reliever Blake Mitchell. The speedy English reentered to replace Gambrell. A walk and a strikeout left put runners on first and second with Diamond Devils 3B Hunter Cole at the plate.
Cole didn’t get a chance, though, as English stole third base and came home easily when Mizuno catcher Tyler Marlette’s throw bounced into left field.
Andrews, who had gone 1-0 with a 2 inning hold earlier in the championship, was the obvious choice for the event’s Most Valuable Pitcher after his championship game win.
Despite not getting the opportunity to play the hero in the 7th inning, Cole (2011, Dorman HS, Moore, SC) was named the event’s Most Valuable Player. The U. Georgia commit went 13-27 during the week, hitting 3 home runs, scoring 11 times and driving in 11 runs. Cole keyed the Diamond Devils comeback from a 4-0 deficit to the New Jersey Super 17’s in the quarterfinals with a home run and 2 run double and drove in the Diamond Devils first inning run in the championship game with a single.
Two other players deserve special mention as runner ups in the Most Valuable Player consideration.
1B/DH Dan Vogelbach (Bishop Verot HS, North Fort Myers, FL) was an offensive force all week for Mizuno, going 13-23 at the plate with 3 home runs, 11 runs scored and 9 Rbi’s. He hit a home run in the semifinals, quarterfinals and Round of 16 while going 6-7 with 8 Rbi’s in those 3 must win games.
OF Shon Carson (2011, Lake City HS, Scranton, SC) of the Diamond Devils finished the week 13-32 (after going 0-6 the first games) and electrified observers with his combination of strength and speed. Eight of his 13 hits went for extra bases, which kept his stolen base total to “only” 6 bags, and he drove in 12 runs while scoring 10 times. He was at his best in the playoffs against the best pitching, going 10-17.