Tournaments | Championship | 7/7/2020

Astros Crowned Champs at Firecracker Finale

Brett Greenberg        
Photo: East Cobb Astros 17u (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. - The 2020 18U Firecracker Finale came to a close Monday afternoon with the final three games of the tournament. The championship game took place on field one at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Georgia with the East Cobb Astros 17U taking on eXposure 17U Prime. The Astros were awarded the four seed in bracket play while eXposure ended up with an 11 seed after pool play. These two teams are both 17U, so playing for a chance to win an 18U Perfect Game tournament is something of which the coaches and players can be proud.

For the Astros, it has been continued success in each Perfect Game tournament and it was no different this week at the Firecracker Finale. The Astros completed a clean sweep of their pool while scoring 31 runs and giving up only six. On their way to the championship, the Astros took care of two 643 DP teams handily with two mercy rule victories. They were tested in the semifinal game against the East Cobb Yankees 18U, but ultimately came out with a 4-2 victory. They were powered behind their starting pitcher, Radek Birkholz, Notre Dame commit, who struck out nine batters in 6.1 innings of work and Treyton Rank, FSU commit, who also added two RBIs in the semifinal game.

The 11 seeded eXposure Prime finished pool play with two wins and one loss scoring 16 runs and allowed 15. They were able to inch out a 1-0 victory over 643 DP Cougars Pralgo in the quarterfinals. Pitchers, Colby Reynolds and Drew Patterson worked together to silence the 643 bats for 7 innings. The semifinal game was a high scoring affair between eXposure Prime and Team Elite 17U as they were able to win 9-6. Jackson Musrock, Irvin Hernandez, Cooper Kinney, Caden Rector, Andrew Grande, Colby Reynolds, and Hudson Siegler all had RBIs in the semifinal. This set up what was expected to be a competitive championship game to cap off the 18U Firecracker Finale.

It was a quiet first inning for both squads with both pitchers getting three outs unscathed. In the top of the 2nd inning, eXposure was able to play small ball piecing together two hits and two walks to gain a 1-0 lead. With bases loaded, Irvin Hernandez hit a slow grounder to the 2nd baseman to earn himself an RBI and extend their lead over the Astros by a score of 2-0. The Astros bats stayed quiet in the 2nd inning. 

After roughly an hour rain delay, the two teams took the field again after taking shelter in their respective dugouts to outlast the rain. The third inning was more of the same with the Astros starting pitcher, Andrew Armstrong, shutting eXposure down while allowing no runs. The Astros bats came alive in the bottom half of third but had nothing to show for it. They had bases loaded with no outs but could not manage to break into their deficit of two runs. 

Armstrong, after a rough second inning, showed his dominance on the mound in the fourth inning sitting down the eXposure batters in order. Despite being down two, the Astros batters continued to fight and cut their deficit in half. Joe Mack, Clemson commit, was able to get on with a walk, moving to third on a throwing error. With no outs and runners on second and third, the Astros were able to capitalize on this opportunity. Christian Moore, Tennessee commit, came up with a timely deep fly to right, scoring Mack thus making the score 2-1 after four innings. 

Armstrong was able to repeat his performance in the top of the fifth sitting down the eXposure batters in order once again. Down one run with nine outs to go, the Astros time to capitalize on Armstrong’s performance was in this inning. Michael Sharman and Radek Birkholz singled before Lleyton Lackey singled driving in one run, which tied up the game 2-2. Kristian Campbell walked, which allowed the tournament MVP, Michael Braswell, to hit an RBI single, which gave the Astros their first lead of the game. 

“I have been focusing on my mechanics at the plate and my swing,” Braswell said. “I want to have good at bats and the hits will come.” 

With the bases loaded and two outs, the Astros’ hitter, Christian Moore, delivered the knockout blow to eXposure Prime by hitting a base clearing three run double. Moore would be thrown out at third trying to extend his hit into a triple, which was the third out of the inning. This would be the final time either team scored another run. 

The top of the sixth welcomed new Astros pitcher, Austin Wainer, who shut the door on eXposure Prime allowing only one hit and striking out three in two innings of work. Wainer shut down the eXposure batters in the sixth and seventh, thus giving the victory to the East Cobb Astros 17U by a score of 6-2.

The Astros swept the accolades this week with a player on their team taking home the MVP and the MVPitcher of the 2020 18U Firecracker Finale. 

Starting pitcher and MVPitcher of the tournament, Andrew Armstrong, told PG, “I was able to battle through the weather and the rain delay.” Armstrong also mentioned that he would not have been in this position if it weren’t for the timely hitting from his teammates. 

This is the Astros third Perfect Game championship crown of the year as they look forward to competing for more championships at future PG events this summer. 

MVPitcher: Andrew Armstrong
MVP: Michael Braswell
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