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Tournaments | Story | 3/10/2019

Central Pointe wins wild walk-off

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Central Pointe Christian Academy (Perfect Game)

HOOVER, Ala. – They never stopped making noise, banging metal bats against metal posts and roofs in their first base dugout. They never stopped cheering and chanting from that dugout, either, bringing an enthusiasm and a noise level to the Hoover Met Complex perhaps unlike any the facility had ever seen.

And most importantly, this band of Puerto Rican, Spanish-speaking ballplayers representing Central Pointe Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Fla., never stopped believing, never once showing an ounce of quit in their approach to the game these high-schoolers so rabidly embrace.

Trailing since the top of the first and down to its last strike with a two-run deficit staring at it with a menacing grin, CPCA turned the tables and escaped with a 6-5 victory over Georgia-based East Cobb Baseball Academy in Sunday’s championship game at the Perfect Game High School Showdown-Academies tournament.

Before  junior-turned-hero Melvin Cotto comes out for his curtain call, let’s first recap how this whole noisy, chaotic and especially delicious finish came to be:

East Cobb scored twice in the top of the first, once in the second and two more times in the third to take a 5-0 lead into the bottom of that frame. CPCA answered with three of its own to get within 5-3 and that score held until the bottom of the seventh.

The frame started with a shake of the head from the East Cobb side when CPCA’s Kevin Melendez led-off with a walk. The batter next in the order struck-out swinging and Jan Luis Noa, who was next, came through with a single; the next EPCA batter then struck-out looking.

So, at that point the Central Pointers had runners on first and second with two out, but those two were soon standing on second and third after a passed ball. The East Cobbers decided to intentionally walk the dangerous Justin Tejeda, a senior who had already doubled and singled and drove in a pair of runs.

That brought Cotto, a smallish 5-foot-10, 135-pound junior outfielder/left-hander, to the plate. He soon faced a 1-2 count and on the next pitch lofted an almost lazy line drive down the left-field line for a bases-clearing triple, and a walk-off victory.

“That was amazing,” the tournament Most Valuable Player Tejeda told PG in somewhat halting English when asked about the win. “We’re doing everything (to try to help) the team, and that’s baseball – helping the team and enjoying the game.”

No. 6-seed East Cobb Baseball (3-2) used eight hits to build its 5-0 lead after 2½ innings of play. Alex Espinal and Carter Wright came through with back-to-back, two-out singles and both scored when Will Hubbell reached on an error in the first; Michael Pardee led-off the second with a single and eventually scored on another CPCA error for a 3-0 ECBA advantage.

Two more runs came across in the top of the third when Espinal and Wright again delivered back-to-back singles to go with a combination of yet another error, a wild-pitch and Lance Leatherwood single.

Now down 5-0, No. 1-seed CPCA (5-0) needed something to happen and it did in the bottom of the third. William Nieves started it with a lead-off single and Edrick Ayala followed with a one-out single ahead of a one-out RBI single from Jan Luis Noa. Tejeda stepped to the plate, found an 81 mph fastball to his liking on a 2-2 count, and lined a double into left-field, scoring both Ayala and Noa.

Tejeda, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior outfielder from Kissimmee who attends classes at Central Pointe Christian and who has signed with Hillsborough CC in Plant City, Fla., earned his MVP recognition by going 7-for-12 (.583) with three doubles, six RBI, two runs scored and three stolen bases.

He is ranked No. 104 nationally in the class of 2019 and in January earned inclusion on the Top Prospect List at the PG World Showcase, which was held in Kissimmee.

East Cobb Baseball Academy’s Brady Simpson, a 6-foot, 170-pound left-hander out Marietta, Ga.,  who is a senior at Sprayberry High School and has signed with Lipscomb, was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

Simpson went 2-0 in two appearances at the Showdown-Academies, giving up three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (3.20 ERA) on six hits with six strikeouts and four walks. He pitched East Cobb into the championship game by throwing a complete, run-rule, 5-inning game against the Georgia Premier Academy Sox in Saturday’s semifinal, allowing one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts.

Central Point Christian Academy manager, Nestor Castro, spoke with PG in heavily accented English postgame and talked about how hard his players have been working and how they play hard driven by their Christian faith.

He also spoke about how talented the team is with several players seniors Melendez (Bethune-Cookman), Tejeda (Hillsborough CC), Abdiel Alejandro Rivera (Monroe College), juniors Noa (Hillsborough College) and Cotto (Eastern Florida State) and sophomore Dylan Luna (Broward CC) having already committed to college. It’s a talented team that accomplished something on Sunday the players can always be proud of.

“This is special because this team has never won a championship (before),” Tejeda said. “This team is great; we are a family and that’s it. Now we will go to the hotel and have a celebration.”

2019 Perfect Game High School Showdown - Academies runner-up: East Cobb Baseball Academy

2019 Perfect Game High School Showdown - Academies MVP: Justin Tejeda

2019 Perfect Game High School Showdown - Academies MV-Pitcher: Brady Simpson

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