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Tournaments | Championship | 6/7/2015

PG/East Cobb Invitational Champions

Chris Garcia        
Photo: Perfect Game

EC Yankees win championship in thriller

EMERSON, Ga. – This Sunday’s 2015 Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational championship was an all-East Cobb Baseball affair, as the EC Yankees and EC Astros duked it out for the No. 1 spot. The Yankees prevailed on this scorching afternoon in a 1-0 pitcher’s duel. The Yankees put the ball in the hands of South Carolina-Upstate commit, Eli Willingham, who was almost as hot as the beaming sun on this particular day.

The matchup between the Yankees' Willingham and the Astros’ Lance Johnson was an intriguing one, as Johnson displayed a running mid-80s fastball from the low three-quarters arm slot and Willingham pounded the strike zone and let his defense work behind him. In such a close game with such high stakes, it is easy to let the pressure get to you, but these pitchers kept their poise throughout the whole game.

Willingham’s complete game shutout performance earned him the honors of MV-Pitcher, and rightfully so. Willingham’s stuff was not overwhelmingly powerful, but his ability to command his fastball put him in a position to do very well. Willingham did give up nine hits, but his defense behind him refused to let the Astros cross the plate, as they left double digit runners on base. Willingham had to deal with the pressure of knowing that the game could be tied up on one swing of the bat for his entire outing, but with ice in his veins, the pressure was no match. The one run that the Yankees put up in the first was all they needed on this championship Sunday, and Willingham is just fine with that.

My slider was biting real hard today, and I was getting on the backdoor with righthanded hitters and it was working for me,” exclaimed Willingham. “I was just going out there and throwing it, and just trying to let my defense work. This team is one of the best teams that I’ve played on, and this tournament had a lot of talent, so it’s pretty special that we got to win this one.

It’s a Perfect Game tournament. Everyone is watching and everyone is talking about it, posting on twitter and what not. It’s just an awesome feeling to win with these guys on this stage.”

The Yankees didn’t have much of a rocky road on the way to the championship game. Their semifinal game provided a good warmup for these guys, as they easily handled East Cobb Team Wilson by a score of 5-2. The offense for the Yankees in the semifinal game was much more apparent than in the championship, considering their lineup raked inning after inning.

Not much raking was needed for the Yankees this weekend as their pitching staff combined to allow under five runs total for the whole tournament. Their pitching was absolutely sensational, and Coach James Beevers felt that was the key factor in their tournament performance overall.

Our pitching was phenomenal this weekend. We only gave up about two runs the entire weekend,” said Coach Beevers. “Our pitching was great, but you can’t have pitching without great defense. The runs were there, and that allowed us the opportunity to get here, but you can’t say enough about the pitching and defense from these guys. Especially Willingham, who was spot on today.”

The EC Astros did not go unrecognized this championship Sunday, having their own Rankin Woley win the MVP of the tournament. Rankin, an LSU commit, won the MVP by a unanimous decision with his .529 batting average performance that included seven RBI and a .765 slugging percentage. Although the Astros were not able to pull out the championship, Woley shined brighter than anyone on the field this weekend.

I just wanted to focus on barreling everything up,” said Woley. “I didn’t wanna get jammed, because I got jammed earlier in the weekend. I really wanted start off games with good at bats and move on from there. I think my approach on deck and at the plate was big for me this weekend. I wanted to keep my hands inside and just drive it down the middle of the field. It doesn’t feel good to lose this one, but I think we have great defense, so as long as the bats come alive, we'll continue to be successful this summer.”

The ECB program partly put on this Invitational, so it is only fitting that the champion belongs to their own program, but to have an all ECB championship was pretty cool for the players. A lot of them compete against each other in high school, so the game was extra meaningful for some of these players.

The Yankees and Coach James Beevers are proud to have claimed this year’s 18u Perfect Game-East Cobb invitational, and can’t wait to add another one to the trophy case.

It’s early in the year, and we try not to get too excited about tournaments too early in the year, but its fun to win,” said Beevers. “It’s just a matter of us grinding, and facing good competition to get better. I think this tournament win will give us the confidence to be successful for the rest of the summer.”

2015 18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational runnerup: East Cobb Astros

2015 18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational MVP: Rankin Woley, East Cobb Astros

2015 18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational MV-Pitcher: Eli Willingham, East Cobb Yankees

GBSA Rays making a name for themselves

EMERSON, Ga. – The GBSA Rays are all about taking care of business, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a little fun with it along the way. One can tell by watching the way that they go about the game that these kids are having a blast playing the game that they’ve played since t-ball; nothing seemed to be able to wipe a smile off of these kids’ faces this weekend.

They played with the kind of looseness that teams envy, and it certainly worked for them in today’s championship against the Triton Rays. The Rays vs. Rays championship was a defensive showdown for a few innings until GBSA ripped the game wide open with two big hits to left-center field that lead to five runs scored in the third inning. The Triton Rays got to the championship with the help of their superb defense, but that defense seemed to dissipate as the game went on. The third inning was when all the momentum shifted to the GBSA side due to sloppy throwing errors by Triton. Once the momentum was given to GBSA, they took it and ran with it and won by a score of 7-0.

GBSA not only won the championship, but they did it in convincing fashion, winning all of their games this weekend. Charvez Carter, an Indian River State College commit, was absolutely dominant on the mound this weekend and was named as the MV-Pitcher of the tournament. Carter had a 10 strikeout, two-hit complete game shutout in the championship, which was more than enough in their seven-run desolation of the Triton Rays. Carter was beaming with happiness upon being presented with his prestigious award.

My curveball was my go-to pitch this weekend”, said Carter. “It was really working against righthanded hitters, and that’s the pitch that I relied on to get me strikeouts this weekend. I have a lot of clowns on my team, so I had to make sure I stayed focused. Along with being clowns, they’re also extremely talented. I didn’t feel any pressure when I was pitching, I was just having fun and letting my defense work behind me.”

The GBSA Rays keep it light in the dugout, yelling and laughing all game no matter how intense the situation. They were going wild after they were crowned champions, so you can see why Carter had to try his hardest to separate play time from game time.

Carter was not the only shining star on the GBSA Rays; catcher Christian Griffin earned the honors of MVP. Griffin is one of the top 250 players in the state of Georgia, and he showed why this weekend. Griffin had two clutch hits in the championship game and had a .444 batting average, with a home run, two RBI, seven runs scored and two stolen bases on the weekend.

Griffin truly got it done in every offensive aspect and felt that his team played with a chip on their shoulder this weekend, and he used that chip to push him to an extraordinary performance.

We came in and a lot of people doubted us,” said Griffin. “We always knew we could do it and we think we're one of the better teams in the state. Going into this weekend, I was working on letting the ball get deep and driving it down the middle of the field and I think that the preparation paid off.

We always have a positive mindset, and were going to look at this tournament win as a milestone that we can branch off of in hopes of winning more tournaments in the future and making a name for GBSA.”

Before all of the excitement and thrill of the championship game, the GBSA Rays had to complete the tall order of beating the BigStix Gamers to get there. That game had a slow start, as the Rays got out to a two-run lead with a couple of one-run innings in the middle of the game. The BigStix added a run of their own, but then the Rays came back with an onslaught of base hits which proved to be just too much for the BigStix.

The game did get quite dramatic in the final inning though, as the BigStix loaded the bases with two outs with the tying run at the plate. It was the final test that the Rays had to pass in order to get to the championship, and they passed with flying colors as the bases loaded jam was put to a halt just as quickly as it began. From then on out, the GBSA had a sense of swagger about them and they used that attitude to run away with the championship.

Coach Jerome Wooley was ecstatic about winning the 2015 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. With GBSA being such a new program, and this summer being the first time that Wooley is coaching a travel baseball team, he could not have asked for a better performance.

The key factor this weekend was cohesion,” said Wooley. “All these guys are from different parts of the state and they all came together this weekend and put out a great product. They worked together to put out some timely hitting, great defense, and good base running.

These tournament wins means a lot for us moving forward. Not just for this team, but it means a lot to the GBSA organization as a whole. These kids got an opportunity to experience what it’s like to win a championship, and that is something that a lot of ball players on every level can’t say they have done before.”

2015 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational champions: GBSA Rays 17u

2015 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational runnerup: Triton Rays 17u

2015 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational MVP: Christian Griffin, GBSA Rays 17u

2015 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational MV-Pitcher: Charvez Carter, GBSA Rays 17u

eXposure Baseball jumps on the scene

It is not often that a first-year program wins a championship at Perfect Game events, but eXposure baseball decided to be the aberration to that norm this weekend at the 2015 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. Many of the teams that enter into these tournaments are from big-name travel ball programs that put D-I talent on the field every single game.

These are teams that have a history, background and reputation for winning and attracting all the attention, which means there is little room for first-year programs to go out and win these types of events. The eXposure baseball club made themselves known this weekend with their win over Team Elite in the championship by the score of 6-2.

Team Elite felt confident that they could capture the championship early in the game when they got out to a one-run lead in the third inning. They chipped away at the eXposure starter, Brock Nelson, with multiple base hits, but eXposure answered the next inning with some runs of their own.

Team Elite's starter, Lane Harris, got a little wild in that inning and ended up walking a run home, which seemed to ignite the offense of eXposure. Once the offense was sparked, they let off for five runs in that fourth inning. After that, Brock Nelson was untouchable and Team Elite was unable to fight their way back into the game.

Team Elite put forth a valiant effort, which was highlighted by their catcher, Austin Holloway, who was named MVP. Austin Holloway caught a great game and posted a .667 batting average, with two RBI and a .750 slugging percentage. Holloway was disappointed that his team couldn’t finish the job and claim the championship, but he is happy to see that his team is making progress as the summer comes into full swing.

This team practiced really hard coming into this tournament. It’s really competitive in practice so that really helps people out,” said Holloway. “My teammates really helped me to play well this weekend. When my teammates play good, I play good. This tournament really gives us an idea of the kind of team we are going to be moving forward this summer.”

The MV-Pitcher award was handed to eXposure Baseball’s Ethan Clark, who threw 10 innings this weekend with a 0.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts. Clark was especially important for the eXposure Baseball club, as they called on him not once, but twice this weekend. Clark felt that his fastball and slider combination was the key to his success. In fact, their road to the championship was paved by Clark, as he shut out the Georgia Jackets in the semifinal.

I was keeping the fastball low and mixing in the slider when necessary,” said Clark. “I threw three innings yesterday and then came out and threw a complete game today so I’m glad I was able to do as well as I did. Lately, I’ve been working on my slider so I’m glad I was able to get that working. I was really just trying to let my team work behind me.”

Brandon Turner put together eXposure Baseball only a short time ago and the success that they have already experienced is definitely something to write home about. Head Coach Mark Bounds felt that his pitching staff should be the all-stars from this weekend. Many of his guys threw more than one game, and their style of pitching was based around letting the opposing offense get themselves out. eXposure Baseball doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon, and there is a good possibility that we could be seeing them hold up another championship banner very soon.

First year for eXposure Baseball … that’s crazy. These kids have a chance to be very special, and we have a great group of kids and great group of parents. (Our) situational hitting and base-running was phenomenal this weekend. These kids really play hard, and I couldn’t be more happy for them. I’m excited to see what the future holds for eXposure Baseball.”

2015 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational champions: eXposure Baseball

2015 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational runnerup: Team Elite Louisville Slugger 16u

2015 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational MVP: Austin HollowayTeam Elite Louisville Slugger 16u

2015 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational MV-Pitcher: Ethan Clark, eXposure Baseball

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