Ga. – The time has come for teams to etch their names in greatness,
as the 2015 17u WWBA National Championship is now in the midst of
playoffs. First round games began on Wednesday night, and the number
of teams left competing is dwindling by the hour. Every single team
left standing is comprised of an extreme amount of talent, so the
only thing setting them apart once they get between the lines is
heart, effort, and a little bit of luck.
of the teams involved want the championship title, but it’s a long
road to the championship game, and some teams may even have to play
three games in one day to make it there. To make it through that kind
of gauntlet in the scorching Georgia summer heat you not only have to
be fit, but you also have to be mentally strong. Which teams would be
able to keep their focus through the weather conditions in order to
advance? The LakePoint complex in Emerson is where you’ll find your
second round of playoffs kicked off on Thursday and there were some
intriguing matchups to begin the day with. Perhaps none were more
intriguing than the game between the Baseball U Prospects and
Scorpions Prime 17u. The Baseball U Prospects out of West Long
Branch, N.J., entered the playoffs with a perfect 6-0 pool play
record, and they have a respectable amount of college commits on
their team, with nine of their players being committed to D-I
Scorpions are one of the favorites to win just about any tournament
they participate in, and won the championship at this very event just
two years ago. Their roster is absoltely loaded with talent with 18
D-I commits. This was sure to provide a great game of baseball, but
by the end of it, it far surpassed all expectations.
in the end it was the Baseball U Prospect team that came out on top,
winning the game by a score of 2-1 in walkoff fashion after eight
teams had a feeling it would be a low scoring game from the very
start, considering that both starters were showing great velocity and
looked to be in the zone from the first pitch. There was an enormous
amount of energy between both dugouts, and a lot of back and forth
chatter that fueled the intensity. The large roster size for each of
these teams helped the noise a little bit, and it really seemed as if
both teams were feeding off each other.
game included a lot of strikeouts from the very beginning and
attracted spectators from all corners of the LakePoint complex. In
the second inning, the Scorpions got a little bit of offensive action
going, as they belted two line drives to start the inning. It looked
as if they were going score, but the starter for the Prospects, Eric
Heatter, bore down and showed that he was a true bulldog, getting out
of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.
very next inning the Scoprions had a similar situation where the
bases were loaded with no outs; it was almost certain that the
Prospects would be the first on the board, but Cole Ragans struck out
the next three batters to leave the Prospects empty handed. Ragans
finished the game punching out an amazing 14 batters in his five
innings of work using a fastball that routinely peaked at 92 mph.
one point in the game, it felt like the starters were trading blows
as if they were simply in a game by themselves. Inning after inning,
these two guys competed relentlessly, almost like they were daring
one another to be even more impressive than they were the inning
the Scorpions would score in the third inning off of a sacrifice fly,
giving them a 1-0 lead. Behind the arm of Ragans, the Scorpions felt
confident that they could hold this lead, but Baseball U refused to
lie down. In the fifth inning, a walk and a clutch double by Alex
Kirilloff put two runners in scoring position for Baseball U. They
would capitalize on an error to score one run, tying the game up and
setting the stage for a fantastic finish.
this inning, both starters were done for the day, and it was time to
turn to the bullpen for a fresh arm. These arms were certainly fresh,
as both Max Kranick for Baseball U and D.J. Roberts for the Scorpions
were able to sit in the low-90s. Kranick was absolutely fabulous in
his relief appearance, and was able to get some much need strikeouts
in high pressure situations.
was just trying to get ahead and stick with my fastballs,” Kranick
after the game. “I was thrown in with bases loaded, but I was
fortunate enough to get out of it. I think my fastball was good, and
my slider was good enough. Overall, I just wanted to compete for my
was able to keep the offense of the Scorpions dormant through his 2
2/3 innings pitched, and he really gave his team a chance to win the
ball game. Seeing as though this game had been so exciting, it’s
only fitting that it went to extra innings. With the score at 1-1,
they headed into the eighth, but this was not your everyday extra
inning game. Per tournament rules, the California rule was put into
play, and to start the inning both teams would have the bases loaded
with one out with a chance to hit the runner in and win the game.
Scorpions were up first, but Kranick shut them down and left them
with nothing to show for. The momentum had now swung the way of
Baseball U, and it definitely paid off. They would win this game by a
score of 2-1 in one of the most unorthodox fashions; a walk-off balk
by the pitcher, D.J. Roberts.
Kranick’s heroic efforts in that final inning, there’s no telling
how this game would have ended.
was really intense, especially with Carlos Cortes at the plate,”
Kranick said about facing one of the Scorpions' top hitters to open
the eighth inning. “He’s one of the best hitters in our class, so
I knew I had to bring my best stuff and I did. I’m pretty happy
with how everything turned out.”
weren’t many hits in this game, but someone who did provide a
little bit of offense for Baseball U was Alex Kirilloff. Kirilloff
led the way with two base hits and provided a little bit of a spark
for his team in the inning that they tied it up in the middle of the
was just trying to stay even keel through that game because it was so
intense,” Kirilloff said of his approach in his fifth inning at-bat
after striking out his previous two times to the plate. “I didn’t
want to think about past at-bats, and I just wanted to control what I
could control. At the plate, I focused on my timing. I wanted to make
sure I was giving myself enough time to catch up to the fastball.
Teamwork was huge for us today, and our team feels blessed. Hopefully
we can keep rolling.”
who went 2-for-4 with the aforementioned double, finished the game
hitting .450 (7-for-20) so far at the 17u WWBA National Championship,
driving in seven runs in his team's seven games played, proving to be
an integral part of the offense hitting toward the top of the lineup.
Coach John Wells felt that this game really showed who they were as a
team. On this big of a stage, with that tough of an opponent, many
teams can collapse; his stayed strong all the way through and was
able to get it done with hundreds watching. Wells decided to throw
Kranick again for the third round of playoffs, seeing as he only
threw just over two innings in the win over the Scorpions.
to starting the next game, Kranick said he intended to go in with
same mentality, and hoped to produce another successful result. Coach
Wells experienced a large range of emotions during this game, but he
was happy to see Kranick and the rest of his team play the way they
been an incredible tournament. The boys we have haven’t been
playing together very long at all; we just kind of threw this team
together from four different teams in our organization,” Wells
said. “We don’t have the hitting we use to have, but these guys
scrap and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
was the key factor in today’s game. The first 11 or 10 outs were
strikeouts, but we started to put the ball in play and got it done.
They just have to keep their energy up. That game is over, and we
have to worry about the next.”
Unfortunately for Coach Wells and his Baseball U Prospects squad they were shut down by Carson Crouse – who struck out seven batters in a complete game effort – and Ostingers Baseball Academy in the very next game 6-2. However, they should not hang their heads at all after completing a successful run at this year's 17u WWBA National Championship, highlighted by their dramatic win over the Scorpions Prime.