Tournaments | Story | 7/6/2016

Evo Canes aim for championship

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – The EvoShield Canes improved to a perfect 7-0 in pool play at the 17u National Championship with an 11-0 victory over Action Baseball Green on Wednesday. The Canes are now firmly in bracket play and look to bring home a National Championship as they did two years ago.

Manager Jeff Petty is impressed with the dynamics of his team and their ability to go out and handle their business in every game. This Canes team is unlike Canes teams of recent memory, but Petty feels that this team is just as talented.

“We’ve been able to pitch, throw strikes and change speeds,” said Petty. “We’ve been able to make plays defensively and offensively score runs at the same time. On this team nobody really cares who gets the credit, we’re balanced through the lineup 1-10. This is one of the most balanced offensive teams I’ve ever had; I have 12 players who should be playing every day and I have to sit two of them.”

The biggest difference between the 2016 version of this team is the makeup of the pitching staff. Petty admits that this team doesn’t necessarily have the depth of fireballers, but this team pitches well and plays more to their defense than focusing on racking up strikeouts.

“I don’t think on the mound we have the depth that we had in the past,” continued Petty. “I love what we have on the mound, we rely more on changing speeds and throwing strikes. We rely more on the defense. We’re not going to have guys who strike out 12 or 13 guys a game and we don’t have six guys who are in the mid-90s. That doesn’t make us any less talented we just have a different type of pitching staff. Having 12 guys that you could come to the park and put them in the lineup with no hesitation, I don’t think I’ve ever had that. So offensively this team is more balanced that in year’s past.”

The EvoShield program has been steadily building up their name and reputation for some time as they are now one of the most elite programs present at Perfect Game events. Originally based out of the Mid-Atlantic region, EvoShield has expanded to include the entire country with a few players from as far away as California. Petty doesn’t care where the players are from so long as they meet the requirements that Petty and his staff are looking for.

“We don’t care where kids are from for this team,” said Petty. “We’re looking for a certain type of athlete with a certain makeup and wherever that kid is from so be it. If that kid wants to play for us and they fit the makeup, on and off the field, then it can be a fit. Being able to spread your wings and being able to go grab players from all across the country doesn’t hurt. We’ve been together for 20 days now on the road so we’ve had time to practice and get acclimated with each other.”

A recent EvoShield Canes alum from the state of California was the No. 9 overall draft pick Matt Manning. The Detroit Tigers selection of the righthanded fireballer is a testament not only to the elite talent that EvoShield has produced, but the reach that they have built to attract such quality players. Manning was named the MV-Pitcher at last October’s WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., where the Canes secured their unprecedented third straight championship.

Another elite California player on this team is outfielder Je’Von Carrier-Ward.

“Je’Von is a good kid, he comes from a good family, and has the type of makeup you’re looking for,” said Petty. “He’s obviously one of our good players, but we also do have a lot of good players on this team, but he stacks up well. He’s an important piece. He had a big, big at-bat for us, probably the biggest at-bat of the tournament; he had two strikes on him in a tie ballgame and he legged out a single to knock in a run. He’s come up big offensively for us all summer.”

Ward is the 10th-rated outfielder in the class of 2017 – 33rd overall ­– and is committed to play baseball at the University of Southern California. Ward credits not only his hard work and ambition but the environment that Petty and his staff have created surrounding this team.

“Honestly you have to work hard to get where you want to go,” said Ward. “Playing on this team and being with a bunch of guys that know how to do that helps. It’s a great environment, Coach Petty has helped a lot, and they get you where you want to go. It’s been very helpful to me and I value it. I’m going to take it with me for the rest of my life.”

Ward brings a five-tool skill-set to the baseball field. A tremendous athlete, Ward uses speed as a major asset but has the ability to hit as well. He finished Wednesday’s game going 2-for-2 with two RBI and two runs scored.

“I bring speed to the bases, I can hit and play good defense. I have the whole package.”

Being from California, Ward has spent much of the summer traveling across the country. His goals are the same as the ultimate team goal: to bring home a title.

“The travel gets you sometimes but it’s all for a cause. I love traveling, I love being all over the country, and I love being with these guys,” Ward said of his involvement with the Canes’ program. “I cherish it. Being from California and being able to play with these guys from the east coast is an honor. We want a ring. That’s the purpose of us coming all the way out here. Who wouldn’t want to get a ring when you’re coming all the way out here to this (hot and humid) Georgia weather.”

Petty believes that this team has the capability of bringing home that title. This group of players have been close at numerous Perfect Game events, often making it to the semifinals. Petty knows that coming so close will only fuel the fire to make a deep playoff run.

“I don’t think anything other than a National Championship is going to satisfy this team,” said Petty. “This group of kids knocked on the door last year. They were in the quarterfinals of the 16u last year, the final four of the World Series, the final four in Fort Myers, and a lot of them were part of that team (the Canes’ ‘Junior Varsity’ Team EvoShield program) that lost in the championship game in Jupiter. These guys have knocked on the door so much and haven’t been able to knock the door down.

“I don’t think anything other than knocking the door down is going to be satisfaction for them. But, we have to take it one game at a time. The team playing in front of you is the team that could send you home at any point; we can’t look past anyone in this tournament.”

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