Tournaments | Story | 7/21/2016

643 squeezes into next round

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – The round of 16 kicked off today for the 15u WWBA National Championship and there were no shortage of close games. All four early games were heavily contested and featured contests that would come down to the wire.

No. 2 seed East Coast Sox Prime Snopek was able to down No. 15 US Elite 4-0. The Sox rode their starter Joshua Hill as he pitched an excellent game. Hill was able to be efficient in the strike zone and keep hitters off balance. In only 83 pitches, Hill was able to toss a complete game shutout with four strikeouts and allowed only three hits.

Christopher Willis, an Ole Miss commit, and Logan Letney, the No. 2 outfielder in the state of Texas for the class of 2019, led the way on offense for the Sox. Willis went 2-for-3 with two RBI and Letney went 1-for-2 with two RBI as well. The four runs was enough offensive support for Hill as he was masterful.

No. 19 Midwest Elite defeated the No. 3 Dallas Tigers in a very tight 2-1 ballgame. This game saw another great pitching performance as Michelle Artzberger threw a one-run complete game. Artzberger finished the day with only one run allowed on three hits and added five strikeouts.

The big run came in the top of the seventh for Midwest Elite. Jace Bohrofen had a big, leadoff double to get a runner in scoring position to start the frame. After he advanced to third, Zach Delong hit a sacrifice fly to bring the winning run in and help seal the victory for Midwest Elite.

No. 13 Banditos Black came back after an early deficit to down No. 4 Phenom Signature. After trailing 1-0 in the third inning, Banditos put runs up in consecutive innings to take the 2-1 lead that they would not surrender.

Matthew Thompson, the No. 2 overall player for the class of 2019 and a Texas A&M commit, was absolutely electric on the mound. He was up to 92 mph on the mound and was hitting 89-90 consistently into the sixth and seventh innings. Thompson finished the day with a complete game while allowing only one run on two hits while striking out nine batters.

In a path very similar to Midwest Elite, Cameron Godfrey led off the top of the sixth inning with a double. Once Godfrey got to third, Derrick Cherry, the No. 5 middle infielder in the state of Texas for the class of 2018 and a Houston commit, brought home Godfrey on a sacrifice fly to give the Banditos the lead they would not give up.

The final, and arguably most exciting game, saw the No. 1 seeded Wilson Sandlot Baseball fall to No. 16 643 DP Cougars Montgomery. The Cougars held a 3-1 lead for the majority of the game until the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs, Wilson had a clutch two-out, two-run single to tie the game heading to the seventh inning.

The Cougars were not going to surrender easily and quickly loaded the bases with one out. Max Pralgo dropped a squeeze bunt down that the pitcher threw away which allowed two runs to score. Wood Kimbrough added a two-run single later in the inning to give the Cougars a four-run advantage.

“In my head I just wanted to get the bunt down,” said Pralgo. “Hopefully it was somewhere fair to get the run home on the squeeze. It was huge when he threw it away but it was a lot of adrenaline and a great moment.”

“Their pitcher was good and throwing a lot of strikes,” said 643 manager Nick Montgomery on the strategy of the squeeze bunt. “They have a great defense, a lot of guys who can run in the outfield, and great arms in the outfield. So even if you hit a pop fly, you’re not sure if you’re going to score. With the squeeze play we practice it often, the kids know what they’re doing, and we have a lot of confidence to score if we get it down.”

Pralgo came out to pitch the bottom of the seventh and allowed one run to score. That would be the last run that Wilson Sandlot scored as the Cougars were able to secure a 7-4 victory.

Montgomery was able to revel in the emotion and was extremely proud of his team. Any team that loses a lead late in the game can just as easily give up, but not the Cougars. They were able to respond by scoring four runs in the top of the seventh in an excellent display of resilience.

“They were the No. 1 seed and we knew they were good,” said Pralgo. “We had to hold them off every inning and it was a tight game throughout so we knew we were going to have to score more than three. Their pitcher did a good job so unfortunately we weren’t able to do it until the end. We knew that three runs wasn’t going to last too long so when we came into the dugout everyone knew what they had to do. We had to get runners on, move them over, and drive them in. The emotions were crazy and the other team did a great job. It shows the resiliency of our team and it was pretty cool.”

The grueling aspect of this win is that after giving it their all, they have to go right back and play in the quarterfinals later Thursday afternoon. Montgomery knows that his team can win against anyone in this tournament, but they have to regroup and refocus in order to try and make a deep playoff run.

“We knew we could play with any team, we play a tough schedule throughout the summer and played up in 16 to get us ready for it,” said Montgomery. “That was a great team we just played. We knew it was going to take everything we had and our kids gave it everything they had. So now we have to rest up and get ready for another one.”

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