Tournaments : : Story
Monday, June 05, 2017

PG/EC Invite Champions Crowned

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

The East Cobb Yankees took home the 18u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational Championship trophy after beating the 643 Cougars Sterling by a score of 5-3.

“It feels great,” said Kendall Logan Simmons, the No. 11 overall player in the class of 2018 per Perfect Game. “These guys are amazing, most of the guys are going to Georgia Tech and we’re just brothers, so it’s pretty cool.”

It was a tightly contested matchup through the game’s first five innings, as the score was 2-2. The Yankees had scored in the second inning and the fifth, while the Cougars responded with a run in the fourth and the fifth. East Cobb would pull ahead in the sixth, scoring three runs to push them ahead, 5-2. Although the Cougars would put up a fight in the bottom of the seventh by scoring a run, their efforts would not be enough to win the championship.

“We never let anyone really put up the big inning against us to where it hurt us, so I was happy with that,” said James Beavers, head coach of the East Cobb Yankees.

Starting on the mound for the Yankees was Kennedy Norton, a Georgia Tech commit, who threw three innings, giving up one hit and one earned run, while striking out two. The relief core would come in behind him, with Matthew Bollenbacher, Grayson Gladu and Kendall Simmons teaming up to finish off the game.

“I really wanted to see what kind of pitchers [we had], I was a little bit concerned about our pitching staff, the depth of it being the main thing,” Beavers said, “so I got to see everybody throw, everybody threw all week, so it was good, we got to see the entire pitching staff. They actually threw very well, gave up two runs in pool play and not very many in the whole thing.”

The Cougars countered with Bryant Madden, who gave up three earned runs and eight hits over five innings.

The pitching staff for the Yankees gave up only 10 runs over the six games in the tournament. Two of those games were shutouts, including a five-inning perfect game by Marlin Willis against Hustle Baseball. Willis would go on to be named MV-Pitcher of the tournament, going 10 1/3 innings, surrendering five hits and one earned run, while striking out 14 hitters. The Georgia State commit said that the award helped him know that his hard work is paying off.

“It’s just another accomplishment showing that I’m making the right steps to develop to the next level,” Willis said.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound lefthander said that his success was built off a change that he made early in the tournament, which could be seen in his start on Monday against eXposure 18u Louisville Slugger in the semifinal game.

“I changed up my pace,” Willis said. “I made my pace more fast, and I was able to get on hitters. First pitch strikes were really important in this tournament for me.”

On offense, Bailey Zinnershine and Jason Rooks paced the Yankees in the championship game, going 2-for-4 and 2-for-3 respectively.

“We’ve got some players pretty deep into our lineup that can hit, so it’s a pretty good advantage,” Beavers said. “I think, eventually over seven innings, we’re going to get you some time or another with a little bit of offense, anyways, so if our pitching can keep us in those games, we’ve got a chance to play like we did today.”

John Giesler went 1-for-1 with a double, an RBI and two walks for the Cougars. Andrew Jenkins also added to the Cougars offensive effort, hitting a double and driving in a run.

The bottom of the order for the Yankees came up big in the championship game, with all of the players in the bottom half of the lineup collecting a hit. The teams four RBIs also came from the bottom half.

“We swung it pretty well,” Simmons said. “We’re a good swinging team, and once again, coach Beavers, all the credit to him, he gets us ready and we do the job.”

Offensively, the Yankees crushed opponents, scoring 39 runs over their six games. Simmons would be named the MV-Player after hitting three home runs in the tournament. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound shortstop would give credit to Beavers for his performance.

“It means a lot,” Simmons said. “I’ve never won one of these before, and I take it as getting better. I want to give a huge thanks to coach Beavers and those guys who are just helping me so much.”

The Yankees had a strong showing all weekend, going undefeated in the tournament. Beavers expressed how proud he was of his team for this win, and knew that it was a byproduct of the work that they have put in as a team.

“It always feels good because you feel like you’ve worked hard the whole time,” Beavers said. “You can finally pat yourself on the back a bit with some of the work you did.”

The MV-Player of the tournament was Kendall Logan Simmons who went 6-for-15 with three home runs, five RBIs and two stolen bases.

The MV-Pitcher of the tournament was Marlin Willis who threw 10 1/3 innings of five hit, one run baseball. He also struck out 14 hitters over his two starts. 



18u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational runner-up: 643 DP Cougars Sterling



18u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational MVP: Kendall "Logan" Simmons



18u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational MV-Pitcher: Marlin Willis




EMERSON, Ga. – Team Georgia Baseball Gold 16u beat eXposure 16u Prime by a score of 5-4, to claim the championship for the 16u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational tournament at LakePoint.

Team Georgia came out swinging in the bottom of the first, scoring three early runs. eXposure would respond with three of their own in the top of the third inning, and they then took the lead in the top of the fourth. With the score 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Team Georgia scored two runs to take the lead late. They would hold onto that lead, with closer Logan Tanner finishing off eXposure to secure the championship trophy for Team Georgia.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Jerrion Ealy. “It’s my first championship game with Perfect Game and first championship here, so hopefully there are many more to come. “

Michael Polk started the game for Team Georgia, going 3 1/3 innings, while allowing six hits and four earned runs. The bullpen behind him was brilliant, with Tanner only giving up three hits 3 2/3 innings in relief to shut the door on eXposure. Jordan Munck began the game on the bump for eXposure, but was knocked out after giving up three earned runs and five walks in just 1 1/3 innings.

“Pitching was unbelievable,” said Chris McRaney, skipper of Team Georgia. “I think we gave up five hits through the first three games. It’s pretty simple, we threw strikes, changed speeds and made routine plays. I hate to say it’s that simple, but it’s that simple.”

Ealy and Ray Joseph led the offense for Team Georgia, both going 1-for-2 with two RBIs in the championship game. Ealy would go on to be named the MV-Player of the tournament. Even after having been awarded the honors, Ealy still put the focus on the team’s accomplishment.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Ealy. “It means I did my thing this week, and most importantly, my team won. It means something, but it’s a better feeling when you come out with a ‘W’ at the end of the day.”

Making contact was a key point of both McRaney and Ealy when talking about what led to their team’s success at the plate.

“We put the ball in play,” Ealy said. “We’ve got some big guys, some big powerful guys, so if we make great contact, the ball is going to travel.”

Offense was the name of the game for Team Georgia all weekend, and after outscoring opponents 27-1 in pool play, they stayed hot by scoring 20 runs in four playoff games.

“I think as a whole we swung the bat pretty well. We made a lot of solid contact. We’ve got a lot of work to do still offensively, but as a general rule, our general approach at the plate was pretty solid the entire weekend.”

The pitching was lights out all weekend, surrendering only nine runs in seven games. The pitching staff gave up one or fewer runs in five of those games, and the four that they gave up to eXposure were the most they had given up in a single game all tournament.

“We competed big time. This is probably my best overall group of arms I’ve ever had, we have a lot of depth, and these guys know how to compete on the bump,” McRaney said.

The team has nine platers that are from states other than Georgia, which can often be a detriment to a team’s development, but McRaney said that the team is very close with each other, which helped put them in the position that they ended up in.

“We’ve really gelled as a team,” McRaney said. “This is a special group of families, parents included, along with the kids. They bonded quickly. Here’s the reality, they love each other. I know that’s kind of a cliché word, but they do, and I think that showed up in the way we played this weekend.”

McRaney, who hails from Mississippi, started Mississippi Baseball Academy three years ago, and as a result has six players from Mississippi on his roster. He said that Ealy and Tanner, are great examples of players who, once given an opportunity to play in big time tournaments like this, can have some of the best potential in the southeast. McRaney hopes that this win will bring increased exposure to other players in Mississippi.

“What I usually do is I take the early season as like a preseason. This event’s important to us, but our main objective is to get guys and exposure and development,” McRaney said.

As for Team Georgia, McRaney said that this was a great weekend for the organization, as it was another opportunity to bring exposure to all of the players on his team. He also said that even though it was early in the summer, he is excited about what is to come for the team, knowing that their goals are set much higher.

“From an organizational standpoint, being successful in a good event with obviously some really, really good teams in it and really good organizations, can do nothing but help us long term for sure,” McRaney said. “It’s always great to be able to compete at a high level in any Perfect Game event. It never hurts your organization. It always helps from an exposure standpoint, and our goal is to not just win this this year, our goals are much bigger.”

MV-Player honors were given to Jarrion Ealy of Team GA Baseball Gole 16u, who is ranked as the No. 2 player in Mississippi for the class of 2019. Ealy went 5-for-12 with a double, two triples, four RBIs and nine stolen bases.

The MV-Pitcher was awarded to Patrick Williams of eXposure 16u Prime. Williams threw ten innings of one-run baseball while striking out thirteen. 


16u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational champion: Team GA Baseball Gold



16u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational runner-up: eXposure 16u Prime



16u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational MVP: Jerrion Ealy



16u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational MV-Pitcher: Patrick Williams




EMERSON, Ga. - The East Cobb Astros 14u rode a six run second inning to defeat Team Elite Nation 14u by a score of 11-5 to win the 14u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational at LakePoint.

The Astros came out swinging, scoring seven runs in the first two innings of the ball game. Team Elite Nation was held relatively quiet through the game’s first four innings, but would respond with four runs of their own in the fifth inning. The Astros would score four more in the later innings to pad their lead and secure the championship.

Michael Taylor started the game for the Astros and turned in four innings of two hit ball. Grant Taylor of Team Elite Nation was tasked with facing the Astros. The righty, who sat in the high-80s and low-90s, was touched up for six earned runs as he struggled with his command.

“Knowing that it’s a wood bat game, the game changes a lot. It’s a lot more pitcher oriented, but guys were pounding the strike zone,” said Matt Hightower, the head coach of the Astros.

Leading the charge at the plate for the Astros was Nathan Smith and James Tibbs. Tibbs went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, while Smith went 2-for-3 with three RBIs en route to being named the MV-Player in the tournament. Nicholas Hong and Kristian Campbell each collected two hits for Team Elite Nation.

“It means a lot,” Smith said. “I’ve been wanting it since the beginning of the year, I’ve always come up short, but I’m glad I finally got it.”

The offense has a good approach against the hard-throwing Taylor, walking five times and scoring six runs even though they only mustered up three hits off him. Smith offered his approach against a good pitcher like Taylor.

“Just to let the game come to me and not try to rush out and go get it. It has to come to you because the pitching’s too dominant to try to come get anything,” Smith said.

“You don’t see a lot of 14-year-olds throw with that kind of velocity, but I thought we were ready for it, we put good swings and made him have to work for it and found our opportunities,” Hightower said.

Over seven games in the tournament, the Astros scored 49 runs, only scoring fewer than seven runs twice. Hightower said that as an offense they were able to get back on track to where they know they should be as a team.

“In the past, we kind of lost our approach a little bit, and we were able to come back and regain that,” said Hightower. “It’s a lot just staying in the middle of the field, knowing what we’re looking for over the plate, trying to study pitchers to see what they’re throwing and where they’re throwing and trying to just collect as much information as you can to have our best at-bats all the way through the lineup.”

Smith credited the team with good situational hitting throughout the tournament, which is what you would expect with the deep lineup that the Astros have.

“It was awesome. Everybody hit when they were supposed to,” Smith said. “We had the best situational hitting, our coach works with it in the cage, and everybody just came through when they needed to.”

The pitching of the Astros tossed three shutouts this tournament, shutting down good offensive teams like the Yalobusha Giants. Hightower thought that it was the combination of the offense, pitching and chemistry that really clicked for the Astros for one of their best showings of the year.

“[I saw] that we play together extremely well,” Hightower said. “Our lineup is a continuum, it doesn’t stop, you’re only one through wherever in the lineup one time. After that everybody is hitting for the guy ahead of you and the guy behind you. Combined with strong defense and what we should be capable of doing on the mound, and how these guys interact with each other in the dugout, it’s a formula that’s very tough to beat.”

Team Elite Nation came in hot, having scored 25 runs in their previous three games and 40 in total coming into the tournament. Hightower realized the talent of Team Elite and tipped his cap to the team, who put up a good fight at the end.

“It means a lot, it definitely means a lot. That’s the first time we got to play Team Elite Nation, we know they’re talented,” Hightower said. “A lot of these kids have played against each other in the past, and that’s the first time we’ve gotten to be ready to see them. You saw the combined talent between the two teams, so for us to be able to take a game like that is huge for us.”

The MV-Player was Nathan Smith of the East Cobb Astros. Smith is the No. 6 player in Georgia for the class of 2021 and went .462 with six RBI and three stolen bases.

The MV-Pitcher was given to Brady House of Team Elite Nation. The righty, who is listed as the No. 12 prospect in the class of 2021 per Perfect Game, went 10 innings, giving up three hits and two earned runs while striking out nine batters.



14u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational champion: East Cobb Astros



14u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational runner-up: Team Elite Nation



14u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational MVP: Nathan Smith



14u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational MV-Pitcher: Brady House


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