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Tournaments | Story | 7/6/2017

17u Sox Select show resiliency

Tiffany Seal        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga.—The East Coast Sox Select have advanced to the second round of the 17u WWBA National Championship playoffs, winning a four-inning match against the SWFL Nation 2018, 12-3. 
The Sox came out and played both sides of the baseball equally strong, as the pitching staff shared the four-inning game, giving up a total four hits with a combined two walks and four strikeouts.

Right-handed pitcher J.T. Ginn shouldered the most innings, going a hitless 1 2/3, while striking out two.

“I had my fastball working pretty good today, and I was just trying to get ahead and throw strikes and let my defense work behind me.”

Coming off a strong appearance at USA’s Tournament of Stars, Ginn showed off his versatility as a two-player by going 2-for-2 with two runs scored on the day.

“I had two strikes on me in both at-bats,” said Ginn. “So I was just trying to shorten up and put the ball in play. I just tried to stay middle.”

Ginn and the East Cost Sox are no stranger to being the last team standing in WWBA National Championships, as this squad won it all in 2016 at the 16u version of the event.

“Last year it was great, there were great teams that played in it and it’s cool to show you’re one of the better teams in the country by coming out and winning, so hopefully we can do the same thing this year," said Ginn. "It would be cool to repeat, to kind of prove we really are one of the best teams in the country.”

These accolades are some of the tangibles displaying the progress this up-and-coming program has made, showing both strong player development and recruiting within Mississippi and Alabama.

“It’s very important, no doubt about it,” said coach Thomas Wilson about securing a second title. “Last year we kind of snuck up on a lot of people, I don’t think we are going to sneak up on anybody this year. We play hard and try to play the game the right way, so it’s very important to us, and our whole organization.”

The East Coast Sox’s program is based out of Columbus, Mississippi, and boasts 13 Division I commits on the Select roster alone. Programs represented in the 2018 class include Alabama, South Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Southern Mississippi, Ole Miss, Tulane and several heading to Mississippi State.

Two of the Bulldog commits include Ginn and first baseman Bryce Bush.

“It’s just always where I wanted to go to school since I was young,” said Ginn. “There’s no better place to play than Starkville, to me. That’s always where I wanted to go.”

Fellow-teammate Bush echoed the same excitement about becoming a part of a new era for the State program, which will be in its the third season under Andy Cannizaro when the teammates join in 2018.

“That’s one of the best baseball environments I’ve been in in college baseball,” said Bush. “Now we got coach Cannizaro, and I met him in-person three days ago, and he’s probably one of the best people I’ve met so far in all of it.”

Bush, an All-American watch list selectee, had a standout day at-plate, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including a three-run home run in the fourth to put a seven run-deficit between the two teams.

“It was great to be named one of the top to be selected, it’s a big statement right there,” said Bush. “I worked hard to get in that group.”

Aside from the deep position talent found on the Select club, the Sox are set up for a deep run with a handful of fresh arms, one of the most coveted assets of their makeup.

“Our pitching is really dynamite,” said outfielder Carson Crowe. “We have tons of arms, some people haven’t thrown yet this whole tournament, so it’s crazy.”

With some players going on their fifth season with the East Coast Sox organization, pitching is just one ingredient that has placed them in the playoffs for a second-consecutive season.

“I think our team has great team chemistry,” said Ginn, a fifth-year member of the program.  “We all get along really well so I thinks that’s going to help in close game situations. I think us being able to mesh together and put each other on each other’s backs, I think that’s going to be our biggest thing.”

Even newcomers like Bush, who is in his first season with the Sox, agree the intangibles and team makeup are just as important as the talent.

“I came in and fit right in with the entire team,” said Bush. “We have a lot of pitching, low-90s, upper-80s, and we can all hit and we got some speed so hopefully we can take that to the championship.”

Right off the bat, the Sox team camaraderie was tested then displayed in the opener against the ECNE Expos.

“The first game we tied, but we were down 8-4,” said Wilson. “We came back and tied that game up, so you hate to tie, but it kept us alive, so it showed a lot by them coming back there. We’ve been resilient and played pretty well after that.”

With the strong team bond, preparation and enthusiasm seem to be a by-product.

“They are a lot of fun to coach,” said Wilson. “They love to play the game. They love to hit, they wear me out everyday hitting. If we play three games, they want to hit before every game, so it’s fun for us coaches. It’s fun for us coaches to be out here with guys that want to play. They like being around each other and they want to play the game.”

Although on a mission to secure a second title and place the East Coast Sox name among the elite travel teams in the Southeast, they remain true to their makeup and what has gotten them this far.

“We are focused and are here to win,” said Ginn. “But we are also loose and having fun with it, and that’s the biggest thing, is to come out here and give it your best and have fun. Hopefully we’ll win it.”

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