Tournaments | Story | 7/12/2017

Walkoff sends Canes to playoffs

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – The Royals Scout Team and the Canes South 16u played a deciding game on Thursday morning, with the Canes coming out on top and guaranteeing themselves a spot in the playoffs in the 16u WWBA National Championship in Georgia.

Both teams came into the day at 4-0, tied for the best record in Pool R. The Royals took care of business in their first game, defeating the CSB Spikes 10-4 to put the pressure on the Canes, who would still have two games to go. The pool leaders would face off in the next game and were locked in a pitching duel from the beginning.

Heston Tole toed the rubber for the Royals and turned in a gem, throwing 6 2/3 innings of four-hit ball against the Canes. The Arkansas commit punched out seven Canes and pitched his way out of a leadoff triple by Cody Cox in the bottom of the sixth inning, inducing two groundouts and a strikeout. Michael Foltz would counter Tole, giving up two hits and three walks over 6 1/3 innings, while striking out seven as well. The game would be scoreless through the top of the seventh, as both pitchers were cruising.

“Mainly the two-seam was really working for me, but I definitely had the ability to break it off, throw that slider for a strike,” Foltz said. “Around the fourth inning, I threw one really nice curveball, just because I sat back and threw it instead of trying to spin it myself. That was the main key there.”

Luke Montenery, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the sixth inning, blooped a single to center field with an out in the bottom of the seventh, evading the triangle of defenders. When he noticed both the shortstop and the second baseman were nowhere near the bag, he dashed for second, moving into scoring position.

“I just saw the ball drop and then the shortstop and the center fielder just standing there just not really paying attention, and I was waiting for the pitcher to get the ball and start turning his back to go towards the mound, and as soon as I saw that, I just went straight to second,” Montenery said.

The 5-foot-7, 140-pound outfielder would continue to show heads up baserunning, taking third on a pitch in the dirt with Christopher Dengler up. A hitter later, Cody Cox would line a single up the middle to walk his team off, securing the Canes a spot in the WWBA playoffs.

“Well I was going into it, I was looking for something, he just walked our leadoff batter on five pitches, so I was going to take one, look for something to hit,” Cox said. “Next pitch, got down in the hole with two strikes on me, fought one off and then threw me one, a little cutter, came down the middle of the plate and I just hit it the other way, kept my hands inside of it.”

It was the heads up baserunning by Montenery that would prove to be the difference in the Canes being able to scrape out the win, and head coach Austin Hill was not surprised by the outcome after the outfielder got on base.

“He’s been that way for us all year,” Hill said. “He’ll start games, but sometimes I’ll keep him on the bench just so I have a little safety net for him, so I can bring him out in situations like that and he can win us a game. You know, if he doesn’t get to third base right there, that Kansas City Royals team has an unbelievable outfield, there’s good chance that’s a close play at the plate right there.”

The Fredericksburg, Va.,-based team took a 5-0 record into their final pool play game, beating the Mid Atlantic Red Sox North by a score of 13-4. Cox went 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs in that game, adding to his hot tournament at the plate. The righthanded hitter is now 7-for-17 with seven RBIs heading into the playoffs.

“It’s just been going up there and being me and doing myself,” Cox said. “I don’t want to go up there and try to do too much. I don’t want to let my team down, want to keep everybody up and want to be a leader of the team.”

Overall, pitching has been the strength of the team, giving up only seven runs in pool play. Prior to their game against the Red Sox North, the team notched three shutouts, and Hill offered the reason for his team’s success on the mound.

“Our defense,” Hill said about a key for their pitching staff. “Our arms are keeping us in games, they’re changing spots, changing speeds, missing barrel, and our defense is really making plays behind them. We we’re really flustered early, our first game made a few errors, came back after that and our defense has been great, turning double plays, really getting the job done for us.”

Besides on the field success, Hill, Montenery and Cox all alluded to the gelling of the team that has also fueled their success. This win showed exactly that as players picked each other up and did the little things right to help out their teammates.

“They’ve really come together,” Hill said. “When you get to these spots, playing time gets shifted around. Some guys aren’t where they want to be, some guys aren’t getting quite as much innings as they want, but as this thing’s gone along, the team has really came together, and it’s been fun to watch and just fun to be a part of.”

The Canes will look to take their success of pool play into the playoffs. Round one of the playoffs begins tonight with 72 teams advancing on at their shot to take the crown. Each playoff game will be five innings a piece until the semifinal round, further shrinking the margin of error each team has. Round two will take place on Thursday morning and the playoffs will continue throughout the day. As an organization, the Canes are no strangers to success inn WWBA events, having won the 16u WWBA in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and hope to bring home another championship.

“Keep going what they’re doing. I mean it’s working for us so far,” Hill said. “We can probably step up and get a few more timely hits, so we don’t have all these one run games, but it’s fun to be a part of. The guys are playing hard, and if they’re playing hard and having fun that’s all I can ask for.”

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