Tournaments | Story | 7/14/2017

All hands On Deck (O's)

Tiffany Seal        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga.—Long-time Perfect Game attendee, On Deck O’s, have made their way down to Atlanta from Pineville, North Carolina for the 15u WWBA National Championship, equipped with strong pitching and a team that has bought into the On Deck philosophy.

The O’s showed tenacity in the opener against the Yalobusha Giants, capitalizing on a wild pitch to take the lead in the fourth, 2-1, but were unable to hang on in later innings. In the end, the O’s came up short in a hard-fought 3-2 loss, after a dominant relief appearance by righthander Sam Bianco, who went three innings of one-hit baseball with three strikeouts to seal the win for the Giants.

“We got guys who compete on the mound, which is big down here because of the stipulations of pitch counts, but most of all, I think our team has a solid approach,” said On Deck head coach Jordan Darnell. “Our guys play hard and that’s what we ask of those guys and what is demanded, honestly. These guys buy into that and play hard throughout the game.”

One of those O’s pitchers who came out to compete was Mikey Tepper, who tossed 5 2/3 innings of swing-and-miss stuff, allowing just one earned run off five hits with three walks and nine strikeouts.

“Definitely outside pitch and my fastball [was working for me today],” said Tepper. “In the beginning, my curveball wasn’t working well, but later in the game it started working as a good 0-2 pitch.”

Meade Garner, who went 2-for-3, and Scottie England, who had a 2-for-2 day at the plate with a walk and RBI, generated most of the offense for the O’s.

“It was a pretty good pitcher, but I was just going up there looking backside,” said England, who laid down a bunt and RBI single to left. “He threw me a curveball one pitch and just had a good approach to it.”

England is going into his seventh year with On Deck Academy, which is based out of the Charlotte area.

Founded in 1999 by Michael Shildt, the program strives to develop tools on the field as well as off, with values of self-worth, work ethic and community service being hallmarks. For 18 years, On Deck Academy has seen over 300 student-athletes come through its doors, heading on to schools like UNC, Virginia, NC State, and continuing their careers in professional baseball.

The facility is equally as impressive as its alumni pool, with a 22,000 square foot indoor with a regulation infield complete with lights.

“When we are in the facility they help us break our swing down and help us defensively, they just help us get better and to a higher level,” said England about the academy’s strong player development.

With a short four-hour, 30-minute drive to the LakePoint complex, the O’s continue to show up in East Cobb with competitive teams looking to build on the tools and development taking place at the academy.

“It allows you to get in front of new competition, which you don’t get to see around our area,” said Darnell. “You get out here and get exposure and get some new faces which is always good for these guys. You kind of fall into that lull with seeing the same people over and over again, so seeing these new teams is fun for everybody.”

With the 15u On Deck club on the cusp of diving into the college recruiting process, both England and Tepper see Perfect Game tournaments as an opportunity to get better through facing some of the best talent in the Southeast.

“The exposure is still there, these guys are still young, but its good at this level for these guys to at least have a chance to be in this atmosphere, where you can get in front of some guys and be used to playing like that and get that feel, and get some butterflies out and be able to play in those circumstances,” said Darnell.

Although the O's came up short in the opener, there is still plenty of baseball left to play in the 15u National Championship, as the club looks to capitalize on its strengths to make a deep run. 

“I feel like we can put the ball in play and feel like we pretty much know what we are doing at the plate, we are smart hitters,” said English.

Aside from the strong pitching and ability to play both sides of the baseball equally strong, the primary importance is staying true to the 'all-hands on deck' culture grown by the academy.

“We definitely have an all around solid team here,” said Darnell. “We have speed in the lineup, we have guys who have bought into our program, and willing to put the ball in play and create pressure.”

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