Super25 : : General
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

EC Astros look for redemption

Bryan Cooney        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The rush of summer baseball will have its highs and its lows and the East Cobb Astros program has had plenty of highs in its rich tradition.

The sting of a semifinal defeat in the 16u WWBA National Championship at LakePoint in Georgia to the eventual runner-up BPA squad had to be quickly forgotten as the trek south to Fort Myers, Florida brought on a new tournament. The Astros brought their full contingent down for the 16u PG Super25 and BCS National Championships.

On Wednesday on the Super25 side of the competition the Astros got a strong pitching performance from one of the few uncommitted prospects to send them to a 2-0 mark in pool play. Chandler Wood (2019, Dallas, Ga.) tossed four shutout innings, allowing just a lone single while striking out six as the righthander used a quality three-pitch mix to stifle the Mid-Atlantic Bayhawks in the 8-0 win.

Wood admittedly said his high school season went as well as it could have, but once he hooked back up with the Astros and got the guidance from East Cobb Baseball Founder/President Guerry Baldwin it helped him get back on track. Baldwin has earned a reputation as one of the top pitching instructors in travel baseball over the past several years. 

“Getting back here with Guerry, everything has been smoothed out and my consistency has been a lot better,” Wood said. “I’ve been working on getting my arm up quicker in a better throwing position, and I’ve been throwing the ball a lot better.”

Offensively, the Astros lineup was stacked with seven of the 10 in the order ranked among the top 220 prospects in the class of 2019 to along with Wood on the bump, who is ranked No. 150.

Hunter Barco (2019, Jacksonville, Fla.) got the scoring started with an RBI triple into the right field corner in the first inning. Three more runs came across in the second, as Derius Hulbert (2019, Lithonia, Ga.) drove in two runs with a double to the gap in right-center, and Nathan Hickey (2019, Jacksonville, Fla.) bringing him in one a single to right field.

The Astros poured on four more runs in the fourth, with another Hickey RBI single and a two-run double coming off the bat of Josiah Miller (2019, Tallahassee, Fla.).

Barco, the highest ranked player in the event at No. 11, has a history in Southwest Florida as he has led his Jacksonville Bolles High School team to consecutive state championships in Fort Myers the last two years. A member of the Astros for the last two summers and four years playing in the fall, Barco relishes playing with his teammates he could see at the next level as rivals as the left-hander is committed to Virginia.

“I love playing with these guys and there isn’t any other team I’d play for,” Barco said. “We’ve all bonded going from tournament to tournament and spending the summers together, and we’ve basically become a family.”

With the teams essentially split up for the two events, players can go from one event to the other which offers Astros’ head coach Kevin Baldwin the opportunity to get his players as much playing time as possible throughout the roster.

“We try to get everyone as much action as we can and the most exposure as possible.” Baldwin said.

Even though his club did come up short at the WWBA National Championship, Baldwin felt his club played well coming in the Final Four among nearly 400 teams.

“We just couldn’t get the big hit in the semifinal, we had some chances to score,” Baldwin recalled. “Regrouping to come down here, the kids are used to the short turnaround with the schedule we play and they’re ready to get back after it.”

On the BCS side of the competition, the Astros picked up two victories on Tuesday, but fell 5-4 to Next Level Baseball 16u and sit second in Pool W play. With the top two teams in each pool advancing to be set into pools again for the playoff rounds, each Astros team is in prime position to make a run at a championship, with teams across the country gunning for them every step of the way.

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