Tournaments | Championship | 7/25/2017

Summer Showdown champs crowned

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – The 643 DP Cougars Pralgo beat Team Elite 17u Prime 1-0 to win their third straight 17u PG Summer Showdown championship.

“It’s awesome,” Cougars pitcher Charlie Estes said. “Coach Pralgo always puts us in a position to win. We won it last year and this year we just came out with the mindset that we’re the best team in this and someone’s going to have to take it from us.”

The Cougars certainly played with that mentality, coming into the game 8-0, while shutting out seven of their previous eight opponents. They would be scored upon for the first time in the semifinal game against Rawlings Southeast 16u National, a game that they would win 7-5. Offensively, the team scored 67 runs heading into the championship game, clicking on all cylinders throughout the lineup.

A monumental comeback was the story for Team Elite 17u Prime in the semifinal matchup against the East Cobb Colt .45s. The team was down 8-0 with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, facing a run-rule before a walk, a single and a walk loaded the bases. Anthony Angelety would ground out, but a run would score, and with two outs in the inning, Trenton Parker hit a three-run home run to make the game 8-4. Five runs would score in the sixth inning, as a double by Austin Meadows to the right-center field gap would plate two and give his team the lead. Alaska Abney, who would end up pitching a scoreless inning in the championship game later on, would throw 3 1/3 innings in relief, giving up just four hits while shutting the door on the Colt .45s.

After semifinal matchups in which both teams saw plenty of runs cross the plate, a pitching duel would emerge in the championship game, as Team Elite sent three pitchers to the mound, while 643 used one. Each team was hitless until the bottom of the second inning, when Ryan Miller of the Cougars singled to break the silence. Carson Taylor walked after Miller, and both were moved into scoring position on a bunt by Patrick Taylor. With only one out, Matthew Gravely hit a flyball to left field that was caught by a terrific diving catch by Anthony Angelety, but allowed Miller to score the game’s first run.

The Cougars threatened with bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, but would be unable to push across another run. The earlier run would be the only one that they would need, though, as Estes was brilliant on the mound, firing seven innings, giving up just one hit and two walks, striking out a hitter.

“I thought I could really keep them off balance with mixing up speeds and locations. They had a hard time with my changeup it seemed like the whole game,” Estes said about his performance. “Getting ahead early was a big thing. I know they’re a good team and they’re used to hitting the ball, so they’re going to be aggressive and you can take advantage of that if you’re just pounding the strike zone.”

Estes needed only 67 pitches to navigate through Team Elite’s lineup and kept hitters guessing with his three-pitch mix. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound lefthander sat in the high-70s with his fastball, but did so with control, which allowed him to turn in the performance that he did. Estes efforts would earn him the MV-Pitcher award for the tournament, finishing with only giving up one hit and two walks, while striking out three hitters over eight innings pitched.

“I’ll tell you what, Charlie’s one of those guys again, not a huge velo guy, but one of the best pitchers that we’ve got and everything we preach is pitchability, trusting any pitch in any count, don’t worry about trying to throw hard, and the velocity will come as you get stronger, naturally,” said Cougars head coach Danny Pralgo. “So just super proud of him and the job that Tyler Tolve did catching him and staying together on that game plan, those guys just executed a great game plan against a great hitting team.”

Doing the little things right was the theme for the Cougars, who used aggressive baserunning and small ball to manufacture runs in the lineup. This seemed to help get them started, as the lineup would just continue to string together hits all throughout. That simple baseball approach proved key in the pitching duel in the championship.

“Every inning, there’s going to be three outs, but did one or two of those outs move a runner? Advance a guy? We’ve been focusing on that a lot this whole summer and luckily, I think that’s what really helped us get on this nine-game run was, we had a lot of good outs. That then it’s kind of just doing your job and letting the guy behind you then do his job, so we had a lot of good team baseball going on,” Pralgo said.

Drew Hamrock, one of the players that Pralgo praised for his unselfish style of play, would receive the MV-Player award for the tournament, going 10-for-23 with two doubles, one triple, nine RBIs and five stolen bases over the tournament. The Virginia commit would benefit from a mid-tournament change in approach.

“Early in the week I didn’t have the same approach. I was not going up there with the right thing that I’ve been doing the whole summer, but later in the week I talked to my coaches, slowed things down and just had a better approach at the plate and really got things working by the end,” Hamrock said.

Last year, Hamrock joined the 17u squad that won this event and said that it was great to be able to win it again and continue the tradition. Pralgo tipped his cap to Brad Bouras’ Team Elite squad, who he knows does such a great job of competing. He said that the win meant a lot not only for his squad, but for the 643 family as a whole because of the comradery that they have built each year.

“I tell you what, that’s just really cool from inside of the 643 family because even our squad from last year that went on the run, and all these guys stay in touch and there were some funny conversations and texts going on from guys from last year who are now moving off to college that said, ‘Hey, don’t forget, we won that last year, so try to bring it back home,’ so it was good fun play, but that’s what makes being around 643 really great for all of us is,” Pralgo said. “We’re all pulling for each other, last year’s team, this year’s team, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Tigers, Jaguars, Cougars, everybody’s pulling for each other, so it's just a real fun atmosphere.”

2017 17u PG Summer Showdown Champion: 643 DP Cougars Pralgo

2017 17u PG Summer Showdown runner-up: Team Elite 17u Prime

2017 17u PG Summer Showdown MVP: Drew Hamrock

2017 17u PG Summer Showdown MV-Pitcher: Charlie Estes

EMERSON, Ga. – The Ninth Inning Royals Bohana defeated the GoWags LumberKings by a score of 5-1 to win the 15u PG Summer Showdown at LakePoint.

“[I saw] a lot of grit,” said Royals head coach Mike Bohana. “We haven’t had a ton of success in these Perfect Game events as of late, the 16u WWBA and the 15u WWBA, and being the last tournament of season, our guys really wanted to go out on a good note and play hard and understand that it was their last opportunity, not just to play ball this summer, but to play at a great venue and play when there are scouts around and put themselves in a position to get seen and recognized and potentially move on to the next level.”

Ninth Inning came out swinging in the beginning of the tournament, scoring 31 runs over their first two games, while holding opponents to three runs. A 4-2 loss against Ohio Elite 15u Marshall put a dent in the record of the Royals, who would go on to win the rest of their pool games, but they would finish tied with MVP Beast and Ohio Elite for the top spot in the pool. Because the teams were all tied, instead of using head-to-head rules, runs allowed was used to determine the top spot, and the Royals game up the fewest runs in their pool, allowing them to move on.

“In our last game of pool play, we didn’t even think we were going to get into the bracket, and then we ended up getting in, and we just grinded and kept playing that entire time, playing as hard as we could and it just worked out for us,” said Royals second baseman James Bailey.

Once in the playoffs, the Royals made some noise, beating the Northwest Florida Aces 1-0 on Monday, before beating the No. 2-seeded GamePrep Baseball Academy in the quarterfinals and the No. 3-seeded Georgia Bombers 15u White in the semifinals. That set the stage for them in the championship game on Tuesday afternoon.

Standing in their way was a hot LumberKings team who rolled through their pool, going 4-0-1 while scoring 39 runs in that span. Michael Rabayda shutout 643 DP Bishop in the quarterfinals, throwing seven scoreless innings, striking out nine. He finished the tournament striking out 16 hitters over 12 1/3 innings pitched, giving up only one earned run. The LumberKings would go on to beat the East Cobb Colt .45s 5-3 in the semifinals behind a solid pitching performance by Cole Wagner, who went 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs and fanning seven hitters, cementing their spot in the championship game.

The Royals got things started in the top of the second inning, with David Deaderick, Ben Johnson and Ryan Jones reaching with one out to load the bases for Robby Hardin, who would single home a run. Bailey singled home a run, followed by a Levi Cloud sac-fly to left to give the Royals an early 3-0 lead. Bailey and Cloud would drive in runs again in the fourth, with Bailey hitting an RBI groundout, while Cloud hit an RBI single to drive up the lead to 5-0. Bohana said that hitting with runners in scoring position was a huge key all week.

“Two-out RBIs. When we had opportunities to score when we had runners on second and third or second, we were cashing in, and it was a big momentum turner for us in a lot of those games to be able to push those two-out runs across and allow our team to continue with momentum to get through the game and win it,” Bohana said

Hardin and Bailey would both finish the game 3-for-4, with Bailey also picking up two RBIs. Cloud also had two RBIs out of the No. 4 spot in the lineup, making the two, three and four spots in the order a combined 7-for-10 with five RBIs. The 5-foot-10, 140-pound Bailey would be named the MVP of the tournament after going 13-for-17 (.481) with five RBIs and six stolen bases.

“I was thinking fastball and just a short, quick swing and then once I hit it, I just ran as hard as I could,” Bailey said about his approach at the plate.

“Not only did he have a great week at the plate, but he threw nine scoreless innings for us,” Bohana said. “Pitched a big game for us to really get to this spot, he was absolutely our MVP, but just a kid that grinds out the game, loves playing the game, plays it as hard as he can, grinds out at-bats and finds a way to help his team anyway that he can.”

The pitching staff of the Royals did their part as well in the championship, holding the LumberKings to one run in the game. Drew Berg started the game on the mound, throwing three scoreless innings, surrendering two hits and two walks, while striking out two. Owen McMurtrie relieved Berg and turned in 2 2/3 scoreless before giving way to Dhruv Patel, who would pitch 1 1/3 innings, giving up just one run. Although McMurtrie and Patel got in jams in the sixth and seventh, they were able to use their defense to get out of it and ultimately win the game.

“For our pitchers, we always tell them the more that you can allow hitters to put the ball in play, the better chance you have at getting out of innings,” Bohana said. “If you attack hitters, you attack them early, you get ahead in the count, it forces hitters into a defensive situation, and when you do that, it makes playing defense a lot easier.”

While the higher seeds had the luxury of a free pass to the quarterfinals of the bracket, the Royals had to play five games in the span of two days to accomplish this feat, something that is not easy to do. Although they could have laid down and given into the exhaustion of 90-degree heat, the team was able to come together and overcome the obstacles.

“It’s fantastic,” Bohana said. “For me and my coach having played collegiate ball and pro ball, anytime you can win a championship and lead young men and teach young men to come together and to compete and to give it everything that they have and to play hard and to see what happens, there’s a lot of satisfaction in it for us as coaches to see them grow like that.”

2017 15u PG Summer Showdown Champion: Ninth Inning Royals Bohana

2017 15u PG Summer Showdown runner-up: GoWags LumberKings

2017 15u PG Summer Showdown MVP: James Bailey

2017 15u PG Summer Showdown MV-Pitcher: Michael Rabayda

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