Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, October 15, 2017

EC Yanks know the Ways to Play

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – The Ways to Play Powered by MLB & PG tournament reached its conclusion Sunday afternoon, and at the end of the day it was proven once again that regardless of the guidelines, the East Cobb Yankees always seem to find the right way to play.

Showing that the pace-of-play rules put in place as an experiment of sorts by Major League Baseball and implemented by Perfect Game during this 16-team, two-day tournament at PG Park South-LakePoint, the Georgia-based Yankees used a 12-hit attack to out-last the Virginia-based Canes National, 6-5 in the championship game.

The Yankees (4-0) and the Canes (3-1) -- representing two of the country's premier travel-ball programs -- were locked in a scoreless tie after four innings, but the back-and-forth in the nine-inning game began in earnest in the sixth. The Yanks scored two in the top of the fifth only to watch the Canes come back with three in the bottom half, but East Cobb plated three more in the top of the sixth to secure a lead it wouldn’t lose. Canes National moved to within 5-4 with a run in the bottom of the eighth, and that’s how it ended.

The championship at this one-of-kind tournament just might provide the EC Yankees with an extra bounce in their step as they head down to Jupiter, Fla., toward the end of the week for the PG WWBA World Championship.

“Everyone on this team is great and it’s just so much fun to play with these guys,” EC Yankees 2019 right-hander Ryan Getz said. “This is a great way to go into Jupiter. We all have a lot of confidence and I think it’s going to be really good down there.”

The championship game featured 20 hits, which was unexpected because the general feeling all weekend was that the rules gave the pitchers a slight advantage. Not on this day.

Ryan Bliss doubled twice and drove in two runs, Caleb Ramsey also doubled twice, Drew Byers doubled, singled, drove in a run and scored one, David Burke singled twice and scored a run and Nicholas Watson-Garcia singled, drove in two and scored one to lead the Yankees.

“We had some good five, six, seven, eight-pitch at-bats even with these rules,” Yankees veteran head coach James Beavers said. “For us, I thought (the new rules were) good because it kind of got us off our tails a little bit; I enjoyed it.”

Beavers used four pitchers in the championship game and they combined to allow two earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and eight walks over the nine innings. 2018 right-hander Kennedy Norton was the most effective, working 3 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run on three hits.

PG All-Americans led the Canes’ eight-hit barrage, with Joe Gray Jr. going 2-for-3 with an RBI, Anthony Seigler chipping in with a single, an RBI on a sac fly and a run scored and Nicholas Northcut adding a single and an RBI; Jonah Beaman also singled and drove in a run; Seigler, Beaman, Northcut and Gray hit 1-through-4 in the Canes’ order. Three Canes pitchers combined on the 12-hitter, striking out three and walking four.

Seigler, a 2018 catcher/both-handed pitcher from nearby Cartersville who is ranked No. 35 nationally and has committed to Auburn, finished his two days of work hitting .400 (6-for-15) with a double, triple, home run and four RBI; he was named the Most Valuable Player.

“I really didn’t change my approach, even though it was if you take (a called strike) you’re out,” he said when asked if he had to make any adjustments with the unfamiliar rules in place. “If it was a curveball on the first pitch I’d try to fight it off … but if it was a fastball anywhere I was going to swing. I really didn’t change much – I didn’t try to hit ‘oppo’ with two strikes – I just stayed with my regular approach.”

The event was a grand experiment, indeed, one of the first steps in a journey of many steps that MLB has decided to embark upon in the hope of quickening the pace of a typical baseball game. All of the data and the input and the feedback is just starting to trickle-in, but initial comments seem to be positive.

Beavers said the EC Yankees program usually uses the fall season as kind of an “instructional league” because a lot of these same players will be this team next summer. It’s a time the coaches in the program use to evaluate the players and specifically see what needs to be worked on before the team travels to Jupiter. The Ways to Play event offered a nice diversion from that norm.

“I was proud because they came out with a little bit of intensity and that’s why I thought the format was great because it caused us to get intense with the bats and on the mound,” Beavers said. “For us it was great rather than the usual fall when you just kind of go out there and make sure everyone gets their a-b’s and you make sure everybody gets their innings in. … We decided to lay it all out there and see where we’re at after six weeks of the fall.”

The Yankees’ Getz is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound 2019 right-hander from nearby Marietta who is ranked as a “high follow” and is uncommitted, pitched a whale of a game in Sunday’s semifinal round proving he embraced the new rules; he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher.

“It was definitely different,” Getz said. “My goal pitching was just throw as many strikes as possible, especially with three balls being a walk,” Getz said. “I was just trying to throw the ball over the plate and see what happens. They had to swing the bat, so that was basically my main goal.

“If you throw a first-pitch curveball that they don’t swing at, it changes everything,” he continued. “Batters are thinking more, they’re worried more about what (the pitcher) is going to throw, so just trying to throw strikes was the main part.”

In addition to the championship game, there were a pair of semifinal games and 13 consolation games played at PG Park South-LakePoint on Sunday.

In the semifinal round, both the Canes and the Yankees erased fifth inning deficits and pushed across what proved to be the winning runs in their final at-bats to move into the championship game.

The Canes’ Adam Hackenberg drilled a two-out, RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth for what proved to be the game-winner in a 4-3 victory over the Upstate Mavericks. The Mavs took an early lead after a three-run top of the first, but the Canes tied with three of their own in the bottom half of the sixth, leading to Hackenberg’s heroics. Those three runs stopped a streak of 23 straight scoreless innings by Mavericks’ pitchers.

Hackenberg, a 2018 catcher and Clemson commit ranked 141st nationally, finished 3-for-4 and also delivered an RBI double in the sixth. Gray Betts contributed a sacrifice fly and Jared Kirvin drove in a run on a ground-out fielder’s choice as part of that three-run frame.

Three Canes pitchers combined on an eight-hitter with 2018 right-hander Graham Firoved, 2018 left-hander Will Sandy and 2018 righty Stephen Pelli keeping the Mavericks off the board over the final eight innings. Johnny Cook had a two-run single and Makenzie Stills a run-scoring single for the Mavs in the first. Stills was one of five pitchers used that combined on a five-hitter; he worked two, one-hit shutout innings.

The Yankees trailed the East Cobb Astros 4-0 after 5½ innings but tied it with a four-run sixth, and single runs in the bottom of the seventh and ninth innings led to a 6-5 win.

Logan Fink, a 2018 first baseman and Kent State commit, delivered the knock-out blow with a two-out, line-drive, run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth; Fink was 4-for-5 with three RBI to lead the Yanks’ 15-hit attack.

But he wasn’t alone. Devin Warner tripled and drove in a run, Bliss, Ramsey, Billy Zinnershine and Trey Ham all singled twice and Kendall Simmons walked four times; Zinnershine scored a pair of runs and Simmons also scored.

Getz threw seven innings of three-hit ball in relief for the Yankees, allowing one earned run, striking out two and walking two. Pierce Gallo (2-for-4, 3B, 1 RBI, 1 run), Luke McDevitt (2B, 2 RBI, 1 run) and Jake Gooch (1B, RBI) led the Astros at the plate.

2017 Ways To Play Powered by MLB & PG runner-up: Canes National

2017 Ways To Play Powered by MLB & PG MVP: Anthony Seigler

2017 Ways To Play Powered by MLB & PG MV-Pitcher: Ryan Getz

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