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Tournaments | Story | 7/3/2018

PG 14u BCS welcomes EC Sox

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Alden Windham (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – With their participation at this week’s Perfect Game 14u BCS National Championship, the East Coast Sox Platinum players are continuing to navigate waters previously uncharted by the powerhouse Columbus, Miss.-based organization.

Just a week after competing at the PG 14u WWBA National Championship in the north Atlanta suburbs – and showing themselves quite well, it can be said – the EC Sox Platinum are here hoping to show they more than belong on these PG national championship stages.

This summer marks the first time the East Coast Sox organization has entered a 14-and-under team in Perfect Game national tournament events, according to Sox Platinum coach Casey Dixon, who assists head coach Alex Lee with the team. Its doing so now because the program believes it can produce championship-caliber teams at the 14-level just as it has in the older age-groups.

When PG released it final 2017 National Travel Team Rankings at the end of last year, the East Coast Sox organization had teams ranked Nos. 4 and 173 at the 17u level; Nos. 15, 45, 46, 76 and 160 at 16u and Nos. 3 and 83 at 15u.

“This is the first 14-year-old group East Coast has really included in their program so this a test run for these guys in a new age-group,” Dixon told PG Tuesday morning from the Lee County Player Development Complex where the team was set to play its second and third pool-play games of the tournament.

The East Coast Sox Platinum did their feet wet in the biggest of oceans when they played at the PG 14u WWBA just last week. That’s almost the equivalent of a Rookie-ball team getting thrown into a competitive pool against a group of MLB teams, at least in terms of having experience playing at such a high level.

But the Sox Platinum finished 3-3-0 while performing on that stage and picked up wins against teams from other prominent programs like the Memphis Tigers and 5 Star National.

“For the first time doing it, we were (very pleased),” Dixon said. “I told the guys that run this organization that I think we saw everybody’s best pitcher up there … so for the competition that we saw I thought our kids handled it well.”

Alden Windham is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-handed pitcher/corner-infielder who was with the team in Atlanta. Although an official all-tournament team has not been released from that event yet, Windham is among six Sox Platinum players – Austin King, Carson Ray, Riley Quick, Pierce Hanna and Michael Alan Cole Jr. are the others – that will receive consideration to be included on that honor squad.

“It was a great experience,” Windham said. “I faced a lot of good pitching, I faced a lot of good batters; it was (better) competition than I’ve ever had to face playing in other tournaments. … The players (at PG national championship tournaments) are a lot better than what we’ve been playing against, and it helps me build my self-confidence to come after people.”

The team is playing this week without a handful of its top pitchers, according to Dixon, because 7-on-7 football leagues are held in July in Alabama. It’s Alabama and it’s football, and that includes kids who are starting their sophomore and freshman years in the fall.

This EC Sox Platinum roster was assembled with players who live primarily in the area in and around Birmingham, Ala., and most of them have either played with or against one another at various youth levels over the past several years.

“This is a good group of kids, and they had played together during four weekends at East Coast events before coming to the Perfect Game stuff,” Dixon said. “They all kind of new each other and they’re all going to high schools that are fairly close to one another.”

The East Coast Sox organization has taken on a national identity in recent years, especially with its premier 17u and 16u teams, of which there are more than a dozen. It has five teams playing in this week’s PG 17u WWBA National Championship in the north-Atlanta area, including the EC Sox Select.

That group is well known and highly regarded and respected The EC Sox Select – 5-0-0 in pool-play at the start of the day Tuesday – boast a roster that features as many as five prospects who could potentially be PG All-Americans in August and at least two – No. 1-ranked Bobby Witt Jr. and No. 6 Rece Hinds – who are projected as potential first-round picks in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft.

“We want to be like them and do everything that they do (but) it’s going to take a lot of practice and hard work,” EC Sox Platinum 2022 Hayes Alford told PG Tuesday morning.

“We want to try to be almost as good as those guys someday,” Windham added. “We want to get there (and the EC Sox) are helping to build us up so we can get to be like them.”

The East Coast Sox program likes to spend the first couple of weeks in June playing in local tournaments, which tends to bring every age-group within the organization together at the same venues at the same time. Dixon recalled a day in early June when this 14u team played a game at the University of Alabama and the older group – with that roster of potential PG All-Americans – played the game immediately after.

“These young guys had a chance to sit there and watch the Rece Hinds of the world and some of those other big names play and got to see what a future (first round) draft pick looks like,” Dixon said with a smile.

He also said that the East Coast Sox Platinum team that performed at the 14u WWBA was a little stronger than this group simply because it had more pitching depth. Dixon went on to say that a handful of the players here this week may be given an opportunity to play on one of the six teams the East Coast Sox will have at the PG 15u WWBA National Championship in north Atlanta July 13-20.

“Some of these guys got to play against older kids and they’ll get to go back and play with an older group for the 15u, which I think will be a great experience for these young kids, too,” he said.

Windham called this team a “loose group” that knows how to have fun off the field and also how to have fun and take a business-like approach on the field. The EC Sox Platinum got off to somewhat of a slow start here, settling for a 4-4 tie with The Clubhouse American in their opener on Monday; it lost 7-3 to Five Star National 14u gold Tuesday morning in a game ended after five innings due to a time-limit rule.

There’s plenty of time to regroup and make the playoffs by the end of the week. PG BCS National Championships use a format where teams spend the first four days of the tournament playing two sets of three-games during pool-play and advance from that into the playoffs. An explanation of the format can be found by clicking here.

This is all a learning experience for these guys and one for the East Coast Sox program, as well, as they venture into the world of 14u PG national championship play. It’s easy to believe everything will be just fine for this group as they follow in the footsteps of their talented “older brothers” and pick up something new and valuable with every new experience.

“A lot of these guys haven’t been south before, and obviously when you come down here you’re playing a lot of South Florida kids,” Dixon said. “It will kind of give them a different perspective and they’ll see some different guys than they’ve seen as they’ve been growing up.”

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