Tournaments | Story | 6/3/2019

PG-East Cobb Invitational Champs

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: East Cobb Astros 17u Navy (Perfect Game)

East Cobb Astros use strong pitching, timely hitting en route to championship

MARIETTA, Ga. -- The East Cobb Astros 17u Navy captured the 18u crown at the 2019 Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational by defeating 643 DP Cougars 16u Sterling 8-0 in the championship.

The Astros found themselves in the position by walking off in the semifinals against TPL National. Locked in a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the seventh, Brad Grenkoski sent his team into the championship when he delivered the game-winning double to score Tiger Borom, who led off the inning with a double. Those were the only two hits of the game for the Astros. 

In the championship, the East Cobb Astros and 643 DP Cougars battled through four scoreless innings. The Astros finally broke through in the fifth. Ethan Stamps laced a two-RBI double with the bases loaded to score two of the team’s three runs in the inning. 

It was a huddle called together by head coach Kevin Baldwin right before the inning that triggered the outbreak.

“Their guy did a really good job of pitching backwards,” Baldwin said. “He was throwing some breaking balls in fastball counts. We got the kids together and went up there looking for off-speed. We got some good ones to hit.”

“Our coach Kevin, he pulled us together and was like, ‘Y’all need to work hard. Y’all need to fight these at-bats through,’” said second baseman John Anderson, who led off the inning with a single. “We came together and were like, ‘C’mon, let’s win this.’”

The Astros provided a cushion the next inning by tacking on five more runs, including a bases clearing double by Anderson.

“I was just waiting on the ball to get to my barrel and just staying through the plane as long as I could,” Anderson, a Georgia Tech commit, said.” I felt like I was able to drive some hits by doing that.”

For his performance over the weekend, one that included nine hits, four doubles, and eight RBIs, Anderson was named MVP of the tournament.

“That’s the reason why he’s hitting in the three-hole for us,” Baldwin said. “He comes up big all the time. He grinds out every at-bat and gives you a good one every time out.”

Michael Sharman and Stamps combined for the three-hit shutout in the win. Sharman went four innings and struck out three batters, while Stamps finished the last two innings, striking out four. Neither pitcher walked a batter, and the Astros didn’t allow a run over the final three games.

“Overall, we had a great team effort all the way around,” Baldwin said. “Threw the ball really, really well and played great defense. Every time you do that you’re always in every game.”

The biggest performance on the mound came the day before, though, in the quarter finals. Will Sanders collected a complete game shutout, allowing just three hits and striking out six over the seven innings.

“He was unbelievable,” Baldwin said. “He came out like a bulldog and just came right at hitters and forced contact. He just threw the ball great all day long.”

The Astros needed every bit of Sanders’ big day on the mound in the 1-0 win over Nelson Baseball Club, and for it, he was named MV-Pitcher of the tournament.

“It’s big,” Sanders said. “It’s an accomplishment. It always something I try to push myself to get.”

For the East Cobb Astros 17u Navy team, it’s just the beginning of a long summer that will surely result in some more hardware. Last week, the team was runners up in the Southeast Memorial Day Classic.

“It kind of gets the monkey off your back so you have one [tournament championship],” Baldwin said. “You know what to do to get there and do it again. We get to start all over again tomorrow and try to do it again.”

5 Star National wins second straight title at 16u level

MARIETTA, Ga. -- For the second week in a row, 5 Star National 16u Burress took the trophy home, this time winning the 2019 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational over Excel Blue Wave 16u by a score of 10-5.

After falling behind 2-0 heading into the top of the third, 5 Star struck for five runs, capped off by an Ethan Campbell two-RBI single. However, Excel immediately struck back in the bottom of the inning and tied the game at five runs apiece. 

From that point, Aiden Mastantuno took over on the bump and didn’t surrender a run in 2 2/3 innings of relief. The southpaw mitigated all the energy that the Excel was feeding off of by tossing a seven pitch, 1-2-3 inning in the fourth.

“He threw strikes,” head coach Andy Burress said of the Florida State commit. “In wood bat, you have to throw strikes… We knew Aiden was going to come in and throw strikes. He did a great job of mixing some speeds up and really slowed the momentum down on their end.”

In the top of the sixth, Mastantuno roped a double to right-center with one out. After he advanced on a past ball, Campbell, the Florida pledge, again came through, garnering an RBI on the sacrifice fly to put 5 Star ahead 6-5.

Excel threatened with runners on first and second in the bottom half of the inning, but Burress called upon the heavy artillery, bringing in Jackson Baumeister to get out of the jam. Baumeister, another Florida State commit, did exactly that, pumping an 89 mph fastball for the strikeout.

“When [Baumeister] comes in, everybody can be hit, but at 16 years old, that’s one of the best arms in the game,” Burress said.

5 Star National added four insurance runs in the seventh, and that was more than enough for Baumeister to close out the game. Burress and Co. manufactured the 10 runs in a variety of ways including timely base hits, sacrifice flies, and putting pressure on the opponent through small ball. It’s all a testament to the players who are a part of the 5 Star program.

“It just goes back to the type of player that we have,” Burress said. “We were down in five of the seven games we played this weekend. Our guys, they don’t panic. They just grind it out. Grind at-bats out.”

Devin Obee was named the MVP of the tournament after a sizzling start at the plate. The Duke commit recorded seven hits, including two home runs, one double, six RBIs and three stolen bases.

“It feels great,” Obee said. “There was a lot of teams here. A lot of great talent, and for Perfect Game to vote me the best player as MVP is an honor. 

“I was just staying inside the ball. Mostly going right field. There was a lot of off-speed and I got to take it right field instead of pulling off and hitting ground balls. That was going really well for me this week.”

For a young player like Obee to hit two home runs in a wooden bat tournament takes some uber strength.

“He’s a great player all the way around,” Burress said. “He’s one of the best young hitters. He’s so strong. He isn’t even 16 years old yet. That’s what makes it crazier. He really should be a 2022 grad.”

What’s scary for other 16u opponents is that Burress says the team hasn’t even played to it’s full potential yet. While that may be the case, they’ve now won two tournaments in a row after winning the Southeast Memorial Day Classic last Monday.

“We have to continue to work and do the small things,” Burress said. “I don’t feel like we’ve played a complete game yet. I think it’s coming.”

Cincinnati Spikes ride pitching staff to 14u crown

MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Cincinnati Spikes capped off an impressive run at the 2019 14u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational by defeating the Georgia Scorpions 14u team 9-1 in the championship.

It wasn’t always easy, however, as the Spikes survived two close calls en route to the championship. In the quarterfinals, the Spikes triumphed on a walk off when Diego DeCello laid down a game-winning bunt. Nik Copenhaver tossed six strong innings, surrendering no runs, two hits, and two walks while striking out three batters in the 2-1 win over VBC 14u.

At the end of the tournament, Copenhaver was named MV-Pitcher.

“I was just trying to throw strikes and pitch to soft contact,” Copenhaver said. “Let my defense work. I took control on the mound by just throwing strikes, painting corners, and getting swings and misses.”

In the semifinals, the Spikes survived 5-4 against 643 DP Jaguars 14u Coleman to advance to the championship. Once they got to that point, it was smooth sailing on Monday afternoon.

The Cincinnati Spikes got the bats hot in the third inning when Braedyn Moore, Lucas Moore, Brett Denby and Jarrod Mays laced four consecutive hits to strike for three runs in the innings.

“Whenever we hit good, it always transfers into the field,” Mays said. “We always try to talk it up in the dugout so we can get our pitchers up and everyone up. If we get one RBI and one hit, it keeps continuing.”

Mays finished the day 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and two RBIs. He was scorching hot all weekend, tallying seven hits, two doubles, and eight RBIs over the course of the week to earn him MVP honors.

“He’s obviously a huge part of our team,” head coach Ryan Arington said. “Having guys like Lucas Moore in front of him and Brett Denby and all those guys around him, it really helps him kind of take the pressure off because he knows there’s other players around him that can help.”

The Cincinnati Spikes added five runs in the fifth inning to end the game right there with the score 9-1. Over the five days, the team only allowed six runs in six games, a true testament to the strength of the pitching staff.

“Pitching has been a key for us,” Arington said. “Pitching and defense. It’s kind of the thing we always tend to work on a lot in practice. If you don’t let your opponent score, you win the game. 

“We try to just keep that ball down. It makes it a little bit harder for guys to elevate it. We try to just let the ball be put in play. We want our pitchers to let the other team put it in play so our defense can make a play.”

As a team from Ohio, the Cincinnati Spikes weren’t a team that’s a usual fixture down in these Georgia tournaments, but they quickly put everyone on notice with their play on the diamond.

“It just makes us know that we can win,” Mays said. “It makes us know that we can beat these teams. Just because we’re from Ohio doesn’t mean we can’t beat the teams from the south or the west.”

And walking away with the championship banner and trophy makes the trip back to Ohio all that much sweeter.

“It makes [the return trip] a lot easier for sure,” Arington said with a chuckle. “We don’t have to think about things we did wrong as much as thinking about what we can build on to win games and win tournaments.”

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