Tournaments | Story | 6/6/2019

DRB Elite 15u survives in extras

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Brayden Fordham (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. -- DRB Elite 15u needed two outstanding outings and an escape job in extra innings to advance to the semifinals at the 2019 15u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational, and it got exactly that.

During the first game of the morning at North Cobb Christian School in the first round of the playoffs, Cade Fisher carried DRB Elite to the 6-2 victory over 643 DP Cougars 15u Montgomery with an absolute gem on the mound. The 6-foot-2 southpaw nearly fired a complete game, going 6 2/3 innings while allowing just two runs (one earned), four hits, one walk, with a remarkable 11 strikeouts. 

Leading 3-1, DRB Elite added three runs in the sixth inning, thanks to RBIs by Miles Jackson and Max Puckett. With six runs on the board, it was more than enough insurance for Fisher and eventually Puckett to close the door on the mound.

DRB Elite strutted into the quarterfinals ready to face the No. 1 overall seed, Excel Blue Wave 15u. Excel came into the game having shutout all three opponents in pool play, outscoring those teams 25-0.

It’s the type of opponent that gave DRB Elite starting pitching Caleb Fordham a little boost. One that produced another marvelous performance on the bump for DRB Elite and carried them to the 4-2 triumph in eight innings.

“That fires me up more than anything,” Fordham said about facing the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals. “It just makes me want to deal more than ever. Just do what I do every single time to go out there and try to shut them down.”

And Fordham certainly was dealing. The righthanded hurler was dominant from start to finish against the hard-hitting Excel Blue Wave team. He struck out 10 hitters using a fastball and curveball mix with the heater sitting low 80’s and running up as high as 85 mph. Fordham surrendered three hits and two runs over six innings of work before being removed for pitch count purposes.

“Throwing strikes and getting ahead early was big for us and him,” head coach Paul Meade said. “When he does that, it gives us a chance to even mix it up a little bit more to keep them off-balanced so they don’t know what’s coming. He was throwing his curveball for a strike. That helped a lot too. As you could tell, that’s a really good hitting team. He had them on their heels at times where they didn’t know what pitch was coming and they were taking it.”

After DRB Elite tied the game at two runs apiece in the fifth following a run scored on a balk, the teams remained scoreless through the allotted seven innings of play. It set up extra innings with the unique rules in the playoffs where the inning starts with the bases loaded and one out for each team.

In the top of the eighth, leadoff batter Jason Avila stepped to the plate, already 2-for-2 on the day. Avila laced a first pitch fastball out to centerfield, deep enough for a sacrifice fly to give DRB Elite the 3-2 lead.

“Last two innings before that inning he was throwing all fastballs,” Avila said. “I hadn’t seen his off-speed, so I was looking for first pitch fastball. I was attacking first pitch.”

Brayden Fordham followed with an RBI single and DRB Elite entered the bottom of the eighth, ahead 4-2 and facing the same situation with the bases loaded.

Chandler Klein, who shut down the top of Excel’s order in the bottom of the seventh, exhibited some guts on the mound, striking out the first batter by getting him to chase on a curveball in the dirt. 

He then induced a game-ending ground ball to shortstop to secure the 4-2 win and a trip to the semifinals tomorrow for DRB Elite. Klein did not allow a hit over his two innings of work.

“That was huge for us,” Meade said. “Chandler, the thing about him is he’s such a stinkin’ gamer. You can see it. He’s the type of kid with bases loaded that likes to be stuck in that situation. You have to have some guys like that that can handle it. He’s one of those guys.”

At the end of the contest, many of the DRB Elite players unleashed a scream in a game that undoubtedly felt like high stakes baseball.

“We look at every win as a big win,” Meade said. “We knew they were going to be a really good team… It was lively. They were into the game. We were into the game. Good one to win.”

Now, DRB Elite will face East TN Crusaders 15u, another team who survived extra innings in the quarterfinals to reach this point tomorrow at 8 a.m. at Brook Run. Meade and Co. will be looking for much of the same that brought DRB Elite this far already.

“What it’s going to take for us is good pitching for sure,” Meade said. “We’re going to have to throw strikes and make the plays on defense. We feel like our bats will score some runs against most teams. We just have to play clean baseball to finish this thing out.”

It took two wins on Thursday and it will take two more wins on Friday to walk away as champions. If DRB Elite plays with the same energy and grit, they have to like their chances.

“I love this team to death,” Avila said.

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