Tournaments | Story | 6/7/2019

PG-East Cobb Invitational Champs

Cory Van Dyke         Jack Nelson        
Photo: Team Elite 15u Scout Team (Perfect Game)
DRB Elite and East Cobb Astros both earn titles in lightning-shortened championship

MARIETTA, Ga. -- DRB Elite 17u and the East Cobb Astros 17u Navy were named co-champions of the 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational, as the game was called in the top of the second inning due to lightning.

The Astros were unstoppable on their drive to the championship, having outscored their opponents in pool play 38-2.  While the offensive numbers are gaudy, Astros coach Kevin Baldwin praised his pitching staff.

“Our pitchers were absolutely dominant this week,” Baldwin said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

And they continued their success into the playoff round, defeating the Duluth Huskies 17u by a score of 4-1, and then defeated the East Cobb Astros 16u X in the semifinal, 4-1.

MV-Pitcher Blade Tidwell got the ball in the semifinal and shined, limiting the dangerous 16u Astros lineup to just three hits over six innings. The Tennessee commit used his upper-80s to low-90s fastball to record six strikeouts and walk just one.

“Blade was awesome today,” Baldwin said. “He shut down a really, really good Astros 16u team.”

Zachary Murray, an LSU commit, put an exclamation point on the semifinal victory by striking out the side in the seventh.

At the plate, tournament MVP Ethan Stamps led the way going a combined 9-for-13 in the tournament. He added six RBIs, six runs, and three doubles. But he was especially clutch in the big games. In the Astros two playoff matchups, Stamps was 4-for-6 with three RBIs, two runs, and two doubles. The Astros also got steady production from Kaelen Culpepper, who added a hit and a run in the semifinal.

“He was crucial,” said Baldwin of Stamps, a Lipscomb commit. “Both Ethan and Blade had tremendous weeks.”

“I’m really excited about what this group can accomplish the rest of the way,” Baldwin added.

For DRB, their path to the championship also relied upon their pitching staff.

“Early on in the tournament our at-bats were a little cold,” DRB coach Dwayne Sapp said. “I expected that. A lot of our guys haven’t played in a month. But our pitching was so good.”

DRB won a wild semifinal game against the Georgia Bombers 16u earlier in the day. With the bases loaded and one out, Sapp turned to Reuben Church to protect their tenuous 5-4 lead. While committed to Kentucky as an infielder, Church responded by getting a 1-2 force out at the plate and then a strikeout to seal the victory for DRB.

“We kind of save Reuben for those situations,” Sapp said. “We have a smaller roster than most other teams. We only carry about 16-18 guys, so many have to pitch and play the field. I’m proud of how they all stepped up.”

Offensively for DRB, Church led the way with two hits and three RBIs. Duke commit Evan Carter added a hit and scored two runs, and South Carolina commit Josh Shuler contributed a hit and a run in the winning effort.

Sapp was thrilled with the growth in his team this week. And with a roster filled with SEC and ACC talent, he was optimistic this won’t be the last trophy his team will win.

“I’m really proud of the team,” he said. “A lot of our guys had really improved this week. It’s going to be a fun summer.”

-Jack Nelson

All-around performance propels Team Elite 15u Scout Team to title

DUNWOODY, Ga. -- Team Elite 15u Scout Team completed an impressive run at the 2019 Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational by defeating East TN Crusaders 15u in the championship, 15-5.

Team Elite found itself in the championship game after a 8-0 shutout win in the semifinals over East Cobb Astros 15u. Aeden Finateri and Bauer Brittain combined for a five inning no-hitter. Finateri, a Boston College commit, picked up the win, throwing four innings and walking two batters, while striking out six. 

“I located my fastballs well,” Finateri said. “My good defense behind me, they were making all the plays. That contributed a lot.”

Throughout the entire week, Finateri surrendered just one hit in six innings and struck out 10 while pumping a fastball that reached 90 mph at times. He was named MV-Pitcher of the tournament.

“Aeden is special,” Coach Kane Keith said. “He was very impressive. Throwing 90 mph at 15 years old is unheard of. He’s a guy that’s a three-pitch mix, and he pumps strikes. He goes up there and he’s a competitor. Every time he goes up there on the mound, he wants the ball in his hand.”

In the championship game, Javi Marrero picked up the win after striking out seven batters over three innings. Team Elite’s bats came alive and exploded for 15 runs on 13 hits, including three home runs from Michael Gupton, Calvert Clark, and Cooper Blauser. Gupton tallied a 4-for-5 game at the plate with three RBIs.

Second basemen Everett Cooper collected three hits on the afternoon for three more RBIs.

“Just my approach taking the ball the other way and trying to drive the ball up the middle,” said Cooper on what was working for him at the dish. “It means that my hard work is finally paying off. I’ll keep continuing to get better from here.”

Cooper finished the week with a tournament-high eight hits. He also recorded a home run and a double while knocking in eight RBIs to earn MVP honors.

“Everett is a switch hitter, and he’s been consistently solid all weekend from the left side, from the right side,” Keith said. “Made some really good defensive plays for us, and really consistently gave us a chance to win games.”

Team Elite’s success perhaps would not have been possible without a trial run just a few days before. The team played in the same tournament, but at that 16u level that ran from May 30 - June 3, facing the older competition to prepare for their own age group. 

Team Elite finished 2-2 over the course of the prior tournament, providing a learning opportunity and propelling them forward to the 6-0 finish at the 16u level.

“Last weekend definitely challenged us playing in older competition,” Finateri said. “I think it just shows this week how good we are as a group.”

While the statistics were certainly impressive outscoring opponents 67-14, Team Elite was most pleased with the togetherness that has begun to develop for the long haul of the summer.

“It’s just the chemistry that they’re creating,” Keith said. “The bond that is being developed here day in and day out. We want to just continue to close the gap from where we are to where we want to be. We’re doing a good job of doing that.”

And during the long haul of the summer, there will be more impactful games to be played. This championship sets up Team Elite 15u Scout Team for Perfect Game’s upcoming premier tournaments.

“It’s huge for us,” Keith said. “We have the BCS coming up. We have the WWBA coming up, the World Series coming up. Those are really big tournaments and tournaments we really want to win. Just winning this tournament is taking us one step closer to winning those.”

-Cory Van Dyke

Comeback kids of Home Plate Chili Dogs capture 13u championship

DUNWOODY, Ga. -- Home Plate Chili Dogs 13u Copeland put together an awe-inspiring playoff run, capping it off with an 8-2 triumph over Team Elite 13u Premier in the 2019 13u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitation championship.

Home Plate barely snuck into the playoff round of the tournament as the last seed after going 1-1-1 in pool play. In the first round of the playoffs, Home Plate upended the No. 1 seed, SmarTense Angels 13u Northcutt, by a score of 7-6. Trailing 6-5 heading into the sixth, Landon Leonard laced a two-out, two-RBI single to put Home Plate ahead and help them advance to the semifinals. 

Connor Soper pitched four innings in the game, giving up no earned runs and no walks, while striking out two. Over six innings pitched in the tournament, he did not allow a run, walking away with the MV-Pitcher award.

Connor Soper threw our first game yesterday and beat SmarTense, who is one of the best teams in the country,” Head Coach Josh Copeland said. “He had his best outing of the year.”

In the semifinals, Home Plate again used some late inning magic to stave off Excel Blue Wave 13u. The Chili Dogs entered the top of the seventh inning trailing by one run, but put some pressure on the base paths and put a three-spot up on the board en route to the 8-6 win.

“It means a lot to me because as a coach all you can hope for is your kids are going to fight no matter what,” Copeland said. “It almost brings a tear to your eye when you see them come back and beat two really good ball teams like they did yesterday.”

The comeback kids took a day off on Friday’s championship, instead jumping out to the 5-0 lead from the beginning against Team Elite Premier. Tucker Mask finished 3-for-3 on the day, and his ground-rule double in the sixth brought the game to the final score of 8-2. Mask finished the week with eight hits, three doubles, four RBIs, and five stolen bases to win MVP of the tournament.

“He had a great weekend,” Copeland said of Mask. “We moved him to the leadoff spot this weekend. He’s usually been in the five-hole for us. He’s just continued to get better as the season has gone on. He hit a big ground-rule double in this game when the game was really tight. He had a phenomenal tournament at the plate.”

Mason Olivarez went the distance on the mound for Home Plate, firing seven innings and surrendering just five hits and one earned run while striking out four batters to pick up the win.

For Home Plate, it was the second consecutive Perfect Game tournament that they’ve walked away as champions after winning the 2019 PG 13U Southeast Memorial Day Classic on May 27. Now, after a long season, there’s just one opportunity left for Home Plate to again piece it all together.

“We’ve got one more tournament left this year,” Copeland said. “Now we’ve won Perfect Game back-to-back weekends, so hopefully we can keep it going and finish on as a good a note as possible.”
-Cory Van Dyke
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