Tournaments | Championship | 6/12/2019

2019 WWBA Qualifier Champions

Jack Nelson         Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Duluth Noles 17u (Perfect Game)

Duluth Noles finish wild day with championship triumph

MARIETTA, Ga. – With the score knotted at 4-4 in the top of the seventh, Tate Marks stepped to the plate. And as Marks had done all tournament, he delivered in a big way by smoking a double off the left field wall to give the Duluth Noles 17u the lead over the East Cobb Astros 17u Navy.

One run was all that Caleb Ketchup needed, as he mowed down the heart of the Astros order in the bottom of the inning to give the Duluth Noles 17u the victory in the championship game of the WWBA 17u National Championship Qualifier.

It was a wild day in which the Noles played three games, all of which were close ball games. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Sox Baseball, 5-3, and then moved on to a back and forth semifinal game against Beast Mode Prime. Spurred by Christian Davis’s moonshot home run, the Noles were able to strand the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh to escape with a 6-4 victory.

In the championship game, the Noles fell behind early until Caleb Ketchup and Dominick McIntyre started a hit parade that sparked a big fourth inning.

Through it all, the Noles never looked tired. They never dragged on and off the field. They certainly did not look like a team that had just played 21 innings of intense, playoff baseball.

“We are an experienced club,” said coach Karl Garcia. “We are a seasoned bunch that expected to play three games today. And that is how we acted. Not a lot of ups, not a lot of downs. We just stayed level the whole day.”

With the Perfect Game National Showcase currently going on in Phoenix, Arizona, both the Noles and the Astros were struck with serious roster attrition as many main contributors are currently away. For the Noles, they especially missed outfielder Dwight Allen, a Georgia commit who Perfect Game has ranked as a top 500 player in the high school class of 2020.

Still, the guys that remained ascended into new roles and embraced the “next man up” mentality.

“It was a total team effort,” said Garcia. “We are missing four main guys, but everyone knew what their job was. This was a great team victory.”

One of those guys that took his game to the next level was Marks, who was also named Most Valuable Pitcher in addition to getting the big hit in the championship game. In the semifinal game against Beast Mode Prime, Marks was masterful, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing no earned runs and striking out five. He avenged the Noles only loss of the tournament, which came at the hands of Beast Mode during pool play.

“It’s pretty to easy to pitch when you have a defense like we have,” Marks said. “I just kept it simple, mixing my fastball with my curveball and changeup.”  

That defense was crucial. The Noles received huge plays all week from shortstop Caleb Ketchup and first basemen Kade Snell. Snell, an Auburn commit, saved at least two runs against the Astros when he made a diving stop in the hole, flipping the ball to the pitcher covering first.

With music blasting in the Noles dugout, it was sure to be a day the program will cherish.  A win against the East Cobb Astros made the triumph even sweeter.

“It was such a crazy day,” Marks said. “They beat us last tournament. We made some mistakes in that game. This time, we were definitely out for revenge.”

Ethan Stamps was named tournament MVP, an honor that he also won at last week’s Perfect Game East Cobb Invitational. The Lipscomb commit was 8-for-21 on the week with seven RBIs. 

643 DP Jaguars sneak into bracket play, run the table to championship

MARIETTA, Ga. – In the 2019 16u WWBA National Championship Qualifier championship, it was a 14-year-old pitcher who carried 643 DP Jaguars 16u Mang to the 5-2 victory over Warriors Baseball - Meigs.

You heard that right. Jake Tucker, typically a member of 643 DP Cougars 14u, threw an absolute gem en route to the Jaguars championship which earned the team an automatic paid invitation to the 16u WWBA.

“We try to tell guys all the time it’s really about disrupting time of hitters and you don’t always have to throw 95,” head coach Rick Mang said. “There’s another way to do it, and if you spot up, hit those spots, throw strikes, and change speeds and locations. 

“For a 14 year old to come up, you don’t know how he’s going to perform in the limelight of 16u ball. You saw him. He was ridiculously good and composed.”

Tucker went the distance, tossing a complete game while surrendering just three hits, two runs, and one walk, along with four strikeouts. The crafty lefty worked inside and out with a good mix of fastballs and off-speed, frustrating the Warriors’ batters in the process.

“I was really locating and letting my defense work,” Tucker said. “They played a great game behind me. Obviously, getting run support early really helped me with confidence and just allowing me to go out there and pitch to contact.

“If you just believe in yourself and have confidence then you can do anything you want.” 

643 DP Jaguars jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings, beginning with a solo shot from Charlie Condon that traveled 349 feet. In the third, the Jaguars struck for three runs, as Marshall Toole doubled in a run and Aiden Cloud knocked in two runs with a two-out single. With another run added in the sixth on a Matt Shook single, it was more than enough for Tucker the rest of the way.

“I really got my timing down this week,” Toole said. “I was seeing the pitches, balls and strikes really well. I was just hitting line drives and putting it in play.”

Toole concluded the week with eight hits, eight runs, two doubles, two triples, four RBIs, and seven walks atop the lineup. His performance earned him MVP honors.

“He really just worked hard at using the whole field,” Mang said of his leadoff batter. “Probably half his hits were opposite field. He took what they gave him. He’s also a 6.6 guy on the bases, so it creates a lot of problems when he gets on. People worry about him and I think that helps the guys behind him. He’s such a table setter and such a key part of our offense.”

It was truly a remarkable run for the Jaguars who entered the playoffs as the No. 12 seed, the last seed in bracket play after a 2-1-1 record in pool play. In round one of the playoffs, the team came from behind and scored three runs in the top of the sixth to end up winning 4-3 over East Cobb Colt .45's 16U Premier. 

All in all, 643 DP Jaguars knocked off the No. 5, 4, 8, 10 seeds on the path to the championship.

“It shows that we never gave up,” Toole said. “Everybody probably doubted that the 12 seed would win the tournament, but we battled back and got it.”

After the 1-1-1 start in the tournament, the Jaguars were a team par excellence, rattling off five straight wins along the way.

“Sometimes in baseball, it doesn’t feel like as much momentum as other sports, but there truly is tons of momentum,” Mang said. “When one guy gets a hit and you score a few runs, it really gets contagious. We know what’s in the brain. If you believe, a lot of things can happen and they did.”

It truly was a worst to first turnaround for 643 DP Jaguars. Last week while playing up in the 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational, the team went 0-3 and scored just one run. It’s the type of turnaround that puts a smile on Mang’s face and gets him excited for the rest of the summer ahead.

“It’s really cool and it’s gratifying as a coach to see these guys believe in themselves and believe in one another,” Mang said. “It actually happened a little early for us. Usually it’s about July 1 when we’re kind of jelling. This is incredible that we get this, and it gives them more confidence to say we can play with anybody.”

The Warriors' Samuel Simpson was named MV-Pitcher of the tournament after he struck out 12 batters over eight inning pitched throughout the week, allowing just two hits and no runs.

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