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Tournaments | Story | 6/17/2019

Super25 GA Qualifier Champs

Cory Van Dyke         Jack Nelson        
Photo: Beast Mode Prime 17u (Perfect Game)
Beast Mode’s offensive explosion catapults them to title

KENNESAW, Ga. -- The bats came alive on Monday for Beast Mode Prime 17u as they capped off a perfect 5-0 week at the 2019 PG Super25 17u Georgia Super Qualifier by defeating UMGA Red 17u 12-4 in the championship.

Beast Mode finished pool play as the No. 3 seed, having to steady their feet along the way with two one-run wins to begin the tournament. Entering bracket play, Beast Mode decided they needed a little offensive boost and found some time for some extra reps before the semifinals.

“It’s funny because I think we were hitting sub .200 before today in the past nine games at Perfect Game so far,” head coach Pete Sass said. “We showed up about two hours early before the game, two and a half hours early at another park and we worked. We worked for an hour and we came here ready to play. We just had a plan and I think everyone here wanted to win. It starts with a winning mindset.”

Those extra swings certainly set the precedent for a day that was filled with an offensive explosion. In the semifinals against Game On Prospects 17u, Beast Mode collected 17 hits, using a 10-run second inning to propel them to the championship with the 17-5 win. 

Kiobel Lugo commanded the offense with a three-run homer and four RBIs in the semis. Corbin Shaw added three RBIs of his own on the way to the championship.

Those offensive fireworks continued in the championship. Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the first, Jim Brown stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. One little adjustment in the pre-game batting cage session stood in the back of his mind, and he launched a grand slam to give Beast Mode a lead they would never surrender.

“Earlier today we went to the cages, and I worked on keeping my inside hand up so I could get my barrel out,” Brown said. “I was just trying to hit the ball to right-center and it worked out for me.”

Brown concluded the tournament with six hits, two home runs, three doubles, and eight RBIs to earn MVP honors.

“He’s a beast and I knew it was coming,” Sass said. “Anytime we get to swing a metal bat there’s going to be some home runs. I’m just proud of these guys and Jimbo especially. It was a great job.”

Jhan Ledezma helped break the game open with a bases clearing double in the third inning that made the score 9-3. He also knocked in the final run of the game that pushed the lead to eight runs, ending the contest in the fifth inning.

After a third place finish last week in the 2019 WWBA 17u National Championship Qualifier, Beast Mode Prime is starting to make a name for themselves across the 17u landscape in their first year of existence. 

“This is our first summer as a program so we’re underdogs and they know that,” Sass said. “That was the fun thing about it. Every game we went into, nobody knew us. We just kept rolling. It didn’t matter if we were down or if we were up. We kept playing hard and it shows today… I love these guys so much.”

With the 29 combined runs scored in the semifinals and championship, Beast Mode appears to have fixed the offensive ails and intends to keep the bats rolling throughout the summer.

“I think it’s going to throw us to success because we really need to be swinging the bat,” Brown said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit, but other than that, we obviously didn’t struggle today.”

The road ahead for Beast Mode Prime looks promising following the 5-0 week. Heading into the end of June and into July, the bigger tournaments await the upstart organization. Sass insists nothing will change along the way.

“We’re going to play our way, every day and every game,” Sass said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a big tournament, small tournament, bad team or good team. We’re going to represent Beast Mode. We’re going to come out with energy every game. We’re going to keep going and see what happens.”

Andrew Lewis III of UMGA Red walked away with MV-Pitcher honors following a tournament where he accounted for eight innings pitched with nine strikeouts, while allowing just five hits, four walks, and one run.

East Cobb Sun Devils stay calm, bash their way to championship

DUNWOODY, Ga.- The East Cobb Sun Devils 16u were simply the best. And they proved they could win in multiple ways on their way to capturing the Perfect Game Super25 16u Georgia Super Qualifier Championship against Team Exposure 16u North by a score of 9-7.

The Sun Devils wasted no time by blitzing Exposure for eight runs in the top of the first, highlighted Tony Kouloukas’s opposite field single that scored two. For the tournament, he was 6-for-15 with seven RBIs and three runs on his way to being named tournament MVP.  Wyatt Stevenson was also extremely productive, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI in the final game.

“I just stuck to my approach,” said Kouloukas. “Keep calm and swing it.”

But the game was far from over. Exposure refused to go away and countered with five runs in the bottom of the first. Reliever Connor Jurek kept the Sun Devils largely off balance for most of the game, and Exposure cut the lead to 8-7 by the sixth inning.

It seemed things might unravel for the Sun Devils as Team Exposure continued to hit their way back, and even recorded a crazy triple play in the fourth inning that erased a Sun Devil rally. But Coach Faulk was proud of the way his team weathered the storm and punched back.

“We had a long talk in the fourth inning about grinding out at-bats,” said Faulk. “The other team is going to come back. That’s a part of the game. But if we could score eight in the first, we could do it again.”

Coach Faulk’s words worked magic in the top of the seventh, as the Sun Devils got a massive insurance run when Wyatt Stevenson singled, stole second, and then eventually scored on a fielder’s choice.

“I think we were playing a little too loose,” said Kouloukas of the middle innings. “We were making some stupid mistakes, letting some runs come across. But we got it together and handled our business.”

One guy that certainly handled his business was Andrew Kakareka. After Exposure’s huge first inning, the Sun Devils needed Kakareka to be their stopper and he did the job. Coming on in relief with just one out in the first, he gave the Sun Devils quality innings the rest of the way. Through his 6 2/3 innings of work, Kakareka poured in strike after strike and was able to get his team back in the dugout, limiting any chance of a big inning from Exposure.

With a steady rain picking up over Brooke Run Park, Kakareka calmly recorded the last three outs in the bottom of the seventh and the Sun Devils celebration was on.

While the championship turned out to be a slugfest, the semifinal game was all about pitching and defense. And it was the right arm of Jack Wilcox that outdueled the East Cobb Colt .45’s starter Nick Wilson. Wilcox was sensational, firing a complete game shutout, striking out four batters along the way.

“The bats were just pressing in the semifinal,” said Sun Devils coach Kenny Faulk. “We have a lot of kids that play varsity baseball and they were trying to do too much. We told them to play the game hard and have fun. That is what East Cobb is all about. It’s about relaxing and just playing baseball. Good things happen when you do that.”

“We gathered around as a team before the championship and decided we needed play loose,” said Kouloukas. “We squared the ball up and runs came our way.”

On Monday, the Sun Devils proved they can win a baseball game on the mound, at the field, and with their gloves. This only fills them with confidence as they continue to embark on their summer journey.

“This championship shows us that we can compete with the best,” said Faulk. “We’re going to get back to East Cobb and make adjustments and get these guys ready for the rest of the way.”

“I love my teammates. I love my coaches,” added Kouloukas. “I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”

Exposure’s Adam Quincy was name Most Valuable Pitcher. For the tournament, he threw 10 innings and allowed just one earned run, striking out nine. 
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