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Tournaments | Story | 6/19/2019

NBS prepares for WWBA playoffs

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Jake Gooch (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. -- The 2019 WWBA 18u National Championship is quickly winding down, and at the end of Wednesday only six teams will remain. Nelson Baseball School will be one of those teams after winning Pool F this morning with a 4-1 triumph over Signature Park Thrashers.

Along the way, Nelson Baseball School has gone 6-0-1 in pool play, outscoring opponents 47-11. It’s their pitching that has carried them throughout the tournament thus far.

In the seven games, Nelson Baseball School has demonstrated their depth, using 13 pitchers who have combined for a 1.64 earned run average in the tournament. 

“We’ve got some pretty good arms,” head coach Brian Nelson said. “Guys have thrown strikes for the most part… We’ve done a pretty good job of just kind of competing and getting strikeouts when we needed it. They’ve really done a good job.”

In the midst of seven games in five days, Nelson has been forced to manage the workload of his pitchers in the hopes of setting up a championship run on Thursday. That mission has been accomplished so far as his big guns such as Zachary Maxwell, a Georgia Tech commit and 30th round selection by the New York Yankees, and Caswell Smith, a College of Charleston commit, are primed and ready to go.

“That’s what you really have to do is manage this stuff,” Nelson said. “That’s why Caswell and Zach, they threw two innings in their starts so they could come back tomorrow. Tres [Gonzalez] has thrown a couple innings, and Ethan Anderson, he’s going to Tennessee, hasn’t even thrown an inning yet for us. 

“I think we have some arms that if we can score some runs, we can do some damage tomorrow. It’s been good because we have a lot of pitchers. Our guys have really thrown a lot of strikes and it’s helped us kind of manage and do things to set up for tomorrow.”

Leading the charge offensively for Nelson Baseball School has been a pair of Georgia Tech pledges in Tres Gonzalez and Jake Gooch

Gonzalez, who was recently drafted in the 37th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, has set the tone atop the lineup with eight runs, nine hits, and nine stolen bases.

“I’m just seeing the pitches well,” Gonzalez said. “I just stick to my approach thinking left-center every time since I’m a lefty up at the box. Just seeing all the pitches well and squaring every ball up and it’s been working out for me.”

If Gonzalez is the spark plug igniting the offense from the lead-off spot, then Gooch has been the engine carrying the team from the middle of the order. Gooch enters bracket play with a whopping 11 hits and eight doubles for three RBIs. His adjustments at the plate have begun to pay dividends.

“I just changed up my approach because I came off Tommy John surgery,” Gooch said. “I’ve just been keeping my approach simple to center field and not trying to get too strong. I’ve just been driving the ball.”

For a team that’s filled with a bevy of talent on the mound, Nelson insists it’s the hitting that need to come alive if the team is going to make a title push tomorrow. With Gonzalez and Gooch leading the charge, Nelson Baseball School has the lineup capable of inflicting damage.

“It’s our bats,” Nelson said. “We’ve been hot and cold this week. We’ve scored some runs, but we haven’t been real consistent all the way through the lineup. I think if we can get some consistency and score some runs, I think we’ll be OK.”

Win or lose, the players for Nelson Baseball School are savoring the last summer together before heading off to college. For many of these players, they’ve been playing with Nelson for the past five or six years, making this final ride a cause for celebration.

“A lot of these guys have been together since they’ve been 12 or 13 years old,” Nelson said. “There’s just such a camaraderie with this group. They care about one another, and it’s just been something we’ve done. They wanted to play their last summer together, even the couple guys that got drafted, they wanted to come back and play this summer.”

So when Nelson Baseball School takes the field on Thursday attempting to win the 2019 WWBA 18u National Championship, whether the strong pitching or timely hitting occurs, it’s really that love for one another that could provide the impetus needed.

“It’s crazy to think because I’ve been on Nelson since 12u,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just the team I’ve only been on and truly loved. I’m going to take this for granted after, but hopefully we can win this thing and end it on a perfect note.”
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