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Tournaments | Story | 6/21/2019

Togetherness forms eXposure

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Eli Varner (Perfect Game)
DUNWOODY, Ga. -- When eXposure 15u Prime took the field for the first game of the 2019 PG Super25 15u Georgia Super Qualifier, the team carried a big reputation after winning the 2019 PG 15u Summer Shootout with a perfect 6-0-0 record. 

Based in Ooltewah, Tennessee, eXposure has found its identity through a cohesion on and off the field that can’t be replicated. 

“For whatever reason, these goofballs, they love each other,” coach Chris Shepherd said. “They’re very close. They’re hanging out with each other outside of this field. They’re hitting with each other, they’re throwing bullpens with each other. They’re constantly together. I think building that culture and building that togetherness helps on the baseball field. When you have team chemistry, they know how to get out here and they know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. I think it translates on the ball field.”

The untroubled attitude from eXposure allows the players to perform with an enthusiasm devoid of pressure. It’s also produced a tight-knit group of players who are creating something special for a team with an 11-1 record so far this summer in Perfect Game tournaments.

“It’s great,” pitcher Eli Varner said. “We’re a family. We’ll get here in the dugout and goof off, but when we step out on the field, we try to win.”

Perhaps no moment better encapsulated the togetherness of eXposure out on the field than in the fourth inning of Friday afternoon’s game against Game On Prospects 15u. After Varner had mowed down the hitters quickly on the mound through the first three innings for eXposure, the 6-foot-3 righthanded hurler had difficulty finding the strike zone and walked in a run. 

Catcher Blake Hale made a visit to the mound to calm his pitcher down, and with the score now notched at one apiece, Shepherd preached to his team from the dugout that they were one pitch away. Sure enough, on the first pitch, Varner rolled a 5-4-3 double play to get out of the bases loaded jam, leaving the score tied. 

“My catcher Blake, he went out a couple times and settled my pitcher down,” Shepherd said. “He can see that and he goes out there and calls a time. I don’t have to waste a timeout to walk out there. He goes and does it and he commands that pitching staff almost better than anyone I know as a 15 year old. 

“Eli today… he made pitches when he had to. Our pitchers for the most part do a great job of keeping us in the ball game.”

All it took was one pitch, but it was a culmination of half the team at that moment for eXposure to make the play possible, demonstrating how team chemistry is translated on the field.

EXposure tacked on three runs in the sixth inning and won 4-1 to open pool play in the tournament. Hale led the offensive charge with a perfect day at the plate, going 3-for-3 while accounting for three of eXposure’s seven hits.

“I was just trying to stay through the middle and not get too big because I knew the pitcher had a really good off-speed pitch,” Hale said. “I was just trying to attack the fastball and sit back on curve.”

Varner finished the day on the mound tossing six innings and allowing just the one run on two hits, five walks, and seven strikeouts. He picked up the win, and Carson Yates closed out the seventh inning for the save.

“I feel like my fastball was really good today,” said Varner whose fastball sat in the upper 70’s and topped at 82 mph. “My off-speed wasn’t working like it usually does, but the fastball was really good.”

Over time, eXposure has reached the level of success through what Shepherd calls a “college program” that’s predicated on hard work with a group of talented players, including the No. 1 player in Alabama for the 2022 class, Andrew Burns. During the summer, the players are working pretty much every single day of the week whether that’s through practices, bullpen sessions, or the games.

“The big thing is just not getting that big head and taking this game for granted,” Shepherd said. “EXposure strives to not take this for granted. Go out there and enjoy it, have fun, play your game, and we can get on out of here.”

It all points back to the happy-go-lucky spirit that epitomizes eXposure. When a team just goes out and plays without the weight of the world on their shoulders like eXposure does, the results turn out to be far superior no matter the situation.

“The team battles back and my guys don’t quit,” Shepherd said. “They’re the same whether we’re up 15-0 or if we’re down 15-0. They’re the same group of guys. They’re still talking to each other, having fun, enjoying it, and doing what they do. They see the ball and they hit the ball.”

“[Baseball is] just fun,” Hale said. “It brings me a lot of joy playing. I’ve done it all my life, so it’s just a lot of fun.”

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