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Tournaments | Story | 6/23/2019

643 DP Tigers fight to move on

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Taylor Flowers (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – In a game where emotions were running high, Taylor Flowers unleashed one final fastball for 643 DP Tigers 15u Bishop past the hitter for the strikeout to end the game, swaggered off the mound and celebrated the win with his teammates.

The Tigers defeated Rawlings Southeast 15u National 1-0 to advance to the semifinals of the 2019 PG Super25 15u Georgia Super Qualifier.

“It felt amazing,” Flowers said after recording the last out. “They were talking all game and at one point they got to my head. Getting out of it felt good to let it all out and get the win.”

Flowers picked up the save for the Tigers, throwing the final three innings, and preserving the shutout with two strikeouts. Jason Franklin began the day on the mound for 643 and used a healthy fastball, curveball, changeup mix to keep Rawlings off-balance. He earned the win, tossing four innings and collecting four strikeouts.

While Franklin and Flowers did their part on the bump, it was the defense behind them that illuminated. Catcher Drew Rothschild effectively shut down the running game, firing bullets down to second base to cut down the first two would-be base stealers.

In the fifth inning, with two outs and runners on first and second, Kristopher Sutton gathered the base hit to left field and threw a seed to Rothschild who held on and applied the tag to preserve the one-run lead. Faced with runners on first and second again one inning later, true to the team’s name, Flowers induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the jam.

“The biggest thing we try to do defensively is not give our opponents anything,” head coach Ric Bishop said. “When that happens, things tend to snowball in the wrong direction, and today we were just locked in. The pitchers did the best they could in putting us in a position to make plays defensively, throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters. We had a big double play in the sixth that stopped their rally at the end. Overall, we played clean defensively and both pitchers, Jason and Taylor, filled the zone up and gave us a shot.”

Throughout the game, the Tigers were only able to muster four hits, but they manufactured the lone run in a unique way. With runners on the corner, Sutton attempted to steal second and purposely got into a rundown long enough to allow the run to score all the way back in the top of the first.

The one run was all they needed, and 643 proceeded to shut down Rawlings the rest way to become one of the four remaining teams in the field.

“We made all the routine plays and executed a steal stop in the first inning that ended up being the only run of the game,” Bishop said. “Being able to throw strikes and make the routine plays defensively, that’s what makes us the team we are.”

Rawlings entered the game as the No. 2 seed, having outscored opponents 29-3 through pool play. However, Bishop’s scrappy bunch was up to the task and battled from start to finish.

“This group fights,” Bishop said. “That’s one thing this summer I’ve never had to come to the field wondering if they’re going to compete. That’s something that they do very well every single game no matter if it’s a consolation game or if it’s a final four bracket game. I expect that from our guys in those situations. It’s just always really rewarding when it happens the way it did today.”

Tomorrow, the Tigers will face Georgia Jackets 15u National. The Jackets are 4-0 in the tournament, coming off a 6-4 triumph against East Cobb Astros 15u in the quarterfinals. With a win, it could potentially be an all 643 championship, as 643 DP Cougars 15u Montgomery would also advance to the championship with a win.

Either way, the Tigers will be the same team that fights time and time again, attempting to walk away as champions on Monday.

“I just think we have to come out with the same mentality that we did today,” Rothschild said. “It’ll be perfect for tomorrow… It just shows how much we’re going to fight. We’re not going to go down without a battle.”

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