Tournaments | Story | 7/5/2019

Canes cap perfect week with title

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Canes National 17u (Perfect Game)

EMERSON, Ga. -- 376 teams began the week in Georgia for the 2019 WWBA 17u National Championship. At the end of 1,362 games played across eight days, one team remained unblemished and outlasted the rest of the competition.

Canes National 17u finished with a perfect 12-0 record to capture the 17u WWBA title by defeating the Dallas Patriots 17u Stout, 8-3. Earlier in the week, Canes head coach Jeff Petty issued a challenge to his team to be locked in and focused after a seemingly lack of concentration in one of the pool play games. 

“We did it,” Petty said. “Our kids focused. They answered the bell. They deserve this. They really do. They didn’t blink. The focus was there. So many different kids, it was such a team effort.”

In the championship, Brandon Eike earned the win on the mound with six strikeouts and one run allowed over his 3 2/3 nnings of work. Tomas Frick and Caden Grice each tallied two RBIs in the game.

It’s been an unprecedented run for Canes Baseball in the 17-year history of the 17u WWBA as the program has now won championships in 2014, 2017 and now 2019.

“It’s a big deal,” Petty said. “It’s such an accomplishment. Our program, we’ve had some success at this event, but these kids have never won. It’s a lot of pressure on them to feel like they need to do it. I’m really proud of them and happy for them.”

After running roughshod through pool play by outscoring opponents 42-10, the Canes had to battle through the playoffs with three wins on Thursday.

After receiving a bye in the first round, the Canes skirted past BPA 17u, 2-1. Hunter Barnhart and Chase Hampton limited the powerful BPA lineup to one run over 6 1/3 innings. With a runner on second and one out, Tyler Olenchuk entered the game and recorded two punchouts to shut the door for the save.

The Canes then faced off against Elite Squad 17u National in the third round of the playoffs. Trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Canes loaded the bases and tied the game when Quade Tomlin drew a walk. Then with two outs, Eddie Park singled up the middle and was mobbed by his teammates for the walk-off hit. 

“They’re just a resilient group,” Petty said. “They never gave up. We found ourselves down several times in this tournament. We figured out ways to win. I guess there’s an old saying, championship teams find ways to win. That’s what we have repeatedly done all summer.”

Olenchuk again performed in a pressure-filled environment, limiting Elite Squad to one run over five innings, while scattering four hits and one walk with six strikeouts. Over the course of the tournament, the Clemson commit pitched 11 innings and punched out 16 batters, allowing just two runs to earn MV-Pitcher honors.

“In high school, I’ve had a lot of high pressure situations, so I’m used to it,” Olenchuk said. “These guys have supported me throughout this whole thing. Coming into that last inning with a man on second and one out, they were behind me the whole way striking the next two guys out. Not much can go wrong when they’re behind you.”

Following a 3-1 win over Rawlings Arkansas Prospects-Menard, the Canes advanced to the semifinals behind a strong pitching performance from Riley Eikhoff, Ty Collins, and Wyatt Hudepohl. Hudepohl struck out six of the seven outs he recorded to earn the save. 

The Canes finished the day 3-0 and geared up for two more games on Friday. In the semifinals, Grice led the charge in the Canes 15-0 triumph over Ostingers Baseball Academy 2020. Grice was 2-for-2 at the dish and pitched all three innings, allowing one hit and fanning three. Johnny Castagnozzi and Dominic Johnson both contributed three RBIs in the contest.

Sam Crowell of the Dallas Patriots 17u Stout was named the event's Most Valuable Player. In 12 games Crowell batted .455 (15-for-33) with 11 runs scored and 15 RBIs. The Patriots also went 3-0 on Thursday to advance to Friday's play, taking down DRB Elite, Team Elite and the US Elite International Scout Team prior to beating the South Texas Sliders in Friday morning's semifinal matchup leading up to the championship game. The Patriots finished 10-1-1.

The 17u WWBA is truly a war of attrition. With five games played over the final two days, the pitching staff for most teams was running on fumes. However, the Canes kept rolling out quality arms to the mound. It’s a testament to the depth that Petty has built on his roster. 

“It’s incredible,” Olenchuk said. “One guy comes out and shoves. You have 15 more guys. Everybody builds off everybody, and when everybody is doing their thing, stuff happens like this, championships.” 

The Canes pitching staff finished the 12 games by surrendering just 13 earned runs, good for an ERA of 1.56.

“We always build our teams around pitching and defense,” Petty said. “We don’t get caught up in the radar gun as much as some other people do… We feel that if we can throw multiple pitches for strikes and we can play defense, then it can keep us in games with high school kids swinging wood bats.”

It’s been a week filled with memories that these 17 year olds will hold onto for a lifetime. At the end of the day, Canes National have earned their spot as the best 17u team in the country.

2019 17u WWBA National Championship runner-up: Dallas Patriot 17u Stout

2019 17u WWBA National Championship MVP: Sam Crowell

2019 17u WWBA National Championship MV-Pitcher: Tyler Olenchuk

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