Tournaments | Story | 7/10/2019

Ostingers refuse to lose

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Zach Ehrhard (Perfect Game)
ACWORTH, Ga. – Every great team has an identity. The 2004 Red Sox team was the “Idiots,” and they embraced that mantra on their way to winning the World Series and ending the Curse of the Bambino. The 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team was the “Dream Team,” and they steamrolled their way to a gold medal.

At the WWBA 16u National Championship, Ostingers 2021 Reed has their own ethos that have fueled them to a perfect 7-0 record and a spot in bracket play.

“In our program we teach winning, but we also teach hating to lose,” coach Jimmy Osting said. “Everybody wants to win. I think that’s a no brainer. But who hates to lose? We could have let that game slip away, but our guys refused to lose and made the plays to make it happen. That’s our motto.”

The Ostingers entered their game against Canes Showcase 16u with a run differential of 51-3. They have been as dominant as it gets. And they looked like they’d cruise on Wednesday against the Canes, as they jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the first. But things got interesting by the sixth, as the Canes clawed their way back to make the score 7-6.

The Canes had all the momentum. The Ostingers were on their heels until one player stood up and refused to lose. That player was Zach Ehrhard.

Coming on to pitch in the sixth, Ehrhard struck out six of the seven hitters he faced. Filling the zone with 70 percent strikes, Ehrhard poured in sinking fastballs from his low arm slot. He also whipped out a devastating slider that froze every righthanded hitter that stepped in the box. On Wednesday, he was the stopper that preserved the 8-6 victory and a spot in the playoff rounds on Thursday.

“I just try to focus on the mitt and pound it,” said Ehrhard. “We take pride in doing all the fundamentals right.”

The Ostingers play fundamental baseball. They will bunt. They will run. Their outfielders hit the cut off man, and each player dons a pair of stirrups. Around draft time you will hear a lot of scouts describe a prospect by saying, “That kid is a baseball player.” That’s just what Ostingers coach and founder Jimmy Osting is trying to create.

“Every guy wears the same style pants. Every guys wears stirrups,” Osting said. “We pride ourselves on doing things correctly. Hopefully, that opens the eyes of college coaches and they know that when they get a kid from Ostingers they are getting a baseball player.”

Osting pitched at Clemson before being drafted in the fourth round of the 1995 MLB Draft. He made his big league debut in 2001 with the San Diego Padres, and spent time with the Phillies, Rockies and Brewers. Always a student of the game, he now passes on his knowledge to the aspiring ballplayers in central Florida.

“The program is 10 years old, and we’ve been coming to Perfect Game events since the beginning,” Osting said. “We’re a smaller program, but we keep it small on purpose. We try to minimize it to just one 17u team, a couple 16u teams and a 15u team. Every kid that is on my team is within a 20 mile radius.”

“We’re a local team that plays on a national scale,” he continued. “Last week, our 17s finished in the top four of the 17u WWBA. This 16u team is moving on, and next week our 15u team coming in is a very talented group as well. So maybe we’re not the big name, but I know we can play.”

They don’t have the sheer size of a Team Elite or East Cobb roster, but they have certainly had a lot of success. Osting says 95 percent of his players have gone on to play college baseball, including Jonah Scolaro and Conor Grady (Florida State), Tyler Ward (Air Force), and Austin Taylor (West Point). Osting has also built quite a pipeline to the Division II powerhouse, University of Tampa.

“We had Zach Ehrhard’s brother, Drew, a couple years ago,” Osting said. “He just won a national championship at Tampa, and now he’s here with us coaching. We had guys at Florida State playing in the College World Series. I know that when colleges come to watch us, they are watching a group of kids that know how to play baseball.”

Sean Hermann (South Florida) is the only committed player on the Ostingers 16u team. That is sure to change sooner rather than later, as the likes of Ehrhard, Alex Mussenden, and Chance Trinklein have made the sun soaked fields of Georgia their playground. As a team, they are hitting .321 and have a collective 1.79 ERA.

A smaller program. Fewer college commits. It’s all used as ammunition for this group. And that should be scary because this is a talented bunch that is eager to punch you in the mouth every time they step between those white lines.

“That definitely drives us, especially in that Louisiana Knights game,” Ehrhard said. “We came in so ready to get after it, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Osting is confident as bracket play begins on Thursday. His team has most likely earned the four seed, good enough for a first round bye. So they will sit back and watch to see whom they will battle at LakePoint. Whoever they meet will encounter a program that knows their identity.

“Our guys know they can play,” Osting said. “The team that is in the other dugout is just another opponent that they want to go beat.”

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