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Tournaments | Story | 7/21/2019

Team Elite claims 17u Elite title

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Team Elite 17u Scout Team (Perfect Game)

HOOVER, Ala. – After a grueling five days under the sun at the Hoover Met Complex, Team Elite 17u Scout Team captured the title at the inaugural 2019 WWBA 17u Elite Championship.

Team Elite defeated East Cobb Astros 17u Navy 7-2 in the championship. Team Elite 17u Scout Team was seemingly in the hunt every tournament, and they finally broke through in the last event of the summer. 

“Our guys played so well together as a team,” Team Elite head coach Jamie Crane said. “They worked on it all year long. We’ve had several final four finishes and third place trophies, but they played so well together. They’re like brothers. They play for each other. That’s the biggest thing.”

In the championship, Kellum Clark got the offense rolling with an RBI double the other way in the top of the first. Later in the top of the third, Team Elite broke through with three more runs, all with two outs, with Vince Smith’s two-RBI triple and Jarrett Jenkins’ RBI single. The rest of the way Team Elite capitalized on three East Cobb errors for three more runs.

Logan Jones got the start on the mound and allowed just one run over four innings with four strikeouts for the win. William Pearson closed it out over the final three innings with three strikeouts en route to the 7-2 triumph.

It was the stellar pitching that carried Team Elite all week long.

“[Pitching] was clutch,” Crane said. “We had a plan and we tried to draw it out. Thankfully the way we scripted it out, it was pretty much on. I think we’re going home with one guy available, so it worked out as well as it could for us.”

Earlier in the week, Jaden Woods fired a seven inning no-hitter in pool play in the 3-0 victory over Dallas Patriots 17u Stout. Woods walked just one and punched out seven batters, avenging the team’s crushing defeat to the Patriots in the WWBA 17u National Championship just a few weeks prior.

“Jaden has really turned it on,” Crane said. “At the end of the fall last year, he was up around 85-86. He’s up to 90-91 now and really locating both sides of the plate. 

“He’s just getting better and better every outing. That’s just a testament to his work ethic and showing up and getting his work in and being coachable. He’s gotten so much better, so much more physical.”

Woods was named MVPitcher of the tournament for his no-hitter. It was the end of a life-changing summer for the University of Georgia commit.

“[The summer] meant a lot,” Woods said. “It came with a lot of ups and downs from being committed to Georgia State, decommitting, and committing to my dream school. It was pretty good. As a team, it was just amazing the bond we had together.”

Team Elite survived a 3-2 scare against FTB Tucci-Berryhill where Wyatt Crowell fired five shutout innings with eight strikeouts in the second round of the playoffs. In the quarterfinals, Team Elite eked out a 5-4 win over Excel Blue Wave 17u. 

In Sunday’s 6-0 semifinals victory versus Rawlings Arkansas Prospects-Menard, Logan Wood was superb for Team Elite nearly going the distance with 6 ⅔ innings of shutout ball.

Catcher Fernando Gonzalez caught five of seven games and batted .316. Garrett Spikes was no slouch either, batting .350, but ultimately Sam Ruta led the charge for Team Elite at the plate over the week. Ruta batted .471 with four singles, two doubles, and two triples. 

“Sam just has one of the purest lefthanded swings that we’ve seen,” Crane said. “He’s a true hitter. It doesn’t matter the count or the velocity, he’s got a good set up and a good load. He hits the ball hard almost every at-bat.”

Ruta also tallied four RBIs and eight runs scored from the No. 2 hole to be named MVP of the tournament.

“It was huge,” Ruta said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Runners on base when I got the hits. They were there when I needed them… Coming out on top there’s nothing bigger than that.”

Team Elite 17u Scout Team concluded the summer with an astounding 38-8-3 record in Perfect Game tournaments. Crane was emotional while addressing his team postgame when the culmination of the summer set in. It was a special group, and they ended it in the sweetest of ways with a dogpile right on the mound.

“It’s like a family, so it’s hard to see them go,” Crane said. “That’s the hardest thing.

“There’s only one way to walk out. We walked out the only way we wanted to and the only way we knew how.”

2019 WWBA 17u Elite Championship runner-up: East Cobb Astros 17u Navy

2019 WWBA 17u Elite Championship MVP: Sam Ruta

2019 WWBA 17u Elite Championship MV-Pitcher: Jaden Woods

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