Tournaments | Story | 6/18/2021

East Cobb 17u Wins Opener by Shutout

Matthew Welsh        
Photo: Andruw Jones (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. -- The nation’s third-ranked team, the East Cobb Astros 17u, began their run in the inaugural National Select Championship this weekend with an opening 2-0 win against the NEB Rays on Thursday afternoon.  
But it wasn’t their characteristically prolific offensive lineup that carried East Cobb to their first win of the tournament. The Astros only registered five total hits. Instead, a renewed reliance on surgical pitching, aggressive baserunning and team connectivity handed the Astros their first-round victory.
Vanderbilt commit RJ Austin started the game on the bump and was integral to the team’s success against NEB, just one of the three viable opponents the Astros will face in pool play. Through five scoreless innings, Austin allowed only two hits, and struck out seven. 
His opening effort, which set up the team for eventual success, was driven by a special motivation, beyond that of just wanting to win. Austin wants to prove why he and his teammates are revered as one of the best in the U.S.
“When I get the ball, I just want to attack everybody," Austin said. "I want to go right at people, get outs, strikeouts and let my defense work. We have the best defense in the nation right now.”
That instinct manifests itself throughout the entire team, even when Austin, who also serves as the leadoff hitter, is not on the mound. With that ferocity leading the charge on the mound, it’s difficult to picture an instance where East Cobb enters a game on the back foot. 
But unlike some of the summer’s previous tournaments, Austin and his teammates are facing 32 of the best teams our country has to offer. That makes the desire to perform well exponentially more imperative.
“It just really gets us more fired up because we know that everybody is trying to come for us because they know who we are so we just have to come out here banging the whole game,” Austin said of the competition they will see in this tournament. “This just makes us hungrier and gives us more of a reason to prove why we are here.”
It’s not a secret that the Astros’ strategy of gathering the best players to beat the best teams, has accumulated a proven pedigree of success. But even a month into the tournament season, that plan is taking additional strides. 
Andruw Jones, the nation’s third-rated overall player and top outfielder in the state of Georgia, has joined East Cobb, giving their lineup another wildly athletic option, on a team already saturated with Division-I talent. Jones batted second and started in center field on Thursday. 
“It felt good to come out here and play with these guys,” Jones said. “You know with East Cobb you’ll always have a pretty strong team, so it just feels nice to be able to come out here and contribute.”
Boasting a 6.47 60-yard dash time, Jones is a more-than-capable athlete, with aims on helping the Astros in multiple facets of the game. In three at-bats, he reached twice, both on walks, and stole two bases, an element of his abilities that he says can help whatever team he plays for. 
“I feel like I’ll always be able to contribute with my defense and my baserunning, and just am happy to be able to play with other guys who are really good,” Jones said. 
But the Astros are not the only team this weekend with a high-profile roster. There are plenty of other listed teams with enough fire power to compete with the Astros and challenge for Sunday’s top spot, but perhaps none equal in reverence. 
Regardless of opponent, Austin says he and his teammates are geared for whatever team they may face.
“I feel like this win was really big to set us up for the tournament,” Austin said. “And we’re still going at everybody no matter who it is. We’re not afraid of any team, and we’re going for everybody.”
East Cobb’s next game of the tournament is scheduled for Friday at 10:15 AM at the East Cobb Baseball Complex, against Stars Baseball 17u Carrol. 
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