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Tournaments | Story | 6/25/2021

Royals Start Out Perfect at Southeast WS

Matthew Welsh        
Photo: Perfect Game
MARIETTA, Ga. -- Ninth Inning Royals 17u Bartlewski began their Perfect Game Southeast World Series conquest in dramatic fashion, beating Wow Factor 9-0 on Thursday afternoon, in a pitching effort that earned three of their arms a combined perfect game. 
 
Through six complete innings, no runners reached base at the hands of the Royals’ staff, in a commanding start to what they hope to be a particularly promising tournament. 
 
“I was just trying to attack hitters with fastballs, work on my mechanics and keep the ball in the zone to let my defense work,” said Royals starter Ryan McTighe. “And they did for me today, Aaron [Lopez] was really solid for us today at shortstop.”
 
McTighe threw the first four innings on the bump, racking up three strikeouts on a fastball that touched 84 mph, and a 73 mph curveball. Submariner Lucas Schelhammer was first out of the 'pen in the fifth and was quickly followed Ezra Goodwin in the game’s final frame. 
 
Between the trio, they successfully carved an exceptionally efficient win in which they had to throw only 68 combined pitches.
 
“I’d say definitely, we just have confidence in competing with teams that on paper, should be better than us,” McTighe said. "So, we just keep that underdog mentality to really attack teams.”
 
Through their first five events of the summer, Ninth Inning has posted a 12-5 record and has reached the playoffs in each of their last three tournaments, one of which was the National Select Championship. But it’s how this team secures wins that makes them unique. 
 
You won’t find a roster stacked with inter-state talent or top-10 players. Only one of the 17 rostered players have currently secured a college commitment, yet every week, the Royals stand with some of the nation’s top squads. And with a string of recent decisive wins, momentum is beginning to gather. 
 
Although their few commitments, this team almost surely won’t finish the summer with similar statistics. Two on the team are ranked within the 2022 class’ top-500 players, another five are in the top-1000 and a further six are labeled with the ‘high follow’ status. 
 
It’s this talent pool that allows the team to compete in a playing style built on fundamentals, timely pitching, and aggressive at-bats. During their tournament’s opening contest, the Royals filed 10 hits, five of which were of the extra-base variety. Five of those batters that reached, stole a base. 
 
“[Aggression] is really important for us, it’s honestly one of the top things that we have on our team,” said Aaron Lopez. “We want to play aggressive, but also play smart. That’s just what gets us to score runs, even easy runs, and helps us compete.”
 
Lopez’s teammates echoed his mentality, in a strategy that seems to infiltrate every facet of the game when the Royals take the field. No pitch is too fast, no ball too far, nor opponent too large. Clearly, he and his teammates know how to win, and take no diversion in doing so.
 
“We go up there hunting fastballs every time we hit," said Southern University commit Sadir Ryan. “And whenever we do get a first-pitch breaking ball, we’ll most likely spit on it, and just keep looking for our pitch later in the at-bat.”
 
Another integral part of this competition-hardened squad is just how tightly-knit the players actually are, almost a necessity when facing the caliber of teams the Royals see on a weekly basis. 
 
“Family. The main thing is family here,” Ryan said. “We’ve all got along really well, since 15u for most of us. Then we just have to go out there with the mentality that we can beat anybody and everybody."
 
Some of those to fall in Ninth Inning’s recent exploits include programs like Team Georgia, the Georgia Jackets and the Dirtbags, but the players assured that their focus lies on whatever game is next. The Royals next game is scheduled for Saturday against 7000 Baseball Academy. A win will all but assure them their fourth consecutive Perfect Game bracket play berth, and another run at a title. 
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