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Tournaments  | Story  | 10/6/2022

Cozart Shines In South Charlotte Victory

Blake Dowson     
Photo: Samuel Cozart (Perfect Game)
JUPITER, Fla. – When South Charlotte Panthers’ Samuel Cozart toes the rubber, it’s a must-see event.

The 30 or so golf carts lining Cardinals 6 today for Cozart’s 3:00 pm start and lines of scouts and coaches waiting patiently to take video of the sophomore give plenty of legitimacy to that statement.

And when Cozart is on the bump, there’s no messing around. Dig in and get ready, because the No. 1 right-handed pitcher in the 2025 class is going to challenge hitters early and often. And quickly.

“I want to work as quick as possible on the mound,” Cozart said. “While also keeping myself balanced.”

Why put so much importance on his pace?

“It just keeps the other team uncomfortable and not truly in the game,” he said.

Well, that’s for sure.

Cozart cruised through his first inning of work, working up to 93 mph with his fastball and putting the East Cobb Baseball lineup down in order.

The one mistake he made was on the second pitch of the second inning, when a fastball caught a little too much of the plate and East Cobb’s Jacob Cooper sent it over the left field fence to tie the game at 1-1.

After the home run, Cozart sat down 15 straight hitters and ended his day with a final line of six innings, 11 strikeouts, and just one hit given up. Without giving up a walk, Cozart didn’t make a single pitch out of the stretch in this game.

For someone two years younger than many 2023s in attendance this week, Cozart is one of the most veteran players in Jupiter. This is his fourth appearance at the WWBA World Championship, earning All-Tournament Team honors in both 2021 and 2020, and throwing 1 2/3 scoreless relief innings as a 13-year-old in 2019.

“That’s consistency with Sam,” South Charlotte Panthers Head Coach Empsy Thompson said. “Sam does it every time we give him the ball. That’s an expectation, not just of us, but of him as well. We’re very happy with Sam.”

To his lineup’s credit, Cozart got plenty of run support to ease any nervousness that might have come with making a start at Jupiter in front of a sea of golf carts.

It’s a lefty-heavy lineup for the Panthers, who were tasked with facing a tough left-hander in Caleb Fones.

South Charlotte scratched one run across in the bottom of the first. Luke Nixon worked a seven-pitch walk to start the inning, and three-hole hitter Ethan Belk, who ended the day 3-for-4, drove him in with a single over the shortstop’s head into left field.

Another run came across in the second inning thanks to an error and a sac fly from Rafael Soto, which proved to be all South Charlotte needed with Cozart dialed in on the mound.

Two more runs in both the fourth and fifth innings officially put the game away, with home runs from Isaac Armstrong and Walker Jenkins in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively, putting the cherry on top.

Jenkins, the top-ranked player in attendance at the WWBA World Championship as the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2023 class, is one of those lefties who battled at the plate. His home run in the sixth inning came off a left-hander.

“I felt like we didn’t give at-bats away, which is the one thing we did quite a bit this morning [in our exhibition game],” Thompson said. “0-0 count out of the zone, and we’re chasing it [this morning], but I felt like we did a better job of not doing that again.”

Next up for South Charlotte is Chicago Scouts Association Friday at 10:20 am. They’ll have Haiden Leffew on the bump, a top-30 left-handed pitching prospect in the 2023 class committed to pitch at Wake Forest after high school.

If Cozart set the tone and that carries over, get ready for a fast-paced grinder. Just how he likes it.

“This was amazing,” Cozart said. “I love Jupiter.”