MARIETTA, Ga. -- Even a casual observer needed to look no further than the Perfect Game 14u Travel Team National Rankings to figure out that of the three Perfect Game World Series national championship games that were contested Sunday afternoon, the 14u game might steal the spotlight.
That's not a knock against the 16u and 15u finals, but more a recognition of who was battling for the top spot in the final game at the 14u Perfect Game World Series on Field 2 at the East Cobb Baseball Complex.
There were the Dallas Patriots Stout, the runner-up at the PG WWBA 2016 Grads or 14u National Championship here at the ECB Complex last month, and co-national champions at the PG 14u BCS Finals in Fort Myers, Fla., also last month. The Pats would be facing the traditionally strong East Cobb Astros 14u program that has won six Perfect Game national championships since 2006.
The Patriots came in ranked No. 2 in the nation, the Astros No. 3 (the San Diego Show are No. 1). In a situation that could almost be described as old money versus new, old money ruled.
The East Cobb Astros used a 10-hit attack to battle back from a 3-1 second inning deficit and out-lasted the Pats, 7-5, in the championship game to claim yet another PG national championship. Their most recent came at the 2011 PG WWBA 14u National Championship.
"This is a very, very special group. This is probably one of the best 14-year-old groups we've ever had here at East Cobb, and that says a lot with the rich history of this program," acting head coach Jeremy Luster said as his team gathered to accept their accolades, not to mention their swag.
"These guys have worked hard all year and this is the ultimate reward," he continued. "We've been pushing them, it's been a grind, it's a long season, and they've done everything that we've asked of them. So to end with that national championship, you couldn't do any better than that."
The Astros (6-0-1) scattered 10 hits in their championship game victory, including two-run doubles from Rankin Woley (2016, Atlanta) and Cam Shepherd (2016, Duluth, Ga.). Conor Davis (2016,Roswell, Ga.) pitched in with a pair of doubles.
The Dallas Patriots Stout (6-1) were led by Blake Frasier (2016, Garland, Texas) with a 3-for-3 performance that included ahome run and three RBI.
The 14u PG World Series' Most Valuable Player was the Astros' Reggie Pruitt (2015, Kennesaw, Ga.), a 5-foot-11,160-pound spark plug of a lead-off hitter who batted .455 (10-for-22) with three doubles, 10 runs scored, three RBI and eight stolen bases over the course of the tournament. He was one of many Astros who seemed to rise to the occasion this week.
"I think anytime you have better competition, that forces you to raise your game to another level and I feel like we've been doing that all year," Luster said. "It's very beneficial to play against good competition."
The14u PGWS's Most Valuable Pitcher honor went to the Patriots' Cody Sturgeon (2016, Garland, Texas). Sturgeon worked 91/3 innings during the course of the event and allowed only one earned run(0.75 ERA) on six hits while striking out five.
This was only the third loss the Patriots Stout had suffered all summer, against close to 70 wins.
"These guys are special and we just don't have any problems with them," Pats head coach Todd Cash said earlier this week."They don't miss practice, they work hard, they try to get better, they do the things you ask them to do, especially at the plate. They have great approaches at the plate and we don't give away too many outs by guys free-swinging. They do what they're coached to do and that makes them special and a lot of fun to be around."
The Patriots Stout survived a late scare to move into the championship with a 5-4 win over the Houston Banditos in the day's first 14u PGWS semifinal at Field 2. The Banditos (4-2) put two runs on the board in the top of the first, the Patriots answered with single runs in the bottom of the first and in the third, and then took a 4-2 lead with a pair in the bottom of the fifth.
The Banditos tied the game at four with two runs in the top the seventh but the Pats came right back in the bottom. They were issued three straight walks to start the frame before Clayton Bilke (2016,Lucas, Texas) laid down a bunt single to score Ryan Choate (2015, Dallas) from third base.
Patriots Stout starter Cody Sturgeon was solid, scattering four hits in five innings of work while not allowing an earned run.
The Astros poured it on late in their 8-0,six inning win over the Tri-State Arsenal in the second semifinal, with two runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and three more in the bottom of the sixth to end it early.
Woley had two hits,including a double, and drove in two runs to lead the 12-hit attract. Pruitt also had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run and Steven Oakley (2015, Dunham, N.C.) was 3-for-3 with a double, an RBI and arun.
Left-hander Thad Harris (2015, Calhoun,Ga.) gave up seven harmless singles in six innings of work while striking out four.