Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, July 11, 2013

A third championship in sight

Sam Brazenas        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. – The Dulin Dodgers decided this was their year to dominate the WWBA National Championships. The Dodger’s 15u team won the WWBA 15u National Championship two weeks ago, and their 18u team won the WWBA 18u National Championship that took place last week. Now the 17u team is on the path to bring home a third championship in a row for the Dulin Dodgers organization.

The Dodger’s came out victorious in their game against SBA Canes on Thursday morning, advancing them to the next round of playoffs along with seven other teams.

Well the core group (of this team) has been together since the 14s,” explained head coach for the Dodgers Mike Fitzsimmons. “In Perfect Game events they’ve been to the last five national championships either at the BCS or World Wood (Bat Association), and won final four. We’re here trying to represent and take care of business. We’ve knocked on this door enough times we’re looking to go at it and give our best effort.”

Left-handed pitcher Ethan Small was able to hold the Canes at four runs during his 3 2/3 innings on the mound and struck out five. John Spoon relieved Small in the fourth inning. The Canes were able to scractch one more run across against him, but he didn’t give up any hits and struck out one.

Our pitching’s been solid,” added Fitzsimmons. “We’ve got plenty of arms and guys who will go in there and compete. In the World Wood Bat the only thing that can really kill you is walks and free stuff. So we play tight defensively and we throw strikes.”

Jesse McCord pitched a six-inning shutout against Team Citrus Red on Wednesday. He racked up nine strikeouts and only allowed four hits.

I just pound the zone, keep them off balance and let the defense work,” said McCord about his outing.

McCord’s teammate, Austin Riley also acquired nine strikeouts in six innings against Baseline Baseball on Tuesday. He didn’t allow any hits, and only walked one.

Every day when I go out there I think, ‘you gotta pound the strike zone, be able to locate the fastball, and throw off-speed for a strike,’” explained Riley. “I was able to do that and was able to get the win.”

Not only does Riley do solid work on the mound, he is also on fire at the plate. He is 8-for-12 this tournament with five singles, three doubles and is leading the team with eight RBI. A parent in the stands referred to him as “king of clutch” because of the way Riley has been hitting the ball to the gaps when his team needs him the most.

My dad always says ‘jump on the first fastball’ and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been getting a lot of early fastballs and I was able to jump on them,” said Riley of his success at the plate.

(Riley is) a physically gifted specimen,” added Fitzsimmons. “He’s a heck of a player and has a bright future at hand.”

Indeed he does. Riley has verbally committed to play baseball at Mississippi State, and said he’s very excited about it and that the coaches “treat (him) like (he’s) already on the team.”

Riley isn’t the only Dulin Dodger to be on fire at the plate this week though. The team as a whole has a batting average of .317. Clay Casey has hit two home runs this week, including a three-run shot against the CBA Canes, collecting seven RBI for the tournament. Both McCord and Cody Henry put themselves in scoring position in two of their three at-bats in Thursday morning's game. Rob Perteet is also doing well this tournament with a batting average of .450.

We’ve got a little thump and we got some bump to go with it,” said Fitzsimmons. “We feel offensively we can compete with anyone here. There’s a lot of good pitchers out there, so we respect everyone and we know we have to earn it every day we come here. We kind of have a workman’s like mentality in the dugout, (and) that’s where we punch the clock and go to work.”

The pressure is on now as the Dodgers continue to advance. Especially after the 15u and 18u Dulin Dodgers teams took home championships in the previous two WWBA tournaments.

I think if we just do what we do, hit the ball and throw strikes like we’re capable then we will have no problem getting it done,” explained Riley.

We can do it definitely, (we) just got to work hard,” added McCord.

I tell my guys, ‘pressure goes in tires’ there is no pressure, we’ve been here before and honest efforts, we’ve been through this grind we know it’s a mental process,” explained Fitzsimmons. “Tough times don’t last, (but) tough people do and my bunch is here and they show up ready to play every day.”

Fitzsimmons has been coaching this team since they started as 14s, and said his team is full of top prospects and that there are no weak links on his team.

I’ve coached this bunch since we started at 14s and they’ve taken me on a heck of a ride,” said Fitzsimmons. “I’ve been blessed and lucky to coach these groups (and) they’ve been in every championship event.”

Fitzsimmons said he can’t think of a better baseball program than the Dulin Dodgers in the southern and tri-state area.

We’ve had a lot of prospects in and out of the organization throughout the years,” added Fitzsimmons. “Not only do we have quality players, we make a point to get the right kids. We’re not going to take anybody with bad attitudes. We’re going to take kids that we identify do it the right way with the right attitude.”

The Dulin Dodgers organization was founded by Tim Dulin (former College All-American, Team USA member and professional ballplayer) in 1990. They pride themselves on teaching developing athletes and underprivileged children “discipline, sportsmanship, pride, ethics and integrity.” According to the website, 52 professional players, 325 college players, 22 All Americans, 6 National Runners-Up and 31 All SEC, ACC or Conference USA champions have been a part of the Dulin Dodgers organization.

They’re a great organization, (with) great coaches and all. We just fight and go out every day and give it our best,” said Riley about the Dulin Dodgers organization.

(You’ve) got to work hard, (and) can’t just goof around like some teams,” added McCord. “They keep you going (and) keep you on track.”

And with another win on Thursday afternoon, Dulin Dodgers have advanced to the semi-finals on Friday, one step closer to yet another trophy at the WWBA National Championships.

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