Tournaments | Story | 7/22/2021

CBA Representing West Coast at 16u WWBA

Matthew Welsh        
Photo: Austen Roellig (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. -- CBA Marucci punched their ticket to the 16u National Championship semifinals on Wednesday night at the TOP Chops East Cobb Complex after beating tournament favorites, 5 Star National, 4-2, in a thrilling exhibit of high-level baseball. Marucci, now 9-0 in the tournament, edged their fellow undefeated foes in a pitching battle that relinquished only six combined hits through seven innings. 
Oregon commit Brandon Winokur started on the bump for CBA and delivered a nearly flawless outing against one of the field’s highest-touted offensive attacks. Winokur tossed 5 2/3 innings of two-run baseball, giving up only three hits. Through the game’s first five innings, Winokur maintained a shutout and retired all but two of the game’s first 12 batters. 
The righty, whose fastball rested in the high-80s, was only removed in the top of the sixth inning after surrendering his two runs on a triple. Jake Jackson entered for the final four outs of the game, and shut the door for a CBA victory. 
“For our team, we have been working so hard, so I just had to go out there and do it for the team,” Winokur said. “I was just pushing through, and I knew that getting this win was going to feel really good. I know that as long as we’re showing that energy, we have a good chance to win.”
All of Marucci’s four game-winning runs crossed in the bottom of the first inning against 5 Star’s starter Ryker Chavis, who allowed leadoff hitter Manoah Chapman on with a walk after an eight-pitch battle. Nico Libed immediately followed, reaching on fielder's choice, and Winokur, also the team’s three-hole hitter, reached first one batter later on an error. 
Then to the plate stepped clean-up hitter and UCLA commit Cameron Kim, who dumped a fastball into left field for an RBI double that scored both Libed and Winokur. Kim’s first-inning heroics were responsible for half of his team’s total runs and a third of all runners that touched home in the game. 
CBA added two more runs in the inning on back-to-back, two-out singles from Nico Newhan and Jake Jackson, which handed Marucci a 4-0 lead after only six outs of baseball. 
“I knew a lot of those kids on the team, and I know that a lot of them are big hitters too, so it feels good to win with a team of 12 guys,” said Kim. “We beat the Canes [American] today and they have [around] 25 guys on their roster, so you know we're just competitors, and it feels so good to get it done.”
Still, CBA delivered on the field for six further innings to ultimately earn the Temecula, Calif.-based squad a move into the next round. Despite putting only two runners on base after the first inning, CBA’s infield registered seven putouts in the middle innings, including two from the game’s starter and two from Libed, the starting catcher.
“We’re all just competitors and we all have the heart,” said Libed after the win. “We knew coming in here that we could be a team that may not see the finals, but just with a lot of competitors, that has been really carrying us through this tournament.”
The team thrives off a kind of 'chip on the shoulder’ mentality required of a team with a smaller-sized roster to compete for a national title. Even though the team has 11 Division-I college commits on a 15-man roster, the majority of whom are ranked in the country’s top 300 players, including a pair of rostered players in Austen Roellig and Toby Twist who are top-100 talents, CBA embraces a self-proclaimed underdog mentality. 
“It’s awesome, we get to put on for the West Coast, and show all these guys over here that we can do it too, even with a smaller squad,” Libed said. 
That drive has proven successful, but whether or not the team can carry its momentum through the final day of the event, is still to be seen. Thursday features a 10:15 a.m. matchup against yet another unbeaten team in the Georgia Jackets. The Jackets reached the semifinals last year and like CBA, are eager to cement themselves in 2021 WWBA history. 
But if the past nine games are any indication of Marucci’s commitment to competitiveness, any opponent they meet in the latter stages of this tournament are sure to have their hands full. 
“The end goal is to win it all,” Kim said. “We just need to keep competing, stay within our team, and keep the energy up.”
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