Tournaments : : Championship
Friday, July 15, 2011

Braves Crowned 17u National Champs

Todd Gold         Ben Collman        
MARIETTA, Ga.-- The East Cobb Braves 17u are taking home the hardware...and they won't have to go too far. The Braves celebrated their _ WWBA National Championship (first since 2007) on Field 1 of the East Cobb Complex after capping off an improbable run through the playoffs with an 8-3 victory over an incredibly talented FTB squad. 

The Braves went 4-0-1 in pool play, tying the St. Louis Gamers 5-5 in the tourney opener. As a result the Braves earned the 17th seed in the playoffs, the top 16 seeds receive first round byes. So the difficult journey through the playoffs began with a first round matchup against one of the most talented teams in the nation; San Gabriel Valley Arsenal. Playing their second game of the day, the Braves pulled out a hard fought 5-3 victory to advance. 

The Braves arrived back at the East Cobb complex on Thursday morning and easily dispatched the well rested ABA Braves 11-1. In the quarterfinals the Braves ran into the always difficult Palm Beach County PAL. Early on it looked as though their run would end with PAL after they fell behind 9-2 after 3 innings. At the end of 4 innings the Braves still trailed by 7 when their bats came alive. Catcher
Brian De la Rosa (2012 Arlington Country Day, Jacksonville, FL) came to bat with a runner on and 2 outs in the top of the 5th in a game that appeared to be out of hand. But De la Rosa crushed a 2-run Home Run, just his second hit of the tournament, to keep hope alive. It would be the only runs the Braves could manage in the 5th, brightening their bleak outlook only slightly. After a 1-2-3 bottom half the Braves came back to bat trailing by 5 runs and the time limit looming. 

The momentum had shifted and in the 6th inning the Braves loaded the bases with a hit by pitch, a walk and a single. Cleanup hitter
Jordan Ebert (2012 Baldwin Co. HS, Foley, AL) strolled to the plate and worked the count full before unloading on a no-doubt Grand Slam to right center to cut the defecit to 2. Having battled back to 9-7 was an impressive feat but the Braves were still 3 outs away from elimination. The slam was followed by a walk, bringing up the tying run in Wes Burns (2011 Lassiter HS, Marietta, GA). Burns fell behind 1-2 in the count before lacing a line drive just to the right of the batters eye in center field that cleared the fence to bring the Braves all the way back from the dead. Kyle Carter (2012 Columbus HS, GA) would nail down the final 3 outs and earn the Save and send the Braves to final four. 

On the final day the Braves matched up with the 12th seeded Baseball U Prospects from Pennsylvania. Having a first round bye was beneficial to Baseball U, who have top line talent (most notably C
Chris Harvey) but they lack the kind of depth that the Braves have. Baseball U sent finesse lefty Jesse Adams (2012 St. Johns Jesuit HS, Maumee, OH) out to face the Braves. Adams was sharp but the Braves managed to take advantage of 3 errors and cashed in their opportunities, scraping together 4 runs. With ace lefty Matt Crownover (2012 Ringgold HS, GA) on the hill, it would be far more than they would need. Crownover went the distance, limiting Baseball U to just 2 hits in a complete game shutout, racking up an impressive 14 strikeouts and running his fastball up to 90 mph. The 4-0 win sent the Braves to the championship to face fellow perennial powerhouse Florida Travel Ball (FTB). But the win was costly, as star SS Matt Gonzalez (2012 Harrison HS, Acworth, GA) went down with an ankle injury trying to turn a double play during the 6th inning.

The championship matchup was a scout's dream, with two perennial powerhouses facing off, both teams rosters littered with Division I commits and pro prospects. Kyle Carter took the ball for the Braves and pitched very well, limiting a lineup that featured two recently named PG All-Americans (
Addison Russell, Jesse Winker) to just 3 runs on 6 hits while going the distance. With the scored knotted up at 1-1 in the bottom of the 3rd, another recently annointed All-American, OF Skye Bolt (2012 Holy Innocents HS, Woodstock, GA) launched a towering Home Run down the right field line to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. The Braves would never look back, with a 4th inning Grand Slam by Casey Moody (2012 Spalding Co. HS, Williamson, GA) serving as the exlamation point for one of the most impressive playoff runs in WWBA history.

Matt Crownover was named Most Valuable Pitcher after going 2-0 and allowing just 1 Run on 6 Hits over 11 innings while amassing 18 strikeouts. Kyle Carter was named tournament MVP for his performance both on the mound and at the plate. Carter not only earned the Win in the championship game and a Save in the quarterfinals against PBC Pal, he also hit .421 with 2 HRs, 11 Runs and 11 RBIs. 

Carter said "last week when we lost [in the 18u semifinals] coach told us to remember this feeling of walking away without a ring, and now we're just excited." This time, the Braves walked away with a trophy and a shiny ring to commemorate their thrilling run to the WWBA National Championship.
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