Tournaments : : Story
Wednesday, July 04, 2012

East Cobb Braves 17u bounce back

Nick Kappel        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. — The road to the title game at the PG/WWBA 18u National Championship just got much more difficult.

East Cobb Braves 17u, who entered play Tuesday with a 3-0-2 record, rallied with back-to-back convincing wins — 12-8 over Team Colorado and 12-0 vs. Fungo Red Sox — to win Pool E and advance to the championship bracket.

We put ourselves behind the eight ball by tying a couple games,” Head Coach Kevin Baldwin said. “We had to win the last two games and we did what we had to do to get in. So we’ll see what happens from here.”

Despite the Braves’ early hiccups, there’s no doubt they’re one of the most talented teams in Marietta, Ga. this week. Their tournament roster includes 12 players who attended the National Showcase last month in Minneapolis, more than any other team.

Among those include: Outfielder Josh Hart (2013, Parkview HS, Ga.), who is 10-for-23 (.435) with eight runs, a double and a stolen base; first baseman Nathaniel Maggio (2013, Blessed Trinity Catholic HS, Ga.), 9-for-19 (.474) with 10 runs, 10 RBI, a double, two home runs and a stolen base; outfielder Skye Overton (2013, Johns Creek HS, Ga.), who is 10-for-19 (.526) with eight runs, seven RBI, a double and four stolen bases.

Utility player CJ Brazil (2013, Blessed Trinity Catholic HS, Ga.) has only played in three games but has two homers and two stolen bases.

Right handed pitcher Duane Underwood (2012, Pope HS, Ga.) — who’s been clocked in the upper-90s on the mound at PG events— hit a home run in the Braves’ second game of the tournament, a 12-0 win. He was at Wrigley Field in Chicago the next morning, however, presumably to sign a contact with the Cubs, who selected him in the second round of last month’s draft.

And then there’s Travis Demeritte (2013, Winder Barrow HS, Ga.), a third baseman and right handed pitcher who bats third in the Braves’ lineup. Demeritte — who’s already committed to South Carolina — ran a 6.87 and threw 89 mph from the outfield at the National Showcase. On Monday, he struck out two on the mound in a scoreless inning, touching 91 mph.

Demeritte has been to 20 Perfect Game events, and he’s enjoyed the experiences and opportunities they’ve provided him.

Every (event) I’ve been to, I’ve had a great time,” he said. “It’s good to meet new people and the competition is always great. I love playing competitive baseball, that’s why I play.”

Even though the Braves have a star-studded lineup — they lead all 192 tournament teams with 75 runs scored in pool play — they’re approaching this tournament with a team-first mentality. When asked about his impressive hitting display in the tournament thus far, Maggio — who mentioned Kentucky and Georgia Tech as possible schools for him to attend next fall — turned the attention to his teammates.

Our whole team is in a groove at the right time, one through nine,” he said. “This is a big tournament so we’re just trying to play well. We’re here to win this, even though we’re a 17u team. This is one of the biggest tournaments and it’s at our park, so we want to represent East Cobb well.”

The Braves will begin their quest for the national championship Wednesday night, 7:00 at the East Cobb Complex with Demeritte on the mound.

We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Coach Baldwin said. “We’re swinging the bats pretty well. If we throw strikes and give ourselves a chance without making any errors, we have a chance.”

The Braves won’t be satisfied without a National Championship this week, and they’re having a ball in their pursuit of it.

Any WWBA (tournament) we participate in is great,” Coach Baldwin said. “There are plenty of scouts and college coaches out to see the kids play, so it’s great experience and great exposure for the kids. We’re going into the playoffs tonight and we’ll see what happens.”

When asked what they might do if they win the tournament, Maggio smiled wide and replied, “Dog pile. Dog pile, for sure.”

Super dog pile,” Demeritte added. “But we have to get there first. If we keep the bats rolling, hopefully we’ll end up there.”

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