BA/Perfect Game Wood Bat Championship
Day Two Report
By Allan Simpson
JUPITER, Fla.--Georgia's East Cobb Baseball has dominated youth league competition in the United States like no other program for almost two decades, and is showing why at the Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat championship.
East Cobb won three games Saturday, two on a pair of convincing one-hit shutouts and the third on the largest scoring outburst of the 64-team tournament. The victories capped East Cobb's unbeaten run in pool play, and the team moves on to the 32-team championship bracket as Pool K's No. 1 seed. That phase of the tournament was scheduled to begin Sunday morning.
East Cobb is one of only a handful of teams not to bolster its roster for the tournament with outside talent. The team features seven players who were members of the East Cobb Yankees team that won the 2001 Connie Mack (17- and 18- year-old) World Series, and seven more who played with the East Cobb Astros, who won the 2001 AAU 16-year-old Junior Olympics. Those tournaments are considered the most prestigious in the country in their respective age groups.
Six-foot-4 senior righthander Micah Owings (Gainesville High), who was the MVP of the Connie Mack World Series, set the tone for East Cobb by beating the Pinellas (Fla.) Scout Team 4-0. Owings, whose fastball was clocked consistently at 93 mph, silenced Pinellas on one hit through five innings while striking out six. He turned it over to senior lefthander Will Startup (Cartersville High), who worked the final two innings to complete the shutout.
Senior lefthander Marcus Handley (Greater Atlanta Christian High) and senior righthander Adam Kitchen (Savannah Christian High) followed with another one-hit shutout as East Cobb defeated Perfect Game USA Maroon 2-0. The two combined for 15 strikeouts, with Handley getting 12 in six innings and Kitchen wrapping up the game by striking out the side in the seventh. Owings, who hits cleanup and plays third base when not pitching, scored the winning run in the sixth on a walk, stolen base and double off the center field wall by Georgia Tech recruit Scott White (Walton High).
East Cobb unleashed an impressive offensive display in its third game of the day, a 15-1 win against Team Miami. It got a two-run triple and three-run homer from senior catcher Brian McCann (Duluth High) as a pair of sophomores, righthander John Michael Vidic (Lassiter High) and lefthander Tim Ladd (Marietta High), combined to allow one unearned run.
East Cobb, which finished third in this tournament a year ago, was forced to play three games on Saturday as rain on Friday forced suspension of five games and postponement of eight more. It now moves on to face the Tampa Yankees in the first round of bracket play without having used its best pitcher, righthander Allen Ponder (Lee Scott Academy, Auburn, Ala.)--the only non-Georgian on the roster, but a mainstay of the team for years.
To win the tournament, East Cobb would have to win two games Sunday and three more on Monday.
Dodgers spin three shutouts
East Cobb was one of six teams to finish pool play Saturday with a perfect 3-0 record. Only 11 of the 16 pools completed play as Friday's rain forced Saturday's otherwise full schedule to spill over to Sunday. Eight games were scheduled for 8 a.m., along with the completion of a controversial suspended game from Friday between pre-tournament favorite Team Florida USA '02 and the Pinellas (Fla.) Phillies. Bracket play will then begin, with 32 teams--the top two in each pool--in the championship bracket and the remaining 32 in consolation brackets.
Other teams with perfect 3-0 records included Dulin's Dodgers from Memphis, Columbia (Texas) Angels, Bama Bombers, Perfect Game USA Orange and the Yellow Jackets from nearby West Palm Beach.
Dulin's features five players from Germantown High, which should be one of the top high school teams in the country in 2002. The Dodgers won all three pool play games by shutout--two 1-0 games on Friday and a 5-0 blanking of Bellaire, Texas, on Saturday. Bellaire is composed largely of players from traditional national power Bellaire High School.
Team Florida USA '02, which pooled top high school players from all over the country for the tournament, had still not qualified for the championship bracket as play moved into Sunday. Florida beat the Ontario Blue Jays 5-1 Saturday for its first win but must survive the completion of a suspended game from Friday to advance.
That game was suspended by rain in the top of the sixth after Pinellas rallied to tie the game 2-2. Tournament officials ruled Saturday that the game must be completed from the point of suspension. Pinellas had runners on first and third with two outs and because of the tournament's two-hour time limit, only the sixth inning will be completed.
Should Team Florida win, it would move on as the pool's No. 1 seed. A tie would give Pinellas the nod, with Team Florida relegated to a No. 2 seed. Should Team Florida lose, it would create a three-way tie for second, at 1-2, with a tiebreaker necessary to resolve which team advances to the championship bracket. In the case of a three-way tie, fewest runs allowed is the first tiebreaker. Team Florida had allowed eight runs, while the Blue Jays and Louisiana All-Stars had allowed nine. Should Team Florida lose to Pinellas and allow two more runs, it would be relegated to fourth in its pool.
As expected, pitching has dominated play in the first two days of competition. The combination of wood bats and big spring training ballparks have kept runs to a minimum. In 88 games through Saturday, there were 32 shutouts and a pair of 0-0 ties.
Team California won both its games by shutouts, the second on an outstanding performance by righthander Chris Gruler (Liberty High, Brentwood, Calif.), who worked five scoreless innings of a 4-0 win against the Colorado Rockies Scout Team, striking out six.
Team Florida USA '03, the younger of two heavily stocked teams by that organization, threw shutouts in both its games.
The Bill Hood (La.) Bombers, one of the pre-tournament favorites, also was 2-0 and had allowed only one run. That run came Saturday in a 2-1 win over Perfect Game Royal as 7-foot-1, 225-pound righthander Ryan Doherty from Toms River (N.J.) East High had a no-hitter through five innings before giving up a run in the final inning.
Doherty, the No. 1 prospect from New Jersey (who's also an excellent basketball prospect), never topped 90 mph but threw mostly 83-88.
The biggest upset in the tournament to date involved the defending champion, Baseball America. Team BA went 1-1-1 in pool play and finished in third place on the basis of a tiebreaker. It will play in the consolation round.
After a loss Friday to the Yellow Jackets, BA needed a win against Hoosier Bat of Indiana in order to qualify for the championship bracket. A tie wouldn't suffice. BA clung to a 1-0 lead in the seventh as righthander Friedel Pinkston (Hart County High, Hartwell, Ga.), one of the top prospects for the 2002 draft, pitched four scoreless innings. But righthander Matt Capps (Alexander High, Douglasville, Ga.), Georgia's top-ranked pitcher, couldn't make the lead stand up as Hoosier scored in the top of the seventh on a wild pitch. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.
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