Needing extra innings just hours earlier against the Dallas Tigers, the 14u East Cobb Astros weren’t about to let the same thing happen in the semifinals of Triple Crown’s US Club Nationals.
Down early, a tide-turning six-run inning propelled the Astros over the Tidewater Drillers, 6-4. The win puts East Cobb into the championship game set to air Saturday on ESPN3 at Noon ET.
“It was a real gritty performance,” said coach Kenneth Clarke. “The bats aren’t always there, but we found a way to win, played a little small ball and made routine plays. When those things come together, you have a chance.”
Riding a bit of a Cinderella streak, Tidewater came out firing in the opening end of the first inning. Two runs came across, aided by a two singles and a double.
“I have a lot of confidence in this team,” said starting pitcher Will Turner. “They’re hitting the ball really hard and we just had to come out and pull out the win.”
Turner didn’t have to wait terribly long for his team to pick him up. After a relatively quiet second inning, East Cobb stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third with something to prove.
Quinn Kerce jumped on an elevated fastball and while lead-off hitters are normally instructed just to get on base, Kerce touched them all, sending a towering home run over the left field fence.
“I never really knew where the ball went,” said Kerce. “I just went up there to hit and when all the fans started cheering, I figured it must have gone out.”
As momentum started to swing in favor of the home town kids, each of the next three East Cobb batters reach first base safely, allowing Michael Taylor to drive home Jaden Browning to tie the game at two.
The Astros were nowhere near finished with its big inning, though. Two batters later Ian Brooks collected a two-RBI single and would come around to score himself. In total, East Cobb rattled off six runs in the inning, trading positions from trailing by two, to leading by four.
Blink, and you’ve wouldn’t missed Turner’s middle innings. A pair of strikeouts combined with a stout defense behind him, Tidewater never reached further than second base. East Cobb even caught the Drillers in a 6-5-4 double play in the fifth inning.
“It’s so much easier to go out there and pitch when you know the defense is going to make plays behind you,” said Turner. “I really felt like I started to pick up momentum and I was starting to locate my pitches better and find my rhythm.”
Tidewater made sure it wouldn’t be the end of the fight. A night earlier, the Drillers completed a six-run comeback down to its last out. Friday afternoon at East Cobb, they looked to do just the same.
With the bases loaded and two outs gone in the final inning, murmurs began circulating about a possible second come back in as many nights. A walk brought the tying run to second and forced Kenneth Clarke to go to Jaden Browning to grab the game’s final out. Browning succeeded, forcing the ground out to second base and cementing East Cobb in the Championship game Saturday.
“I know a lot of people have been talking about our offense,” said Kerce. “But it’s the pitching that gives us a lot of intensity and it carries over into our at-bats.”
East Cobb awaits its challenger for the 14u US Club Nationals title. The Astros will await the winner of Evoshield Canes and the same Tidewater Driller team they just defeated.
“All I can ask is that these guys compete at a high level every day,” said Clarke. “That’s what I want to see tomorrow.”
Tags: Baseball, Triple Crown Baseball, US Club Championship, US Club Nationals