By Thomas Hoffman
EAST COBB, Ga. -- Baseball is a pretty simple game, or at least it was for Canes – Barbour on Friday evening at East Cobb. Going toe-to-toe with hometown East Cobb Baseball 14u, Canes utilized a lethal combination of stellar pitching and timely hitting, solidifying a spot in the US Club Nationals semifinals with a 9-1 win.
“We have a core group that’s been together for several years,” said head coach Kevin Barbour. “It’s all about teamwork for us. We have some great talent on this team, some great pitching and some great hitters. But the biggest thing we do is play together.”
East Cobb looked comfortable on its home field early. With two outs in the top half of the opening frame, Davis Newman launched a solo shot to the opposite field in right.
It wouldn’t take long for Canes to respond, though, opening the bottom end of the inning with a leadoff hit from Jake Barbour who would come around to score two batters later on an RBI groundout from Brett Fuller.
“We’ve had our share of bad innings,” coach Barbour said. “But we always had a way of fighting back and staying in games.”
When Tyler White stepped to the plate in the second inning, the game was still knotted at one. Flexing power of his own, White smashed a home run, handing the lead to Canes for the first time in the contest.
“I got behind in the count early,” explained White. “I was sitting on a curveball and he threw it. I was looking to put something in play but I got enough of it to get it out.”
By the third inning, starting pitcher Garrett Roark began to find his rhythm. After surrendering the home run and shutting down the second inning with a runner in scoring position, Roark allowed just one hit the rest of the way through.
“I was trying to slow the game down to my tempo,” Roark said. “Then I would pick up the pace when I pitched. I was able to use my fastball and slider really effectively.”
White’s confidence ignited Canes’ bats in the bottom of the third. Sending all 10 batters to the plate, Canes pushed across five runs, highlighted by RBI doubles from Colby Wallace and Tyler White.
“East Cobb threw a really good pitcher,” said Barbour. “We told them going into the game to battle up there and make him throw strikes. That’s what we did and it worked.”
Lead in hand, Roark flew through the fourth and fifth innings. Pitching five complete frames, Roark gave up just one run, two walks, and struck out six.
“He’s been solid for us all year,” Barbour said. “Garrett has another gear and you saw it tonight. He had great command and great control. He did everything we could ask of him.”
Back at the plate, White’s red-hot day wasn’t over. Tacking on insurance in the bottom of the fifth, White tallied his third hit and third RBI, ending the game a triple short of the cycle.
“I think that third inning really boosted everyone’s confidence,” said White. “We really picked it up after that and kept staying confident throughout the game.”
As time expired after the fifth inning, Canes assured themselves a spot in the 13/14u semifinals. Facing Lonestar Elite, coach Barbour and company are just a win away from the US Club Nationals title match slated for 1:40 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
“We’ll be ready,” Barbour said. “We’re going to get us a good team dinner. That’s what we’ve been doing all week. Our group is pretty laid back. We challenge them to flip a switch when game time comes and so far they’ve been doing it.”