In what was an exciting next chapter of the rivalry, the East Cobb Astros beat Team Elite Prime 1-0, to claim the 18u WWBA National Championship on Friday morning. This year’s win was the Astros’ third in a row, a goal they have had for the last 12 months.
Perfect Game 18u WWBA National Champions – 18u Astros
Luke Bartnicki turned in a dominant start on the mound Friday, tossing five scoreless innings and striking out eight Team Elite batters. Bartnicki, a 2017 PG All-American who will be heading to Georgia Tech to begin his college career in the coming months, was able to keep hitters off balance with a good mix between fastball and slider. The fastball was up to 92 on Friday, and he was able to command the strike zone well.
“I was pretty happy with my ability to make the big pitches when I had to,” said Bartnicki. “They [Team Elite] are a great team, and Connor [Pavolony] has been my catcher for four years so we have one of the best chemistry’s I’ve ever had before. We know what we both want, and I think that is a big reason I am able to throw well.”
Head coach Kevin Baldwin couldn’t be prouder of Bartnicki, and believes his preparation and toughness have helped him prepare for big moments like this.
“You can’t say enough about what Luke Bartnicki did for us today. He’s been a workhorse, and he just went out there and did his job and pitched through some jams. He really battled for us all day long.”
At the plate, Ryan Murphy played hero for the Astros, delivering a two-out single to center that drove in the game’s only run. Murphy, who had been struggling to find his way into the hit column during the tournament, made the most of his opportunity in the big moment.
“I went up there thinking that I had to do anything I could to get the team a run,” said Murphy. “I had to do my job, and I was able to come through with the base hit up the middle.”
While Murphy wasn’t swinging a hot bat this week, coach Baldwin knew Murphy was the guy he wanted up to bat in the big situation.
“Ryan gives you one of the best at-bats on the team. He grinds every single one of them out, and we wouldn’t want anyone else up there in that situation because we know that he will grind it out and come through for us in the big moment.”
Murphy, who has now been a part of two national championship runs for the Astros, is just one of the members of this core group of players from the East Cobb organization. Whether guys were new to the team or had been there all three years, this was a special win.
“I just can’t say enough about the heart of these kids,” said coach Baldwin. “They had a goal in mind, and they just fought for it the entire time. They succeeded and got what they wanted, and I just can’t be more proud to say that I coached these kids.”
Bartnicki was able to use today’s performance to take home MV-Pitcher honors for the tournament. Bartnicki tossed seven strong innings during the week, compiling a 1-0 record and striking out 10 batters.
Nathan Hickey was the tournament MVP. Hickey was 7-for-18 during the week, driving in six and crushing two home runs in the process. Hickey is committed to playing his college baseball at Florida, and is a member of Florida’s second best recruiting class nationally for 2019.
2018 WWBA 18u National Championship MVP: Nathan Hickey
2018 WWBA 18u National Championship MV-Pitcher: Luke Bartnicki