East Cobb Sun Devils stay calm, bash their way to championship
The East Cobb Sun Devils 16u were simply the best. And they proved they could win in multiple ways on their way to capturing the Perfect Game Super25 16u Georgia Super Qualifier Championship against Team Exposure 16u North by a score of 9-7.
The Sun Devils wasted no time by blitzing Exposure for eight runs in the top of the first, highlighted Tony Kouloukas’s opposite field single that scored two. For the tournament, he was 6-for-15 with seven RBIs and three runs on his way to being named tournament MVP. Wyatt Stevenson was also extremely productive, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI in the final game.
“I just stuck to my approach,” said Kouloukas. “Keep calm and swing it.”
But the game was far from over. Exposure refused to go away and countered with five runs in the bottom of the first. Reliever Connor Jurek kept the Sun Devils largely off balance for most of the game, and Exposure cut the lead to 8-7 by the sixth inning.
It seemed things might unravel for the Sun Devils as Team Exposure continued to hit their way back, and even recorded a crazy triple play in the fourth inning that erased a Sun Devil rally. But Coach Faulk was proud of the way his team weathered the storm and punched back.
“We had a long talk in the fourth inning about grinding out at-bats,” said Faulk. “The other team is going to come back. That’s a part of the game. But if we could score eight in the first, we could do it again.”
Coach Faulk’s words worked magic in the top of the seventh, as the Sun Devils got a massive insurance run when Wyatt Stevenson singled, stole second, and then eventually scored on a fielder’s choice.
“I think we were playing a little too loose,” said Kouloukas of the middle innings. “We were making some stupid mistakes, letting some runs come across. But we got it together and handled our business.”
One guy that certainly handled his business was Andrew Kakareka. After Exposure’s huge first inning, the Sun Devils needed Kakareka to be their stopper and he did the job. Coming on in relief with just one out in the first, he gave the Sun Devils quality innings the rest of the way. Through his 6 2/3 innings of work, Kakareka poured in strike after strike and was able to get his team back in the dugout, limiting any chance of a big inning from Exposure.
With a steady rain picking up over Brooke Run Park, Kakareka calmly recorded the last three outs in the bottom of the seventh and the Sun Devils celebration was on.
While the championship turned out to be a slugfest, the semifinal game was all about pitching and defense. And it was the right arm of Jack Wilcox that outdueled the East Cobb Colt .45’s starter Nick Wilson. Wilcox was sensational, firing a complete game shutout, striking out four batters along the way.
“The bats were just pressing in the semifinal,” said Sun Devils coach Kenny Faulk. “We have a lot of kids that play varsity baseball and they were trying to do too much. We told them to play the game hard and have fun. That is what East Cobb is all about. It’s about relaxing and just playing baseball. Good things happen when you do that.”
“We gathered around as a team before the championship and decided we needed play loose,” said Kouloukas. “We squared the ball up and runs came our way.”
On Monday, the Sun Devils proved they can win a baseball game on the mound, at the field, and with their gloves. This only fills them with confidence as they continue to embark on their summer journey.
“This championship shows us that we can compete with the best,” said Faulk. “We’re going to get back to East Cobb and make adjustments and get these guys ready for the rest of the way.”
“I love my teammates. I love my coaches,” added Kouloukas. “I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”
Perfect Game Super25 16u Georgia Super Qualifier MVP – Tony Kouloukas
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