The 12U Red Devils began their Road to Cooperstown the weekend of May 26-29 playing in two Atlanta-area All-Star tournaments, the Southeastern All-Star Championship in Douglasville and the Hobgood Memorial Day Warmup in Woodstock. The team did just about everything asked of them, going 6-0 in pool play and gaining the #1 seed in both tournaments heading into bracket play. Unfortunately, Mother Nature hasn't cooperated, with both Sundays cancelled due to heavy rain.
In Douglasville, the team delivered on its goal of making Every Moment Count. The team didn't trail all weekend, and outscored their 3 opponents from Carroll County, Winston, and Acworth by a combined score of 35-2. The Devils brought their bats with them, totaling 37 hits led by 6 from Cullen Riel and 5 from Alexandru Grama, while Noah McMahon delivered timely hitting, leading the team with 6 RBIs.
The pitchers were as dominant as the batters. McMahon, Riel, Creighton Dunbar, Jackson Cheek and Paul Gaeta combined to give up a single earned run all weekend, while tallying 16 strikeouts against only 3 walks. Minimizing defensive miscues is a primary focus of the team this summer, and the team got off to an adequate start, committing only 3 errors all weekend.
In Woodstock, the team picked up right where they left off the week before, steamrolling the Sandy Plains Cougars 10-0 in the opener. Santos Miranda led the hit parade with 2 hits and 3 RBIs, including his first home run of the summer. Riel, Aaron DeCarlo, and Gaeta were a lone hit short of throwing a perfect game on the mound, baffling opposing hitters for 9 Ks, including 5 from DeCarlo.
The Devils entered Saturday facing a step-up in competition, with games against the best of Alpharetta and Hobgood. Despite its coaches warning against getting too comfortable in its 4-0 shoes, the team got off to a slow start facing the high-quality play of the Raiders, and found themselves down 6-0 after 3.5 innings. Wake-up call received, the team responded to tie the game with 6 runs in the bottom of the 4th, led by a timely 2-run double by Donovan Parker. After Dunbar recorded a 1-2-3 top of the 5th on the mound, the Devils took control with a clutch two-out RBI single by DeCarlo, followed by a 2-run homer by Grama. Gaeta continued to emerge as a reliable closer for the team, and shut the door for a 9-7 final.
In the second game of the day, the Devils faced a fired-up host, the Hobgood Heat. Despite Grama leading off with his second homer of the day on the game's first pitch, good pitching and defense was expected, and delivered, as the teams were tied 1-1 after 3 innings. However, the Devils took control in the top of the 4th, plating 7 runs. Following RBI singles by McMahon and Parker, the Devils loaded the bases. They then surprised the Heat with two steals of home by Gus Molnar and Miranda in exciting fashion to break the Heat's spirit, and rolled from there to an 8-4 win.
For the tournament, the boys pounded out 25 hits, and 8 pitchers combined for a 2.62 team ERA with 18Ks against 5 walks. Despite only recording 2 errors in the field, defense will be a primary work area for the team in the coming weeks, as the competition only gets harder from here. And fast.
With the team off to a 6-0 start, the Road gets much more difficult with the Devils entering its first Travel Tournament next weekend, the Cooperstown Send-Off. This is a 12U-only tournament in Marietta, and the Devils will get an early taste of what to expect when the Road ends in Cooperstown in mid-July.
Follow the Red Devils' Road to Cooperstown on GameChanger here!