BPA finishes second out of 186 teams in Georgia

Over 11 games in seven days, BPA’s 15U team staked claim to being one of the best teams in the entire county. At the Perfect Game 2020 15U World Wood Bat Association National Championship, BPA played in the final contest of the 527-game tournament, falling one win shy of leaving as champions, defeated in the title game by 5 Star National, 3-0. Although BPA fell just short of the ultimate prize, the run in Greater Atlanta saw BPA collect wins against a who’s who travel baseball, providing a testament to the team-minded and fundamental-centered approach to player development.

Slotted into the tournament’s Pool C, BPA went 4-1 in pool action to earn their way into bracket play. The tournament started with a 5-1 victory over Georgia Jackets 15U on June 26. Cooper Pratt (2023, Magnolia Heights) pitched 5.2 innings, allowing three hits and one run. BPA was led offensively by catcher Michael Walshe (2023, Capistrano Valley Christian), with a three-for-three game, first baseman Matt Fox (2023, Huntington Beach), who went two-for-three with a double and two runs, and center fielder Walker Sanders, who drove in three runs while collecting a double and a single in four at-bats from the leadoff spot.

Sanders was in the middle of BPA’s offensive attack in game two, as the team knocked off the Kentucky Prospects 15U Isom, 8-3. A sophomore at Marshall Academy in Mississippi, Sanders collected a pair of singles and drew a walk, scoring three times. Taking advantage of Sanders’ ability to reach base was right fielder Tyrus Williams (2022, Lafayette), who drove in three runs, in going three-for-three with a double. Four BPA pitchers combined to hold the opposition to four hits, with Jackson Jenkins (2023, Magnolia Heights) coming on in relief for a scoreless outing in a second consecutive game.

Moving to a perfect 3-0 in the tournament, BPA took down Central Florida Select, 2-0. Jenkins pitched two innings of hitless relief, securing the win behind a strong start from Jacob Campagna. A right-handed pitcher from Francis W. Parker in San Diego, Campagna pitched five innings of scoreless baseball, scattering four hits. Campagna provided himself with early run support, hitting a double to left, scoring Williams. BPA tacked on a run in the fifth behind a run-scoring double from Drew Prosek (2023, Magnolia Heights), driving in Fox.

BPA fell to 360 Hawks 15U, 5-1, unable to take advantage from two-hit games from Walshe and Williams. With their backs against the wall, BPA responded with an 11-0 victory over Team Citius National and used helped provided by a Georgia Jackets’ 9-1 win over 360 Hawks to win the pool. In the win, Fox and Pratt each went two-for-three with a double, Will McClure (2023, Magnolia Heights) drew two walks and scored a run, and Jake Fields (2023, Oak Ridge), made his tournament debut, striking out two over four outs of relief pitching. With BPA and Georgia Jackets both going 4-1 in pool play, BPA won the pool by way of the head-to-head tiebreaker from their first game of the tournament.

The urgency to win the final game of pool play gave BPA a headstart in the mindset needed to take on the win-or-go-home nature of bracket play. And with the records reset, BPA made the most of reaching the knockout round. BPA earned the No. 25 seed in the 48-team bracket, and faced the task of winning two games each of the next three days to leave as champions. Inning-by-inning BPA was up to that task, starting with a contest against East Coast Sox 15U Platinum.

The home team in the first game of bracket-play, BPA needed every at-bat. East Coast Sox jumped out in front, 2-0, with a pair of runs in the third. BPA was kept at bay for the first four innings, before a two-out, bases loaded hit by pitch put Luke Lavin (2023, Laguna Beach) on first base, scoring Fox. A single from Miller Durham (2023, Santa Fe Christian Schools) opened the bottom of the sixth, with the tying run moving to third base on a single by Keondre Fields (2023, Magnolia Heights). BPA tied the game 2-2 on an RBI from Fox. With tide on their side, BPA earned a 3-2, walk-off win on a sacrifice fly from Lavin, following singles to right field from Walshe and Williams that opened the bottom of the seventh. Continuing his strong tournament, Jenkins pitched the final 2.2 innings, striking out four batters without surrendering a run.

The momentum from the final innings against East Coast Sox carried over into the next game against Florida Burn 2023 National. The tournament’s No. 8 seed, the Burn allowed only five runs in their perfect 5-0 pool showing. BPA erupted for five runs in the opening inning. BPA’s trouncing was led by Lavin putting together a two-for-two game with two walks, a double and two runs scored. Durham had a triple and four RBI with Williams adding three RBI. BPA’s quick start helped Pratt pitch with ease, tossing a six-inning complete game, allowing just four hits while striking out six.

Looking to make it back-to-back days with back-to-back wins, BPA’s next opponent was the tournament’s No. 9 seed, MVP Terps National. The middle of the order carried the way in a 6-3 victory. In the cleanup spot, Durham went two-for-two with a walk and scored two runs. Batting behind him, Sanders went three-for-three. BPA’s eight-hit day supported a strong start from Fox, as he held MVP to two runs off six hits in 5.2 innings. Prosek closed the door with a pair of strikeouts over the final four outs.

Now 7-1 in the tournament and in the quarterfinals, the toughest challenge yet awaited BPA. The tournament’s top seed, Hurricanes Scout Team, was in the way of BPA reaching the final day of the tournament. The Hurricanes had yet to allow a run in the tournament, entering the contest 7-0 and outscoring the opposition 63-0 in the process. BPA provided their unblemished run a rude ending, cruising to a 7-3 victory. Held to just four hits, BPA capitalized on 10 walks. Two runs scored in the second, with Fields scoring on a passed ball and Campagna scoring on a sacrifice squeeze laid by Pratt. In a four-run third, two runs scored on bases loaded walks, before Tyler Laderman (2023, Capistrano Valley) drove in two on a single to right. BPA made it 7-0 in the fifth, and held on to a 7-3 victory.

One of four teams to reach the final day of the tournament, BPA’s semifinal was a true road contest. The week-long tournament was played in high schools around Marietta, Ga., as well as on the diamonds of the East Cobb Baseball Complex. Taking advantage of the familiar surroundings, the East Cobb Astros 15U earned the No. 13 seed in the tournament and were coming off of impressive wins against East Coast Sox Founders and Team Elite Scout Team 15U. But as they did against the No. 1 seed, BPA turned back the odds in a 3-1 victory, to reach the championship game.

All of the scoring in the semifinal came in the third inning. Pratt line a one-out single to center and moved to second on a ground ball up the middle by Fox. A third consecutive single, this to center off Walshe’s bat, loaded the bases. Following a strikeout, a wild pitch before Lavin reached base on an error, cleared the bases, putting BPA up 3-0. East Cobb responded with a bases loaded single in the bottom half, before Keondre Fields left the bases loaded with a three-pitch strikeout, preserving the lead. The strikeout was the final pitch Fields threw, before Jenkins finished the game with four no-hit ininings, striking out four batters and pushing BPA into the final.

Although 5 Star National would eek out only one more hit than BPA’s three, BPA miscues led to an unearned run in the second, two walks contributed to 5 Star scoring a run in the third, and a pair of two-out singles gave the game it’s final score in the fourth. Campagna, Lavin and Walshe each collected a single, and Prosek pitched the final 2.1 innings keeping 5 Star off the scoreboard, but it wasn’t enough as BPA finished the tournament with a 9-2 record.

Sanders finished the tournament with a team-best .417 average and seven stolen bases in as many attempts, with Walshe leading BPA with 11 hits n 30 at-bats. On the mound, Pratt pitched a team-high 11.2 innings, allowing only one unearned run over two outings. In three games, Keondre Fields pitched 8.2 innings and led BPA with 10 strikeouts. Jenkins logged 11 innings over five games, recording two saves and gave up only five hits, without allowing a run to score.

Perfect Game highlighted BPA in their run to finishing runners-up, proclaiming BPA Not Afraid of East Coast Competition. The tournament was the club’s second successful Perfect Game showing, on the heels of a 3-1 showing last October at the 14U World Wood Bat Association World Championship in West Palm Beach.