E.A. Sports Today

Blue Wave comes close

Young Excel team falls in extra innings of qualifier title game

Peyton Whitten comes down the line to score an early run for the Excel Blue Wave in their World Wood Bat qualifying tournament title game Sunday.

Peyton Whitten comes down the line to score an early run for the Excel Blue Wave in their World Wood Bat qualifying tournament title game Sunday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Excel Blue Wave baseball team that went to the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship qualifier outside Atlanta this weekend didn’t really know there was a trip on the line.

The only reason they played in the tournament, their team officials said, was to give their players a chance to face some top-notch competition and get some exposure.

They almost won the whole thing.

The team of mostly high school sophomores and juniors from East Alabama took an early lead in the championship game but wound up losing to an Atlanta-area Team Elite 18 Prime club stocked with Division I commitments 3-2 in eight innings. Still, they won five games in the tournament and turned a lot of heads.

“For us to go toe-to-toe with those guys, especially late when we were running pretty thin on pitching, was pretty special,” said Judd Edwards, who managed the team through Sunday’s action.

The Blue Wave knocked off some pretty hefty — and older — competition to reach the title game. In the quarterfinals, Alexandria’s Will Reaves threw a complete-game five-hitter to beat the East Cobb Astros 7-1, and in the semis, Piedmont’s Peyton Whitten pitched six strong innings in an 8-5 win over the Upstate (S.C.) Mavericks.

Among their hitters, Alexandria’s Dalton Cobb – the team’s only college commitment — had an MVP-type weekend, batting .556 with one homer, two doubles and eight RBIs. Nathan Lloyd of Oxford hit .462. The team stole 24 bases, with Manning Early of Gardendale snagging eight.

Other local players on the team included Alexandria’s Justin Whitley, the winner in their final game of pool play, Southside’s Walt Austin and Clay Central’s Austin Smith.

“We just came over because we knew there were some good teams here and to get our guys some action against some older competition and it turned out we had a couple guys who stepped up,” Edwards said. “We were just trying to play. I don’t think they needed any incentive. There were scouts and coaches all over the place. I think that was enough for them.”

With its pitching running low, the Blue Wave knew to have a chance it had to get control of the championship game early and hang on. It led 2-0 after two innings, but Prime tied it with two in the fourth and then pushed across the winning run in the top of the eighth in emergency reliever Early’s fourth inning of work.

Whether it knew or not, the Wave was playing for a paid exemption to next month’s 16th annual WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
But because of their showing in the tournament, they still may wrangle an invitation to the event that in its history has featured more than 400 future major-leaguers, 3,300 draft picks and 6,000 college players.

The Wave would be, of course, one of the youngest teams at that event and officials of the Excel Baseball Academy that trains them would have to discuss the viability of making such a trip.

“That would be just a huge testament and compliment to the guys who played over there,” Excel coach Josh Beshears said of an at-large invitation. “We went there with a 10 position-player roster – most of them had 20 – and they busted their tails all weekend competing with some of the best teams around.

“It would be testament to them. That means those guys on the field really had to show the tournament directors a lot. They had to shine and stand out in front of those guys. It would be a huge compliment to those guys and how they played this weekend.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story or pitch a story idea, reach him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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