E.A. Sports Today

Battling to the end

Homegrown Blue Wave 17u takes East Cobb Astros extra innings before falling in finals of Perfect Game event

Special to East Alabama Sports Today

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — The Excel Blue Wave 17u had its best showing of the young summer travel baseball season, reaching the finals of the Perfect Game East Cobb Invitational, falling to the East Cobb Astros in Monday’s final 5-3 in nine innings.

The Blue Wave beat Team Elite Prime 18u in the semifinals 5-1 behind a complete game by Oxford’s Jacob Sears earlier in the day. Sears was named the tournament’s most valuable pitcher.

“This is a bigger deal than what people understand, mainly because of the way Excel sets up compared to the teams we play against,” said Excel co-owner Matthew Maniscalco. “The teams we competed against over in Atlanta, they will fly guys in for the weekend. They bankroll the whole team and win these trophies; that’s fine, but that’s not the way we kind of do things, so it’s even a bigger deal.

“They’ve got double the size of roster we’ve got. They get them after they’ve committed. We try to groom them. It is a really big deal to get it that far. We don’t take it for granted. We understand how awesome a run it was.”

The Blue Wave, with 19 players from north and central Alabama, rallied twice to tie the championship game. They tied it 2-2 in the fifth on Ethan Holsombeck’s RBI single and 3-3 in the sixth on Oxford’s Nate Lloyd’s two-out RBI single.

Lloyd went 6-for-17 with five RBIs in the tournament; he had at least one hit or one RBI in each of the team’s six games. He also pitched two innings in the championship game, giving up a run and two hits.

The Blue Wave almost won it in the eighth, putting the winning run at second with one out and third with two, but couldn’t get it home.

The Astros, with 27 players from five states and 13 college commitments as underclassmen, won it with two in the top of the ninth.

Sears gave up one earned run on six hits and struck out four in the semifinals. He also pitched a perfect seventh inning in an earlier game.

“Sears did a really nice job of pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters,” Blue Wave coach Steve Gendron said. “We have a talented team with a lot of future college baseball players, so when we throw strikes and let our defense make plays we give ourselves a chance to win.”

The Blue Wave sealed the victory with four runs in the bottom of the fourth. It started when Garret Farquhar (Hoover) doubled home Manning Early (Gardendale) with what proved to be the game winning run. After another run scored on a passed ball, Lloyd delivered the knockout blow with his two-run single.

Overall, they went 5-1 in the tournament. They also beat East Cobb Colt 45s 18s (5-3), Game On Baseball (6-0), Wildfire Baseball Black (12-1) and Fierce Baseball (7-0) Alexandria’s Will Reaves threw six-hit complete game shutout with five strikeouts against Game On.

“One of our favorite things about our program is that 95 percent of these players have been playing with us since they were 15 years old,” Excel co-owner Josh Beshears said. “When we come and play in these huge tournaments we are playing teams with kids from all over the country. Some of these teams fly guys in and out each weekend. We try to treat it like a family. You grow and learn together and that is what makes runs like these so special.”

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