It takes a lot of things to win a championship. Pro Player Canes – Cohn did it with a pair of highlight-worthy plays to avenge a previous loss in pool play to the CBT Wolfpack at the 14u WWBA Prospect Meadows National Championship, winning by a slim 2-1 margin.
Max Kalk of the Wolfpack started off the game with a triple down the left field line and scored after Jalen Gellings hit the ball to the second baseman. But it was Pro Player’s first run that had everyone on the edge of their seats. MVP Joey Garlin hit a single in the 3-4 hole before stealing second and advancing to third on a throw to first. Andrew Ressler forced a walk and, on the next pitch, made a delayed steal for second base. Garlin reached home to tie the game at one all.
Even so, CBT’s Eli Zollar came up huge on the mound, forcing a looking strikeout by grazing the low outside corner on a 77 mph fastball. MV-Pitcher Cooper Cohn responded for Pro Player, earning his fourth strikeout of the day using an off-speed curveball.
“In wood bat games against really quality pitchers, you have to find a way to score. That delayed steal helped us scratch a run,” Mike Cohn, Pro Player Canes head coach, said. [It] Usually catches the catcher and middle [infielders] off guard, he makes a throw and it’s usually not a good one. If you have a fast guy on third, you can grab a run, so that was key for us.”
Garlin was the fast guy the Canes needed. Throughout the tournament, the shortstop racked up 10 hits and seven RBIs, runs and stolen bases. In the championship game, he was the only player on either team to have multiple hits and scored one of three total runs.
“The kid plays hard, always. He’s looking for opportunities. He’s gutsy, got good instincts, he’s super fast,” Cohn added. “What a great week for Joey.”
After a scoreless third inning, the Canes looked to strike again in the fourth. Cooper Cohn led off with a single to shallow center field but was later picked off at first on a Zollar-Kalk connection. With two outs, Michael Dabecapitalized with a single between first and second before Ressler drove him in on a fly ball to center field.
To win a game, though, you just have to outscore the other team, whether it be by one or 10. Pro Player knew that and held onto the lead until the Wolfpack threatened one last time with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Canes only needed one more out, but after a defensive miscue, it looked like CBT would tie up the game instead. At first base, Dabe reacted and fired the ball home to Cohn, tagging out the runner and earning championship honors.
“The play that ended the game there was a communication play,” Cohn said. “It was a never-give-up play. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys for that baseball play right there. Not giving up, staying communicational and working to get the last out because it mattered.”
Individually, Cohn’s son Cooper provided excellent work on the mound, striking out 10 batters and only allowing one run off five hits. For Cooper, the perfect strikeout strategy is simple: be unpredictable.
“You don’t want them to know what’s coming next,” the tournament MV-Pitcher said. “Get the first two out of three pitches over as a strike, set the pace of the game and deal. Get a first pitch curveball, changeup, fastball. It was nice to have all three working today.”
“That was a special performance. He came out, he wanted it,” Coach Cohn said. “I couldn’t be prouder of him and the way he threw the ball against those guys. They can swing the bat, they put up a lot of runs against us yesterday. He was able to minimize the damage and fill up the strike zone and go deep into the game, which was really important because we were running on three available arms left.”
Pro Player Canes finish the tournament with a record of 4-2, racking up 50 hits and 34 runs. They’ll travel to Florida for the PG 14u World Series in 10 days to face off against some of the best teams in the nation.