Belting out 12 hits, including three home runs, they cruised to a 15-6 victory over the Kalamazoo Maroon 18U in the quarterfinals of the World Wood Bat Association’s 18U national championship Thursday at the East Cobb Baseball Complex.
The game was called after 4½ innings, when the mercy rule came into effect.
Before they had even come to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, the Yankees fell into a 4-0 hole, but they rebounded with seven runs in their half of the frame. After giving up two more runs in the second for a 7-6 margin, East Cobb added four runs of its own in the third, and another four in the fourth, to take the 15-6 advantage.
Payton Smith, who came on in relief of starter Matt Phillips, did not allow a hit or a run and struck out two over 3 1/3 innings of work. He gave up a walk and a wild pitch in the top of the fifth, but he stranded runners on first and third to invoke the run-rule win.
“Our pitching is always there but the guys really responded with the bats (Thursday),” Yankees coach James Beavers said. “I can’t say enough about them. We’re pitching well enough to not let games get to away from us, and we’re hitting well when we need to take control and get some wins.
“We’ll have to piece it all together offensively (today) and get something going.”
Eight of the Yankees’ 12 hits — five of which were doubles — went for extra bases. The team also took advantage of two errors, five wild pitches, four walks and two hit batsmen.
After falling behind 4-0 early, East Cobb batted around the order in the bottom of the first off five hits, two home runs, a walk and a hit batsman to stake its 7-4 lead.
Phillips, who gave up six earned runs on six hits and struck out five, hit two batters in the second and allowed a two-out, two-run RBI single to Kody Carson that brought Kalamazoo to within 7-6.
The Yankees extended their margin to 11-6 in the third behind six straight hits and scored four more runs in the fourth off three walks, a hit batsman, an error, three wild pitches and a solo home run by Cole Miller.
Eight of East Cobb’s 10 starters on offense — teams in the tournament may choose to play with nine-, 10- or 11-man lineups — scored a run, and eight of the 10 also had at least one hit.
Miller batted 2-for-3 with a walk, double, home run and scored three times. Will Craig was 2-for-2 with three RBIs, a two-run home run in the first, a walk and two runs scored. Brandon Gold batted 2-for-2 with a double, first-inning home run, an RBI and two runs scored.
Austin Norrell was 1-for-3 with a two-run RBI single in the third.
Recent Etowah graduate Tim Yandel, who has signed with Tulane, scored twice. He also batted 2-for-2 with three RBIs and two doubles, including a two-run double in the first.
“In the first game we played (Thursday), I was too passive at the plate,” Yandel said of the Yankees’ 13-4 second-round playoff win over the Grand Slam Bluerocks. “In this second game, I had to be aggressive to get hits.
“I swung at the first good pitches I saw. I knew we were going to get some runs because we’ve been hitting it pretty well this tournament.”
Mason Ward, a rising Cherokee senior, drew a walk pinch-hitting for Yandel in the fourth inning, though he was left stranded.
The victory advanced the Yankees into today’s 9 a.m. semifinal, back at the East Cobb complex, against the Dulin Dodgers of Cordova, Tenn. The Yankees have gone 10-0 in the tournament, outscoring their opponents 95-22.
Should the Yankees defeat the Dodgers in today’s semifinal, they will face either the Marlins Scout Team or the NVTBL Stars for the championship at 11:30 a.m.
“It’s a grind,” Beavers added. “We’ve played 10 games since last Friday, in all of the heat, so you have to give the guys some credit. They didn’t panic when we got down 4-0, and they kept battling.
“(Today) is the last day of the tournament, and we’re one of the last four teams remaining. You have to give it all you have to win.”