MARIETTA, Ga. – Just one year removed from being crowned champions of the 2013 Perfect Game 18u WWBA National Championship, the Cordova, Tenn.-based Dulins Dodgers are looking for a repeat. They are off to the ideal start to make that happen.
After a 16-4 drubbing of the USA Hawks on Monday evening at the East Cobb Complex, the Dodgers sit 5-0 in the pool, defeating opponents by a total of 41-12, seemingly picking up right where they left off.
“Winning this last year gives us a lot of morale coming in and it gives us a chip on our shoulder because everybody’s gunning for us,” said Dodgers power bat Clay Casey, a veteran of several Perfect Game events. “Our 17u last year finished third, so we’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder and trying to win it.”
The Dodgers brought the lumber to the ballgame, clubbing out 18 hits en route to a mercy rule win after six innings. The team combined for eight extra-base hits and had five players in the lineup turn in multi-hit performances.
“They’ve been hitting balls hard and now they’re just starting to find some holes,” said first-year assistant coach Ryan Huber. “We put the ball in play. We don’t strike out a lot. We run the bases really well. So our strength is our offense.”
The big bat belonged to 2015 right-handed hitter Ben Ellis, who finished the game 4-for-4 with two triples, a double, two RBI, and two runs scored, tallying a total of nine bases. His second triple came in the big sixth run inning when he connected for a shot off the Green Monster-sized left field fence, which missed making it over by about six feet.
“I kinda wish that last one went over, but I just came into the day trying to stay focused and drive the ball the other way and it ended up working well,” said the uncommitted Ellis.
Teammates Clay Casey and Von Watson didn’t have trouble clubbing a couple of Major League-quality home runs over the monster-sized wall in left, though. Casey tagged a ball in the top of the third, sending it well over the fence by about 20-feet, close to as high as the top of the tree line behind the wall.
“I’ve been swinging good all week. I’ve been swinging good all summer, but I had a little break in between so I hadn’t been making contact at all,” Casey said. “I jus went up there kind of frustrated and tried to hit the ball as hard as I could and I just hit the hanging curveball.”
Recent Perfect Game National Showcase participant Von Watson skied a home run over the left field wall in the sixth for a three-run bomb. Watson sent the baseball so high in the air it made it very difficult to track in the heavy cloud coverage.
“I’ve been hitting a few balls hard this tournament, they’ve just been caught or hit right at somebody,” said Watson. “I just stayed with it and finally got something I could handle and put a good swing on it.”
The trio stood out in a big way Monday evening with the work they put in at the plate, but Huber reiterated that they are a talented team up and down the roster.
“Everybody brings something to the table,” Huber said. “We’re happy about everybody we’ve got.”
“We don’t make a lot of errors,” continued Huber. “We play good defense and our pitchers throw strikes and put us in a position to win. Whenever you do that you’ve got a good chance.”
It was a big game offensively for the Dodgers, who had a couple of players in slumps at the plate, including Ben Ellis, who was 0-for-9 coming into the ballgame. After the 18 hit performance the team now stands tall with a .303 batting average (40-for-132) and a .412 on-base percentage.
“It’s been great,” said Ellis about his first ever Perfect Game event. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever been to before. It’s really fun to go out and compete against the best.”
It also helps to have the leadership of the uber-talented Clay Casey and the presence of talented peers like National Showcase participant Von Watson, who showed off his talents in front of numerous scouts and college coaches in Fort Myers, Fla. a few weeks ago. Ellis is looking forward to getting a few calls from college coaches as well.
“I’m hoping after this Perfect Game event I get some more interest from colleges and be able to sign somewhere by the end of the summer,” Ellis said.
Casey has reminded Ellis to stay relaxed and to remember that in the end it’s just a game, it’s baseball, it’s fun. Nobody on the Dulins Dodgers team can attest to that more than Casey, who has been to several high-profile events with his No. 119 ranking for the 2014 high school class.
The recent Washington Nationals draft selection played for the Dulins Dodgers/Rockies Scout Team at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. last October and also participated in the most recent Perfect Game High School Showdown as a player for DeSoto Central High School.
“At the World Championship there were scouts everywhere,” said Casey. “You’ve gotta get used to playing in front of big crowds.”
“Going down to Florida this year, we got to play at jetBlue Park and it was just awesome being able to compete for the championship. Going to those events helps you get more adjusted to baseball and makes you comfortable in your own skin.”
Watson, a 2015 like his teammate Ellis, has been put into the big time spotlight after showing his talents in arguably the biggest amateur baseball showcase there is.
“You get lots of exposure while playing against the best kids in the country, facing the best arms in the country,” said Watson. “Regardless of how you do, you’re getting exposed and it’s just a great opportunity.”
Watson performed very well on the big stage, recording a 6.76-second 60-yard dash and throwing 91 mph (miles per hour) from the outfield. He is now ranked No. 132 for the high school class of 2015, No. 3 in the state of Mississippi.
“I think it was a great learning opportunity,” Watson said. “I got to see the best guys in the country and seeing that and then coming back and playing normal tournaments you feel like you can hit anybody.”
Watson, Casey, and Ellis have the chance to maybe somebody join the ranks of current Major Leaguers and former Dulins Dodgers like Matt Cain, Zack Cozart, and Logan Forsythe.
“We’ve got a pretty good history of making pretty good ballplayers,” said Huber. “It’s a good organization. The coaches believe in the kids and they buy into our system and they just like playing. We get kids that enjoy playing the game and as long as you’ve got love for the game, that’s all you can ask for.”
For now, the three look to contribute to another title run for the Dulins Dodgers. With an offense as electric as theirs, the chance at a repeat is a very real possibility.