EMERSON, Ga. – With the winning reputation the Dulins Dodgers organization has built over the recent years, it’s safe to say they have a permanent target on their back, and this year’s 14u Dodgers team has owned it so far at the WWBA 14u National Championship.
After starting their tournament off with an exciting 2-1 win over the Connecticut Wolfpack 14u on Friday, they took it to the Diamond Devils 14u Blue on Saturday with a 7-0, starting pool play off with a 2-0 record.
Pitching has played a key role in the team’s strong start. Through 14 innings of work, they’ve surrendered just one earned run (0.50 ERA) while collecting an impressive 16 strikeouts.
“With wood bats, all we try to do is throw fastballs in and out of the zone and not throw too many breaking balls,” said Dulins Dodgers head coach Curtis Copeland. “They’re still 14-years-old, so we stick to mostly fastballs and changeups and focus on throwing strikes. They compete. That’s what we do throughout our organization. We’ve been pretty successful here in the world wood bats.”
The Dodgers looked like a very advanced 14-year-old club in their win Saturday afternoon, showing how well they can swing the lumber and pound the strike zone, while looking nearly flawless in the field. They accounted for eight hits, including five extra-base hits, while Hunter Goodman and Connor Shamblin combined to toss a seven-inning shutout.
“They came out pretty good today and focused on hitting,” Copeland said. “It’s a good group of young men. This is the first time they’ve been exposed to this kind of atmosphere, but we’ve played 16, 17, and 18-year-old kids all of June and July preparing for this, so they’re capable.”
The star of the game, offensively, for Dulins was second baseman Tate Kolwyck. The Arlington, Tenn. native started his day with a two-run home run to left field in the first inning and never really slowed down after that. The 6-foot middle infielder went the other way in his second at-bat for a double to right field in the third inning, connected for an RBI triple to right field in the fifth, and finished his day to remember at the plate with a triple to center field in the seventh. Kolwyck finished the game 4-for-4 with four extra-base hits (12 total bases) and three RBI.
Goodman, a primary catcher, kept any Diamond Devils from crossing the plate for an impressive six-inning start on the mound. The 6-foot-1 right-hander collected eight strikeouts, while allowing just three hits and a walk on his way to a well-deserved win. It took the Arlington, Tenn. native just 77 pitches to record 18 outs, as he was around the strike zone all game.
The 5-foot-9 Shamblin finished what Goodman started and took just 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the seventh.
“They’re athletic,” said Copeland. “We can steal bases, throw strikes; we’re not gonna overpower anybody. We can swing it if we make them throw fastballs. This is my first year with this group and they have a chance to be very good when they’re 16 and 17-years-old. This is their first time on stage, so there will be some growing pains. We’re gonna struggle at times in pool play because they haven’t been doing this, but they’re gonna be okay.”
Under the superb instruction the players will get throughout their time with the Dulins organization, there is little doubt this good will be an even more advanced group of ballplayers just a few years down the road. The organization has won numerous Perfect Game tournaments in the last five years, building a winning tradition.
Just last year the 18u club won the WWBA 18u National Championship, as did the 15u team in their WWBA National Championship, while the 17u and 14u finished in 3rdd place in their respective WWBA National Championship age groups.
Created in 1990, the organization has won a dozen championship tournaments, while placing in nine others. Since the organization’s inception, they’ve seen 54 players go pro, and another 344 players take their game to the college level.
“We had guys like Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Reds), Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants), and Drew Pomeranz (Cleveland Indians) play with us,” said Copeland, who also happens to be the organization’s Director of Baseball Operations. “I think we had nine guys from our organization in the College World Series this year. Everyone that’s come through our program, one hundred-percent, has had a scholarship in baseball.”
While those statistics are an important factor in drawing top talent to an organization, Copeland believes it’s the amount of playing time the players get with Dulins that is the biggest draw. His teams don’t carry heavy rosters, providing everyone they bring ample opportunity for quality playing time.
“We’re local talent with a few guys from a couple hundred miles away, and with 14 kids on a roster, they all play,” Copeland said. “If you’re not on the field then you’re not getting better and you can’t get ‘em to college and our whole goal is to get them into college. They gotta play the game to get better and be seen, so that’s how we do our organization.”
Dulins has impressed through two tournament games so far this weekend, but have a long way to go to escape pool play. With Dulins’ track record, though, you can never right them off too soon.