The Braves returned to ECB this morning for their second pool game in the Perfect Game - World Wood Bat Association 2013 Grads National Championship. Facing the St. Louis Outlaws, the game was less-than-perfect in the early going as the Braves committed 3 critical, defensive errors in the first two innings to hand the Outlaws 6 unearned runs and take a 3-run deficit into the third inning. The score stayed at 6-3 Outlaws until the Braves finally came alive and scored 4 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 7-6 lead into the final frame. But, the Outlaws battled back to tie the score at 7 in the top of the seventh inning, which set the stage for back-to-back DOUBLES in the bottom of the seventh inning for the home-team Braves to record the 8-7 win.
Offensively, the Braves manufactured 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning on 2 walks, an Outlaws error, and a 2-RBI DOUBLE mashed into the left field gap by #22 Jon Jon Banks. Through the next 4 innings, however, they only managed 4 baserunners and were unable to record any runs on 3 walks and a bloop single into shallow centerfield by #10 John Davis. Then, in the bottom of the sixth inning down 6-3, #10 John Davis and #2 Sam Ayers led off the inning with singles to the right side. Next, #8 Patrick Schultz grounded out to score Davis from third base and move Ayers to third base. #22 Jon Jon Banks then recorded a walk and gave way at first base to pinch runner #21 Brian Kehner. With 2 outs in the inning and the tying runs aboard, #16 Nathaniel Maggio poked a single to left field to score Ayers and move Kehner to second base. #12 Will Schnure followed with a single of his own to move Kehner to third and Maggio to second. #7 Tyler Weyenberg then blasted a sky-high infield single that both the Outlaws shortstop and third baseman lost in the bright Georgia sun. When the dust settled from the play, Schnure was tagged out trying to advance to third base to end the inning, but ahead of him, Kehner scored the tying run and Maggio scored the go-ahead run to take a 7-6 lead into the final frame. After the Outlaws battled back to tie the game at 7, #5 Hunter Swilling led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a missile down the third base line for a DOUBLE, and then #33 Stephen Wrenn traded places with Swilling at second base as he recorded a walk-off DOUBLE to the right field gap to score Swilling from second base. It wasn't exactly how the coaches drew up the game plan before the first pitch, but in the end, it was a great gut-check for a team that has clearly grown and gelled together over the past few months.
Defensively, #55 Todd Dial joined the Braves on the hill to deal out some of his nasty stuff to the Outlaws. With the defense not playing well behind him, Dial gave way to #11 CJ Brazil in the second inning after the Outlaws racked up 6 unearned runs on 1 hit and 4 walks. Brazil pitched very well through the next 3-1/3 innings, giving up 0 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks with 2 strike outs. Then, #33 Stephen Wrenn returned to the hill for the first time in several weeks to close out the game, giving up 1 run on 2 hits and 0 walks with 1 strike out in the top of the seventh. Despite the Braves' defensive blunders, #12 Will Schnure gunned down an Outlaws base stealer at second base in the top of the sixth inning, and right fielder #1 Nick Sexton threw out an Outlaws baserunner at the plate via a perfectly executed relay through #22 Jon Jon Banks at first base to #12 Will Schnure at homeplate to end the Outlaws scoring threat.