Photo by Brian Paglia / A McDonough Elite Gamers player pitches against the Cincy Flames in the 2012 American Amateur Baseball Congress Roberto Clemente World Series on Friday. The Gamers won, 9-1, and finished in third for the tournament.
It was the thrill of the week for the McDonough Elite Gamers.
Warming up before their game against the vaunted Puerto Rico team, the teams were side by side in the batting cages. Beneath the ping of metal bats, the Gamers could hear the staccato of the Vaqueros’ Spanish.
“It was really cool,” Elite Gamers coach Kevin Phillips said.
Despite a third place finish at the 2012 American Amateur Baseball Congress Roberto Clemente World Series in McDonough last week, Phillips said the Elite Gamers got “a lot of great things” from the tournament.
Almost every aspect of the World Series offered something new for the 7- and 8-year-old players — playing teams from as far away as New Mexico and Michigan, having the honor of being the host team, adding new players into the mix.
“I think the kids take away a lot of good experiences,” Phillips said.
The Gamers started the World Series off strong. They opened the tournament with an 11-2 victory over the East Macomb Muskies from Michigan.
That quickly changed. The Gamers lost to eventual World Series runner-up Georgia Yard Dogs, 16-2. They rebounded with a 9-1 victory over the Cincinnati Flames, then went up against Puerto Rico.
Phillips said by that time it was evident Puerto Rico was the class of the tournament. Only the Yard Dogs had been able to score against the Vaqueros.
“We would’ve had to play a near flawless game in order to beat them,” Phillips said, “and we made a few mistakes.”
The most costly might have been a base-running blunder.
McDonough had runners on first and third with one out and tried to lay down a bunt. But the runner on third got caught in a run down and the runner from first got caught trying to advance to third.
Suddenly, the inning was over. Puerto Rico went on to win 7-1.
“We just ran ourselves out of momentum,” Phillips said. “They were up on us all gme, but the boys just kept fighting. Our kids didn’t get down on themselves.
“There was a lot of cheering going on, and I attribute that to the coaches in the dugout and the parents. Everybody in the stands were great. It was just a real, real exciting game.”
With a few days to digest a whirlwind weekend, Phillips said it was a satisfying tournament for his team. He lauded the play of Austin Merritt for his pitching and hitting; Eli Crawford, who hit the Gamers’ only home run; second baseman Jonathan Little for his solid defense; Jalon Elliot; third baseman Jalin Spicer; and pre-tournament additions Chance Brown, Christian Jackson and Devin Stanford.
Now, they get a break before they move on to the world of 9-year-old baseball.
“They played in one tournament that was a 9-under tournament, and I know they got a big kick out of it,” Phillips said, “so they’re ready for it.”