2014 18+ Open

Georgia Cherokees 9, Coral Gables A’s 2

‘Pratt Limits A’s to Four Hits’

By Chris Errington, special to MSBL

Clearwater, FL., November 9, 2014 – With one look, it’s easy to see the talent Georgia Cherokees’ manager Frank Peters has at his disposal. Still, even he knows there’s no substitute for an ace starter.

With “Teddy Baseball,” the Cherokees have that, too. Ted Pratt, who earned a Fall Classic championship game victory in 2012 before getting a no-decision following eight strong innings during last year’s title game win, was at it again, holding the Coral Gables A’s to just four hits in another solid effort and a 9-2 win. Unlike previous starts, this time he didn’t need to dominate.

A seven-run, fourth-inning outburst aided by three crucial errors, ended any doubt as to whether the Cherokees would repeat after failing to win a title in 18 previous tournaments. “The first one was incredible,” said Peters, “and it took a load off my shoulders. The second one proves it was no fluke. It proves that we’re a solid team.”

With the game tied 1-1, the Cherokees surrounded run-scoring singles from Nelson Gaston, Ben Blumenthal, Drew Beatty and Drew Suber around a trio of Coral Gables defensive miscues to blow the game open. From there, it was just a matter of Pratt limiting Coral Gables’ comeback opportunities. The A’s plated single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, but left runners in scoring position in the third, fifth and seventh when Pratt made key pitches.

“I was relaxed from the start,” said Pratt, “but even with the lead, I knew I had to throw zeros. Knowing the team has confidence in me [in championship games] is the best feeling I have. They know if they have any doubt, they can give me the ball.”

For Peters, starting Pratt with a championship on the line was a no-brainer – even if he had to override his players’ wishes. “The guys wanted me to start Ted in the playoffs to get us here, but I told him he’d be getting the ball in the stadium,” said Peters. “Teddy’s our guy. It’s good to have a guy who wants the ball in big games. Today was no different. He did what he always does. When teams get runners in scoring position, he gets determined and shuts it down.”

Coral Gables, which was trying to win its first title since capturing the 2011 crown, played its worst game at the most inopportune time. “We haven’t made this many errors all tournament,” said A’s manager Eric Perez. “If we’d made those plays it would have been a different game, but give the Cherokees credit. They fight and their pitcher was on his game. They deserved to win.”

The Cherokees, paced by Paul Bacot’s and Vince Palmer’s team leading eight tournament hits and team MVP Ricky Lockwood, Jr., finished round-robin play 3-1. They then topped the Georgia Barons and Brightside Yankees in the playoffs, with John Vidic’s complete-game gem the difference.

Coral Gables completed round-robin play at 2-2, including a loss to Georgia in which it rallied back to tie following a 5-0 deficit. The A’s then defeated the Miami Marlins and shut out the Tampa Bay Rays 12-0, behind Alex Arteaga’s complete-game effort, to reach the finals.