East Astros down West Giants 7-5 to repeat as champions in Cove Parks and Rec 12U Division
By TJ MAXWELL
Last year the Astros were the Cinderella team, entering the Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation City League baseball tournament as a four seed but leaving as champions.
This year, however, they repeated as champions despite finishing second in the division and entering the season with the championship target on their back.
“Last year, we really came in as underdogs,” said Astros head coach Stephen Kennedy. “We were fourth place last year and won it all so we definitely knew we could do it. They practiced hard, they played hard, the learned, they grew and they got better and it all came out at the end of the season.”
Despite suffering two losses to the East division champion Red Sox to finish second in the division, the Astros finished strong with eight-consecutive wins to claim the 12-and-under championship crown Friday night at Copperas Cove City Park, including their semifinal win over the previously undefeated West champion Rangers.
“All credit goes to the players,” said Kennedy. “They played their guts out and the parents were great supporting us. We can’t take any of the credit. The players got it done.”
The Astros began the playoffs with dominant 11-1 win over the West Reds before dethroning the previously undefeated Rangers (10-1) in an 8-2 contest on Wednesday.
The Astros faced the West division runners up Giants in Friday’s title game where they again dominated early.
Coach’s son Caleb Kennedy did his dad proud with an RBI single that scored Caden Harris to begin the scoring in the bottom of the first inning. After, stealing second and third bases, Kennedy scored on a balk for a 2-0 Astros lead.
Chase Miller then drew a walk to put another runner on for Joseph Gallegos who sent a shot to right field to score Miller and give the Astros a 3-0 advantage.
The Astros added three more runs in the bottom of the second inning after holding off a Giants rally in the top of the inning.
Korey Keller singled to lead off the inning and Sosa Sokimi drew a walk to put two runners on with one out.
Harris then connected on a hard-hit shot up the middle that resulted in a three-run in-the-park home run for a 6-0 Astros lead. Kennedy then added another run after reaching on an error. Kennedy stole second and third before advancing home on a passed ball for the 7-0 lead.
The Giants made the game interesting with five runs in the top of the third inning, mostly on Astros errors.
A pair of walks and a single by Moreno put runners on for the Giants before a dropped called third strike and a passed ball allowed all three runners to score.
A throwing error on another dropped third strike then allowed two more runs to score before the Astros stopped the bleeding with a strikeout.
The Astros again threatened in the bottom of the third inning with three two-out walks that prompted the third pitching change of the game for the Giants with just four minutes remaining in the timed contest. Unfortunately for the Giants, replacement pitcher Gavin Hofeldt had reached his pitch count in their previous contest making him ineligible to pitch in the championship and the game thus forcing the game to be called.
“The Giants are a great team and I hate that it ended the way that it did,” said Kennedy. “It would have been fun to watch it go all the way to the end.”
Despite the controversial ending, Kennedy is happy his team managed the repeat of because they wanted it so bad.
“They won it last year so they tasted it and they came in talking about wanting to do it again,” he said. “We had a couple new players this year but we got to keep seven from last year so they all knew what it was like.”
The ride doesn’t end here for the Astros as they will now represent the town of Copperas Cove in the 12U Texas Teen-Age Baseball District Tournament to be held in Troy beginning on July 10.
Kennedy is proud of the 9-game win streak and city title but knows his team needs to be more focused than ever to be successful in the talented 12U field at the district tourney.
“We just need to be able to keep mentally focused when things don’t go our way,” he said. “Our kids have been really good about doing that all year. If things don’t go our way, we have to be able to put it behind us and move on. We’ve got good talent and they can all play baseball so it’s a matter of getting over the mental hump. If we can do that, we will be just fine.”