The uncertainty arose because there were only two outs in the bottom of the fifth, despite the fact that East Cobb had just scored six runs in the inning to extend a narrow 4-2 lead and invoke the eight-run mercy rule. Yankees players and fans reluctantly celebrated near the dugout and in the stands before first base coach David Boyd conferred with the home plate umpire, who then called an end to the game.
That’s when the real celebration began.
With the game’s end confirmed, the Yankees’ players rushed towards the mound to dogpile on winning pitcher Jared Jillson, who yielded only two earned runs on five hits while striking out four in five innings.
The victory marked the seventh national championship for the Yankees program, but the first in the 11-year-old WWBA tournament. East Cobb had previously won the 1994 Babe Ruth World Series and Connie Mack series in 1999, 2001, ’03, ’05 and ’08.
After losing to the San Diego Show in last year’s WWBA championship, the Yankees made it back to the title game this season, outscoring opponents 115-27 en route to a 12-0 mark. They scored 10 or more runs seven times, including their last four playoff contests.
“This is a really sweet win,” said James Beavers, who has coached the Yankees program since its inception in 1979 at Atlanta’s Chastain Park. “We played the team in the first round of the playoffs that beat us last year, so I think that kind of gave us a little momentum to move forward. We just started swinging the bats with a lot of confidence and pitching with confidence. You put those two together and you’re going to win a lot of ball games.
“It means a lot to win this tournament. There are a lot of championship banners on the fence when you come (into the East Cobb Complex), so it will be great to see ours hanging up there next year.”
Unlike their two previous games, in which they climbed back from early deficits, the Yankees took the lead early Friday and never trailed.
Rising Walton senior Stephen Wrenn was hit by pitch to lead off the game and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by recent Marietta graduate Dansby Swanson.
The Merrick, N.Y.-based Marlins tied the score on Brick Paskiewicz’s RBI groundout in the top of the third inning, but East Cobb jumped back in front in the bottom half as Wrenn singled, stole second, moved to third on Connor Justus’ single and scored on Swanson’s fielder’s choice.
Fourth-inning walks to Tim Yandel and Brandon Gold led to a two-out, two-run double from Austin Norrell that gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead. Jovan Hernandez’s solo home run in the top of the fifth left the Marlins trailing 4-2.
Paskiewicz, who relieved starter Dalton Thompson in the bottom of the fifth, allowed all five Yankee hitters he faced to reach base. Tanner Kiest, who then came in for Paskiewicz, didn’t fare any better, giving up walks or singles to four of the five hitters he saw. Combined, the duo yielded six runs on six hits, walked two and threw four wild pitches in two-thirds of an inning.
Swanson, Chase Scott, Norrell and Knox all had RBI singles in the fifth. Douglas Miller tripled and later scored on a wild pitch.
Wrenn went 2-for-2 with three runs, while Justus was 3-for-3 with a run.
“This means so much (to win a national championship),” Wrenn said. “This team is like a family. I’ve never had a team this close, and there was no way we were going to lose this.
“It seems like, every time we play, there’s a spark that starts something, and then it just snowballs from there. All we need is a little something to get us started and we start rolling and the hits start coming and the runs start coming and everything comes together. It’s something different every inning, but it gets us going.”
Swanson, a Vanderbilt signee and 38th-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, went 1-for-2 with three RBIs. Norrell was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Miller and Knox each had an RBI. Yandel was 0-for-2, but he drew two walks and scored twice.
“This is absolutely amazing,” Swanson said. “I can’t even describe it. We’ve been working so hard for this, and to finally come together as a team is pretty special. We have such a tradition around here with the Yankees. It’s incredible to accomplish this for the coaches and for my teammates because we’re like brothers for each other. I’m so proud to be a part of this team.”
East Cobb reached the final with a 10-3 six-inning win over the Dulin Dodgers in Friday morning’s semifinal. The Yankees trailed 3-0 through 2½ innings, but scored 10 unanswered runs, including five in the third, to earn the victory.
Yankees right-hander Lucas Brown, a recent Allatoona graduate, was named the tournament’s most valuable pitcher. He went 3-0 in four games — two starts, two relief appearances — with a 1.13 ERA, 17 strikeouts, two earned runs, seven hits and no walks over 16 innings.
“This is probably the greatest award I’ve ever had in my life so far and, hopefully, there’s more to come” said Brown, who will attend Northwest Florida State College next year. “I just tried to throw strikes out there. I knew my team would help me out with runs and good defense, so I stayed confident and tried to do my job.”
The Marlins’ Grant Diede, a California signee, was named the most valuable player after going 16-for-28 (.571) with two doubles, three home runs, three stolen bases, 17 runs scored and 11 RBIs in 12 games.