The South Georgia Shockers, who are led by former professional baseball player Mitch Douglas, are headed to the Final Four in the State in AAA. The Shockers are a first-year travel baseball team that plays primarily in the USSSA Baseball League, which is considered the toughest in travel baseball.
The Shockers, based out of Douglas, Georgia, were expected to do great things as a confident group of young men, but to reach the Final Four in AAA in the toughest league in travel baseball in their first year together was even mind blowing to head coach Mitch Douglas.
The Shockers started the season in AA and within four tournaments they found themselves sitting at a record of 14-2, winning three of the first four tournaments they played. After the fourth tournament, they also found themselves leading the pack in AA, sitting at first place out of eighty-nine teams. At that point, the state officials advanced them to AAA.
This was a team made up of young men from both Coffee and Irwin Counties. Their philosophy from the beginning was to develop children into young men and also teach them to become as competitive as possible while, at the same time, learning to work together. Douglas and his staff worked hard to teach these young men to depend on each other and also handle success, as well as failure, as a team, not as an individual.
Douglas stated, "We win together and we lose together. The traits that we try to teach these young men will be valuable assets that they will take with them long after they finish Shocker Baseball and will hopefully benefit them in society as they become older."
The Shockers ran into their first obstacle when they were advanced to AAA because the majority of AAA teams are from big cities up north. This gave them two options, which was to travel near Atlanta every weekend or every other weekend to play or stay in local area tournaments and play up an age group in AA. The Shockers chose to play in the same local area tournaments and play up to age 12 AA, and the competition was much stiffer.
Douglas stated, "You cannot imagine the difference a year can make with a kid. It gives them an extra year to mature and also an extra year of playing. They did hold their own, winning one out of the three games that they played against the 12 U teams."
The Shockers played their state tournament on June 14, 2014.
"The first game of the tournament was against the Southern Gunz and was one of the most exciting I have ever been part of," stated Douglas. "We were down 9-3 going into the bottom of the last inning and showed the most heart I have ever seen out of any team. We battled back with two outs to win 10-9."
Stats from the first game include: Garland Benyard 2-3, Brodie Chestnutt 1-2, Trevor Gruszka 1-1, Cameron Watson 1-2, Slade Leavens 1-1, and Avery Vincent was 1-3 with the game winning hit to left field. Gabriel Benyard was the winning pitcher. The second game of the day, the Shockers fell to the Savannah Sun Devils, 5-13.
Douglas stated, "We came out flat and just were not ready to play."
The Shockers were then forced to turn around and play the Sun Devils for the state championship, with the winner getting advancement to the Final 4.
"We fell early to the Sun Devils, 6-1 at one point, but never gave up," Douglas said. "We kept fighting inning by inning until we finally tied it up in the sixth inning, forcing us to play extra innings. We scored two in the seventh and Garland Benyard did a great job with a tremendous amount of pressure on him of holding the Sun Devils to 12-10, advancing the Shockers to the Final 4."
Douglas continued, "Cole Vassey started the championship game pitching, going over three innings with very worthy effort. He did a great job battling with a very tight strike zone. Garland Benyard went 2-3 and also was the winning pitcher, closing out the game in star fashion. Trevor Gruszka 1-3, Avery Vincent 1-2, and Lane Stephens 1-3. One of our leaders, Daylon Cauley, caught 90% of the day in 95-plus degree weather, doing an excellent job for the Shockers as always."
The Shockers roster is made up of Garland Benyard, Daylon Cauley, Avery Vincent, Jagger Leavens, Gabriel Benyard, Lane Stephens, Slade Leavens, Brodie Chestnutt, Cameron Watson, Cole Cassey, Nolan Smith, and Trevor Gruszka. Shocker's coaches include: Mitch Douglas, Brian Chestnutt, Chris Watson, and Jason Hunkapillar.