Instead, Taccolini’s solid showing on the mound, and his critical hit at the plate, helped lift the Columbia Angels into the semifinals of the World Wood Bat Association’s 17-and-under national championships with a 6-2 victory over the East Cobb Astros’ 16U team Thursday.
Taccolini, an Arkansas commitment from Sugar Land, Texas, struck out six over six innings of work and retired the final eight batters he faced.
“Once I got out there, I was just trying to get my stuff over and let it do what it does, which is sink, and get a bunch of groundballs,” Taccolini said. “I pitched to contact well (Thursday), and our defense was great behind me.”
Columbia coach Ronnie Thames was quick to compliment the 6-foot-2, 235-pound standout.
“He’s one of the best pitchers around,” Thames said. “I don’t think he had his best stuff (Thursday), and he still competed. That’s what we get with him.”
Focused on his pitching during the USA Baseball under-18 national team trials in June, Taccolini hadn’t picked up a bat for three weeks prior to the WWBA tournament. He knocked off the rust with a leadoff double off the right-field wall, sparking a three-run fourth inning that extended the Angels’ lead to 5-1.
“I was just trying to let the ball get deep, and he threw me a slider away,” Taccolini said. “I let it get deep and took it the other way, just threw my hands at it and knocked it off the fence.”
Two more doubles off the bats of Will Foreman and Blake Garrett helped chase East Cobb starter Timothy Salvadore after 3 2/3 innings and secure Columbia’s lead for good.
“We’d kind of been struggling at the plate a little bit,” Thames said. “(On Thursday), we finally got a little more production from the meat of our lineup.”
The Astros couldn’t find the offense that had propelled them to a 7-4 victory over South Florida Elite Squad Red in the second round, and they compounded their problems with three errors in the field. Two of those errors — a dropped pop fly in the first inning and a booted groundball in the fourth — led directly to Columbia runs.
“We pitched well. There were just a couple of errors in the field,” said Astros catcher Tyler Stephenson, a rising sophomore at Kennesaw Mountain. “Then they got a couple of hits in there, and that just opens up the game.”
The Angels will take on the Houston Banditos in an all-Houston area semifinal this morning at the East Cobb complex. The other semifinal will pit the Alabama Seminoles and the lone Georgia team remaining in the tournament, Loganville-based Team Elite Black.