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HOUSTON -- The Houston Banditos Black squad gets plenty of fanfare on the summer baseball circuit, and for good reason. In addition to winning at a high level, the organization also consistently features some of the nation's top prospects with righthanded pitcher Kohl Stewart headlining this year's impressive crop.
Though the Banditos already have clinched a spot in next month's PG/WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, Fla., they'd love nothing more than to add another trophy to their already-rich trophy case by winning the WWBA South Qualifier in Houston this weekend.
The Banditos still aren't 100-percent sure whether Stewart -- who also plays quarterback for St. Pius X, his high school football team -- pitches this weekend, but perhaps they won't need him to win the tourney if Saturday's performances are any indication.
Talented righthanded pitchers Andrew Shewcraft and Robert Dugger held up their end of the bargain on the first day of the South Qualifier, as they shined in the opening game of the day, a narrow 4-0 win over the Dallas Titans in a game featuring just four hits from the Banditos.
Shewcraft was a very intriguing pitcher to watch. With coaches from Houston, LSU, Tulane, Sam Houston State, among others on hand to witness the contest, the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder, a 2013 prospect, put together a very impressive start.
He struck out four batters and allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings of work. He had a fastball that sat 86-88, though, he touched 90 at least once. He also utilized a raw, but promising cutter, while his curveball was 70-72 and changeup registered at 76 mph.
"My fastball was working, but my curveball wasn't working too much because my elbow was kind of stiff," Shewcraft said. "I liked going the opposite way with my cutter, but it's a still-developing pitch. I'm hoping to really get it going by the time my high school season rolls around."
Meanwhile, Dugger struck out five batters and allowed just three hits in four scoreless innings of work. Though he had a slender, 6-foot-1, 160-pound frame, the 2013 prospect surely caught college coaches' attention with his performance.
Stuff-wise, he was consistently 84-86 with his fastball, 69-72 curveball and 73-75 changeup. Most notably, Dugger did a tremendous job of challenging hitters on the inside part of the plate.
"He throws strikes and he can throw five pitchers when he wants to," Banditos coach Ray DeLeon said. "He's very competitive and he loves to pitch in. How many kids love to pitch in at his age? Not many. He's going to be special somewhere."
Dugger is receiving interest from Stephen F. Austin, Texas State and Northwestern State, while for now, Shewcraft only has received interest from SFA. That list of interested programs could soon change, thanks in part to the exposure he has received at PG events this summer.
"There's no doubt ... it helps a lot," Shewcraft said about attending PG events. "It helps you get your name out there, while also allowing you to showcase your skills in tournaments like these."
Though the Banditos relied heavily on Shewcraft and Dugger in the opening game of the tournament, pitching wasn't needed as much in the final contest of the day, a 12-1 triumph over the South Texas Outlaws.
TCU 2013 commitment, Walker Pennington, led the Banditos in the finale, going 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and three RBIs.
The Banditos Black squad sits in great shape at 2-0 in the tourney.
LSU COMMIT JORDAN SHINES FOR SUN DEVILS
Ask Texas Sun Devils coach Matt Thompson about stocky first baseman Bryce Jordan -- a 2014 LSU commit -- and it's very apparent why his eyes simply light up.
Jordan undoubtedly is one of those players the Tigers will have to hope doesn't sign in two summers, but should he get on campus in Baton Rouge, La., the Bayou Bengals will have a great player on their hands.
Despite watching an ultra-talented Banditos Black squad in the first game at Cougar Field on the University of Houston campus, Jordan was by far the most impressive player on this day.
The 2014 star, a 5-foot-10, 205-pounder who competed in the PG National Underclass earlier this summer, put his hitting and athletic skills on display in a 4-1 win over the Texas Tigers.
Jordan finished the contest with two hits, one a triple, and no RBIs. But the lack of RBIs was not indicative of just how impressive he was.
Jordan showed a good swing, but had a very violent approach to the ball ... and not in a bad way. He hit the ball with purpose, and showed good and athleticism to go with his stocky build.
"Every time he swings, he just crushes the ball. He's just one of those dirtbags type of players you really want," Thompson said. "He's athletic enough to play in the outfield, but he has such good hands and makes our infield comfortable, so we like him at first base.
"I don't care what position he plays in college or professionally, he's going to be a guy whose bat you want in the lineup, he added. "He's an unconventional first baseman, but we love him. Our team emulates how he plays the game."
Jordan finished the first game of the PG WWBA South Qualifier covered in dirt, a sure sign of the type of player he is for the Sun Devils. But like every aspiring player, he feels he still has a lot of work to do to reach all of his goals.
"I like to get a first pitch, or a fastball. If I don't get that perfect pitch early, I'm not going to swing at it," he said. "I think I could improve more on fielding. That's probably my weakest link at this point. Overall, I just try to go out there and play hard all the time."
In the afternoon session, an 11-2 win over Mizuno Houston Select White, Jordan scored a run to help the Sun Devils.
As with the Banditos Black squad, the Sun Devils sit at 2-0 heading into Sunday's important action.