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All-American friends, champions

Patrick Ebert

Published: Thursday, October 30, 2014

Take a quick glance at the profiles for Ashe Russell and Beau Burrows and you're going to find a lot of similarities. Both are righthanded pitchers that were selected to participate at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego this past summer. Both have committed to Texas A&M, and both have fastballs that have peaked at 96 mph. One is ranked fifth in the high school class of 2015 and the other eighth.

They shared co-Most Valuable Pitchers at the 17u WWBA National Championship this past summer as members of the event champion EvoShield Canes. They also were teammates at the 17u PG World Series where the Canes finished as the runner-up, and most recently participated at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., once again capturing the tournament crown for the now back-to-back champions.

Russell and Burrows are also the best of friends.

Ashe and I met each other this summer in North Carolina,” Burrows said of the fast-growing friendship that he and Russell built since meeting at Team USA's Tournament of Stars in late June. “We hit it off and we're best buds now. We talk all the time, everyday, and I got him to commit to A&M so we're going to go to college together and be roommates.”

Although the two are separated by nearly 1,000 miles, Burrows helped influence Russell, who was originally committed to play for the nearby Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, to de-commit and express his intent to play for the Aggies.

He was actually the one who gave my number out to the recruiting coordinator at (Texas) A&M and got me started in that process,” Russell explained. “Through Texas A&M and sitting on the bench five games out of eight in every single tournament we became really close.”

Both Russell and Burrows also took the mound for key playoff games at this year's WWBA World Championship.

Burrows did so against the Richmond Braves, working all four innings of a 12-0 run-rule victory that put the Canes in the quarterfinals. The young flamethrower showed his customary stuff, striking out six thanks to his 91-94 mph fastball that peaked at 95, but it was the command of his curveball that made the difference on this day.

I felt really good,” Burrows said of his performance. “My curveball worked really well, I was throwing the ball down to both sides of the plate, I just felt really good. We all hit really well and we run-ruled that team pretty easy and I felt it was a good game all-around.”

Russell took the mound in the very first game for the EvoShield Canes, and returned to the hill for their semifinal matchup against an upstart Palm Beach PAL team. They won that game 6-2 to advance to the championship game against another loaded team, the Orlando Scorpions/Mets Scout Team.

Overall, Russell worked six total innings in Jupiter, picking up a win while striking out five. His fastball sat in the 89-93 range while peaking at 94.

The overall experience was awesome, the environment was awesome with all of the scouts and stuff,” Russell said. “I was especially happy for Coach (Jeff) Petty because he won it last year with his team and it was exciting to see all of the kids that were on the Canes last year to get to do that. So I was happy for my teammates.

The competition down there was awesome, it was awesome to face, that's what it's going to be (like) in the future after high school ball is over. Because there is a difference between high school ball and what was going on down there (in Jupiter).”

Ashe Russell (left) and Beau Burrows were named co-Most Valuable Pitchers at the 17u WWBA National Championship in 2014.

It shouldn't be surprising that these two young men, who seemed to become best friends overnight, also have similar core values, as both pointed to the philanthropic efforts of the PG All-American Classic when asked what aspect of their incredible summers stood out the most.

I liked the All-American game because we went to the hospital -- that was a big eye-opener for me -- I really enjoyed that,” Burrows said. “I liked being at all of the places over the country playing baseball, and of course the two (WWBA) championships, that was amazing.”

Definitely (the) Perfect Game All-American Classic,” Russell added. “I did not know what to expect when I got there. Once I got down there I was rooming with Brendan Rodgers, it was the first time I ever met him, and we became really close there. Getting to do the Rady Children's Hospital though, that was awesome. I go to a Catholic school and they value community service and visiting the sick, so I value it too, so I think that was my favorite memory from this summer.”

And it was Rodgers, the No. 1 ranked player in the high school class of 2015, and the Orlando Scorpions/Mets Scout Team, that Russell, Burrows and the Canes had to take down in the championship game in Jupiter to claim their second consecutive trophy.

Adrenaline definitely kicks in, especially knowing that I'm his friend, but even other hitters like that you know you're close with them through the summer circuit so you want to strike them out so you can brag about it to them,” Russell continued. “It doesn't make it easier, it's definitely harder than normal, but it makes you focus and makes you realize you have to hit your spots and you have to work with different pitches.”

From all of the similarities to the two PG All-Americans share on and off the field, from a scouting perspective, the two couldn't be more different.

Russell, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound righthander from Indianapolis, Ind., is all arms and legs, with a lower arm slot and somewhat slinging arm action that makes his mid-90s fastball and low-80s slider that much more difficult to pick up out of the hand. His success this summer led to him being named the starter in the PG All-American Classic for the East squad, and clearly was a player in the center of the attention of his talented teammates.

Between now and next summer I'm definitely going to (focus on) conditioning and workout-wise,” Russell said of his goals between now and the 2015 MLB Draft. “I definitely need to work on my changeup. I know I have it, it's worked. I threw it at Area Codes a couple times, I threw it at the Perfect Game All-American (Classic) a couple of times, but it still needs to develop a little ways, so that's what I'm going to work on the most.”

At 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, Burrows, a native of Weatherford, Texas, is built shorter and more compactly strong, with a rock-and-fire no-nonsense delivery that epitomizes Texas heat. While he has no issues dialing his fastball up to the mid-90s, it's the consistency of his curveball and overall ability to throw whatever pitches he chooses in whatever counts that he's working on the most.

Right now I'm not throwing at all,” Burrows said upon returning home from Florida. “I stopped throwing after (Sunday's game). Right now I'm just doing weight lifting and conditioning, arm maintenance and stretching and stuff. Whenever baseball starts we're going to hit that hard and try to win a state championship.”

Now that the summer showcase and tournament circuit has come to a close, the focus for both young pitchers turns to their high school baseball seasons, and both have similar aspirations of carrying their winning ways to a state title.

I've got high school ball left so hopefully we can get out there, my team, and win the 4A state championship because we were one run away from winning it my sophomore year and that left a bad taste in my mouth,” Russell added. “I definitely cherish all the camaraderie we had with the team this year. I know it was a brand new team with kids from all over the country, but it's something that will live on forever especially winning all of the tournaments we did.

Depending on how next season works out there will be the draft, which I really hope works out, but if not I have Texas A&M which will be exciting, where Beau and I would still be together. It will be a lot of fun either way.”

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