GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Scott Hurst played with the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal at last summer's inaugural 17u Perfect Game World Series, he was one of just four 2014s on a roster that was predominantly 2013s with a couple of 2012 graduates sprinkled in as seasoning.
That was really nothing new for Hurst, a 6-foot, 175-pound outfielder/infielder from Glendora, Calif., who is about to begin his senior year at Bishop Amat High School. Hurst has spent the majority of his three-year Perfect Game career playing up an age-group, beginning with his first appearance at the 2011 California Underclass Showcase in San Bernardino, Calif.
He is back at this week's 17 Perfect Game World Series and is, in a manner of speaking, of legal age. He's an upperclassman playing in a prestigious 16-team PG national championship tournament with a bunch of other prospects who are, for the most part, also in the class of 2014.
Hurst, speaking Sunday evening before the Arsenal played their 17u PG World Series opener against Team Northwest on the Cleveland Indians side of the Goodyear Ballpark Complex (the Cincinnati Reds also conduct spring training at the complex), said last year's experience at the 17u PGWS only made him better -- and maybe even a little bit smarter.
"I took away a lot of knowledge from being here last year," Hurst said Sunday, a day when some of four early games at the tournament were postponed until Monday because of rain -- yes, rain in the desert. "I was one of the younger players here with my team and you learn a lot from watching how the older kids play and you have a lot more intensity coming out (of this event)."
He's one of those guys that wants to be challenged and won't back away from the challenges when they're presented. Hurst knows he'll see some of the best pitchers in the country here this week -- the 16 teams come from 11 states ranging from Washington in the far Northwest to Florida in the extreme Southeast -- and each one of them will want to show hundreds of scouts and college coaches that they're even better than Hurst is.
"I love the pitchers' coming after me," he said. "I know they're probably going to come at me primarily with fastballs and I'm a fastball hitter. They're going to come right at me so I'll be ready to hit."
In an interesting sidebar, three of the four games that kicked-off the tournament Sunday night ended in ties and they were largely dictated by dominant pitching.
The SGV Arsenal out of West Covina, Calif., and Puyallup, Wash.-based Team Northwest fought to a 1-1 tie, with both teams scoring runs in the seventh inning; the Florida Burn (Sarasota, Fla.) and Houston (Texas) Banditos tied 0-0; and NorCal Baseball (Manteca, Calif.) and the EvoShield Canes (Fredericksburg, Va.), tied at 3. Four games into this and only the Tri-State Arsenal out of Flemington, N.J., could boast a 1-0 record.
SGV Arsenal head coach Jerry Pena can be satisfied that his team really didn't lose much ground with seven more pool-play games left on the schedule.
"This is our second year here and last year we kind of got a feel for how it was," Pena said Sunday. "We came back this year and we said, 'Let's bring a team that's pretty strong in all facets and is going to compete offensively and defensively and throw strikes' and I'm confident with the guys that we brought. They're excited to be here and we're ready to get after it a little bit."
Pena was an original SGV Arsenal when Mike Viera got the organization up and running in 2001 and has been back with the program for eight years now. "This is home to me; I've known all these guys since they were freshmen and I've seen them grow into fine young ballplayers," he said. "I would say this is a reward to be out here especially playing against all these other great teams from around the country. This is good and this is where we want to be."
Hurst, a Cal State Fullerton commit, is one of the guys Pena will count on the most, and for good reason. As recently as 10 months ago, Hurst was ranked No. 72 in the class of 2014 national prospect rankings but after impressive performances at a pair of Perfect Game showcases in June, he has climbed to No. 41 (he is ranked the country's No. 12 outfield prospect and is No. 11 overall and No. 5 outfield in the state of California).
"He's really taken big strides in the last year and has really come within himself and developed as a ballplayer," Pena said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence right now and I expect him to have a big week here. It's been unreal. He's always been a good ballplayer but lately he's been turning it up a little bit and really locking into what he's good at.
"Lately, with facing plus-plus pitching where ever he's gone, he continues to grow as a ballplayer. ... Scotty's our guy, he really is."
Hurst is at his 11th PG event this week and has attended six showcases in a little over two years -- "They're a blast because you can really just relax and have fun and show what you can do," he said of the showcases. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of pressure so you can play your game and have fun."
He was named the No. 1 overall prospect at the 2013 Sunshine West Showcase in Chula Vista, Calif., in early June when he ran a 6.59-second 60-yard dash, and threw 97 mph from the outfield and 91 across the infield. A PG post-showcase scouting report read:
"Hurst showed the best overall tools of anyone at the event. ... He swung the bat very well in game and BP. Hurst showed good power to the pull side and good hitting tools overall. High level player!"
He certainly looked like he was enjoying himself at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis last month when he was super impressive in the workouts, running a 6.63 60 while throwing 99 mph from outfield and 93 across the infield.
PG vice president of player personnel David Rawnsley recognized Hurst as one of the best position players at the National Showcase, and wrote in his post-showcase report:
"Hurst has gained his reputation with the Perfect Game staff with his high performance, high energy play, but it’s always good to be reminded of how good his tools are. He nearly matched Michael Getty’s 100 mph outfield velocity with a 99 mph throw of his own and ran a 6.6 as well while showing solid gap power from the left side."
"That was a blast; that was an incredible experience," Hurst said of the days he spent displaying his wares inside the Metrodome. "I had never really had as much fun as I did at that showcase and that was the best one I've been to so far. You're playing with such great competitors and it's makes you want to step up your game; you're away from you home state so you're kind of representing your home state so you just want to go out there and play your best."
Events like the PG National Showcase and the 17u PG World Series provide an elite national stage on which to perform for every one if the high-level prospects that fill the rosters on all 16 teams.
Hurst will next be in the national spotlight when he joins SGV Arsenal teammates Marcus Wilson (2014, Los Angeles) and Jack Flaherty (2014, Burbank. Fla.) on the West Team roster at the 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Class presented by Rawlings in San Diego on Aug. 8-11. Flaherty is on the Arsenal's roster here this week but isn't expected to play this week due to other obligations; he joins Hurst as the Arsenal's only 2014 on the roster that played at this event last year.
"Marcus Wilson is another kid that really has blossomed here lately and we're excited to have him and Scott Hurst in the outfield," Pena said. "Jack Flaherty is another one of our guys that has really had a great summer and has done well."
Hurst performed at the 2011 Perfect Game National Games-Class of 2013 in San Diego the summer before his sophomore year in high school and then attended the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. It was an event that stuck with him and now, in just about three weeks, he'll be playing in the game himself.
"I went a couple of years ago when my friend Rio Ruiz was playing there and I really played close attention to that," Hurst said. "I just can't wait to get out there and visit the (Rady) Children's hospital and all that good stuff, and then just go out there and have fun and play."
It's readily recognizable how much Hurst enjoys his SGV teammates, and not just Wilson and Flaherty.
"We've got a little bit of everything," he said. "There's goofballs, there's serious guys, but we all mesh together pretty well because together with this group for three years now. We're all super comfortable with each other and we know how to play with each other.
"We're going to absolutely be trying to play our best and try to get a good week in try to compete better than we did last year," he continued. "We're just trying to fight on and show the other teams what we're made of."
That's the goal of every team at the 17u PG World Series -- show the other 15 elite teams who is the most elite of them all. The South Florida Elite Squad won the inaugural event in 2012 and is back this year. The SGV Arsenal are hoping to improve on their 4-3 record of a year ago -- they did not advance to the final four -- and Pena likes their chances.
"This is probably the best that we have in our program," he said. "We wanted to bring out and show them that there's big competition out there and out themselves in a position where they can be successful and prove to people that they belong here."
And as for Hurst, Pena is sold on the 17u PG World Series two-year veteran.
"Scott's a really dynamic player," Pena said. "He can spray the ball all over the field and he has a plus-plus arm in the outfield and plus speed that can really get us going; he's the type of player who can carry this team on his back if he really wanted to. He's been a program guy for three years for us and we've kind of made him a big part of our program."
Perfect Game All-American Classic