Jupiter, Fla. , October 26-30, 2006
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29?€?DAY FOUR
COMPILED BY ALLAN SIMPSON
Teams with deep and dominant pitching staffs normally prevail in the World Wood Bat Association fall championship, and California ?€™s ABD Bulldogs dominated like no other in the pool-play portion of the 80-team tournament.
Despite missing two of its top pitchers, ABD strung together four straight shutouts in pool play to advance to the 16-team playoff round, which began Sunday. The Bulldogs (5-0) finally gave up a run in bracket play, but continued their dominance in the tournament with a 5-1 victory over the Florida Magic (3-2) in the first round. That set up a showdown in the second round with the powerful East Cobb Astros, who allowed just a single run in seven games a year ago on their way to win a share of the championship. The Astros (5-0) allowed five runs in their first five games this year.
ABD blanked Florida ?€™s Southeast Select 6-0, Perfect Game Steel 13-0 and Pennsylvania ?€™s All-Star Baseball Academy 4-0 in its first three games, before dispatching North Carolina ?€™s On Deck O?€™s 3-0 Sunday to complete play unblemished. Their pitching dominance continued against the Florida Magic, the first team to qualify for the playoffs.
?€?It?€™s been a combination of defense and pitching very, very well,?€? said Mike Spiers, who has been coaching ABD for 14 years. ?€?We made just one error in first four games.?€?
ABD?€™s pitching has been dominant throughout the tournament, even though two of the team?€™s better arms are not playing this weekend in Righthander Cole Cook (Los Angeles) and righthander Kyle Ocampo?€™s (Corona, Calif.).
Aflac All-American outfielder Sequoyah Stonecipher (San Diego) is also not with the Bulldogs because of a hamstring injury, but ABD has plenty of other noteworthy offensive performers like shortstop Nick Noonan (San Diego) and third baseman Josh Vitters (Anaheim ), both Aflac All-Americans who are ranked among the elite prospects in the country at their positions. Vitters is a potential first-round pick in June.
The Bulldogs got a first-inning double from Noonan in their playoff opener that triggered a two-run outburst and another double from Vitters in the fifth that was the key hit in another two-run uprising that put the game away against the Magic. Righthanders Dane Kinoshita (Honolulu, Hawaii ), Matt Harrison (Henderson, Nev. ) and Deryk Hooker (San Diego ) scattered six hits between them. The lone run the Bulldogs have surrendered in the tournament came off Kinoshita in the fourth on two singles and a hit batter.
ABD will face a huge test Monday, however, when it draws the East Cobb Astros, winners of two of the last three WWBA fall championships.
Along with ABD?€™s 5-1 win over the Florida Magic in the first round of bracket playoff, here?€™s how the remaining seven playoff games turned out Sunday:
--East Cobb (5-0), the 2003 champions and 2005 co-champions, worked some of its patented playoff magic. Trailing 1-0 in the fifth inning to Florida?€™s Hammertime Performance (3-1-1), junior third baseman Ethan Martin (Toccoa, Ga.) unloaded a long grand slam home run as East Cobb went on to win 6-1. Lefthander Jack McGeary (Newton, Mass. ) survived a rough start, in which he walked the first two batters of the game and allowed a double over right fielder Chris Epps (Stone Mountain, Ga.) for a 1-0 Hammertime lead. McGeary immediately settled down and struck out the next three hitters in the first inning and finished with a two-hitter and 13 strikeouts over six innings. Righthander Brian Dupra (Rochester, N.Y.) pitched the seventh for the Astros and struck out two more hitters. McGeary?€™s fastball topped out at 89, Dupra?€™s at 91. Both pitchers rank among the handful of top prospects from the Northeast for the 2007 draft.
--The Houston Heat (4-1), the 2004 WWBA champion, got a combined five-hit shutout from righthander Barrett Loux (Houston), lefthander Aaron Daab (Spring, Texas) and righthander Justin Jackson (Magnolia, Texas) as it beat Kentucky?€™s Midland Scout Team (3-1-1) 3-0. First baseman Richard Teague (Katy, Texas) led the Heat with two singles and a double.
--With righthander Rick Porcello (Chester, N.J. ) throwing every fastball between 94-97 mph to record the last four outs of the game, the South Florida Bandits (3-0-2) hung on for a 3-2 win over Florida ?€™s Winning Inning (3-2).
--In a battle of undefeated teams from the Carolinas, North Carolina?€™s Dirtbags (5-0) whipped South Carolina?€™s Diamond Devils (4-1) 8-0 in a five-inning, run-rule game as righthander Tyler Hibbs (Odenton, Md.) silenced the Devils on one hit, striking out eight. Third baseman Greg Holt (Clemmons, N.C.) got the Dirtbags started in the second with a two-run homer.
--Ohio?€™s Reds Scout Team (5-0), a pre-tournament favorite along with East Cobb, defeated the Cangelosi (Ill. ) Orioles (3-1-1) 2-0. Righthander Seth Blair (Rock Falls, Ill.) dominated the Orioles through five innings, allowing two hits and striking out four. Lefthander Chris Jones (Tampa ) finished up with his second save of the tourney.
--PG Crosschecker (5-0) edged Oklahoma?€™s Sandlot/Midwest Scout team (3-2) 1-0, scoring its only run on a fourth inning double play grounder after singles by shortstop Steve Lombardozzi (Fulton, Md.) and first baseman Scott Sammons (Searcy, Ark.). Righthanders Matt Mitchell (Barstow, Calif. ) and Taylor Reeves (Chesapeake, Va.) combined on a one-hitter for Crosschecker.
--The Central Florida Renegades (4-1) struggled to reach the playoffs, but dismantled the St. Louis Pirates (4-1) 8-2 as three pitchers combined on a four-hitter and outfielder Eric Grabe (Ocala, Fla.) keyed a decisive three-run, first inning uprising with a two-run triple.
With the first round of playoffs complete, here?€™s how the quarter-finals shape up for Monday:
East Cobb Astros (5-0) vs. ABD Bulldogs (5-0)
Houston Heat (4-1) vs. South Florida Bandits (3-0-2)
Central Florida Renegades (4-1) vs. Dirtbags (5-0)
PG Crosschecker (5-0) vs. Reds Scout Team (5-0)
--Though no player has clearly identified himself yet as the top prospect in the high school Class of 2008, a number of candidates enhanced their stock this weekend.
The ?€™08 prospect who generated the most talk among scouts and college recruiters was Dallas Tigers two-way player Jordan Swagerty (Sachse, Texas), who stood out both on the mound and behind the plate. He was clocked at 93 mph in the first of his two pitching outings, while mixing in a hammer curve and plus changeup. But scouts say his future is behind the plate. He excelled in all phases of catching with power from both sides of the plate, particularly from the left side.
Swagerty?€™s team didn?€™t advance to the playoffs, but he went 6-for-12 in four games in the tournament. Swagerty attends Prestonwood Christian Academy in suburban Dallas, the same school as catcher Cameron Rupp, who won the home run derby at this year?€™s Aflac All-American High School Classic.
Righthander Daniel Webb (Paducah, Ky. ) also accorded himself well, pitching a three-hit shutout Sunday as Kentucky ?€™s Midland Scout Team beat the Orlando Braves 1-0 in a game with a berth in the playoffs on the line. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Webb has been reported as high as 97 mph this fall, but peaked out at 93 against Orlando . He struck out nine.
Other top ?€™08 candidates playing in the tournament who have shown the ability to ascend to the head of the class include Southeast Select righthander Daniel Marrs (Richmond, Va.), Reds Scout Team first baseman Eric Hosmer (Cooper City, Fla.), Tri-State (N.J.) Arsenal righthander Quinton Miller (Medford, N.J.), East Cobb Astros lefthander Brett DeVall (Parker, Fla.) and Martin, who delivered the big playoff home run for East Cobb.
--Through the completion of Sunday?€™s pool-play action, a total of 268 pitchers had been clocked at 88 mph or better.
Southeast Select righthander Michael Main (DeLand, Fla.) sat atop the list at 97 mph for most of the weekend after a two-inning stint Friday. But he was surpassed on Sunday by Porcello, whose fastball was clocked at 98. He touched 96 in an earlier outing Friday.
Porcello moved himself into position to assume the No. 1 ranking, though Connecticut righthander Matt Harvey, who did not play in the tournament, is currently ranked higher than Porcello.
There have been no pitchers clocked at 95, but Webb, Marrs and East Cobb ace lefthander Josh Smoker (Sugar Valley, Ga.) headed a group of eight at 94.
EDITOR?€™S NOTE: Perfect Game Crosschecker?€™s Allan Simpson and David Rawnsley are in Jupiter covering the tournament and will file daily notebooks. Beginning Friday, their coverage will also include a daily list of the top 10 tournament highlights of the day.