AUSTIN, Texas – Perfect Game All-American C.J. Hinojosa got a brief glimpse of his future Monday while also helping the Houston Banditos Black and Coach Ray DeLeon capture the championship at an important Perfect Game tournament.
Hinojosa, a dazzling shortstop prospect who will graduate in December from Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas, so he can begin his college career at the University of Texas in January, earned Most Valuable Player honors while helping the Banditos Black win the PG WWBA South Qualifier at UT’s historic Disch-Falk Field.
The fourth-seeded Banditos (6-0-0) beat the No. 3 seed Dallas Patriots-Valdez (5-1-0) in Monday afternoon’s championship game, 4-2. It was a rematch of the 2010 South Qualifier title game, won by the Patriots.
Next up for both organizations is a spot in the field at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in just a little over three weeks (Oct. 20-24).
Hinojosa wasn’t the only Bandito to receive post-tournament honors. Right-hander Joseph Zurawik was named the Most Valuable Pitcher after tossing a seven-inning, complete game no-hitter in a 2-0 semifinal round victory over the Texas Sun Devils Monday morning at Disch-Falk.
Individual awards aside – and the number of top prospects at the South Qualifier was truly impressive – this tournament championship was very much a team effort for the Banditos Black.
“It just shows the rest of the organization that not only do we have a young program, but if they stay in the program we have something to offer these kids,” DeLeon said. “Look what just happened – how many scouts were up in the stands and how many colleges? We got six or seven offers to kids just today to go to the next level, and that’s pretty good.
“So that’s what means the most to me,” he said. “I want the younger Bandito kids and the parents to know that we have a program that if you do stick it out, there is something at the end of the rainbow for these kids.”
Disch-Falk Field is the place Hinojosa – the nation’s 14th-ranked top prospect (2012) – will call home for at least the next three years. Hinojosa had opportunities to work out at Disch-Falk before, but this was the first time he had played at the stadium in actual games.
And he played in the championship game in front of his next coach, the Longhorns’ legendary Augie Garrido, as well as several current Longhorn players who will be Hinojosa’s teammates in a couple of months.
“This is the first time I’ve ever played here and I loved it,” Hinojosa said after accepting his MVP award. “It’s exciting knowing that I’ll be here in January as long as everything goes through, and as of right now everything’s gone through. So I’m excited to be here in January.
“Coach Garrido is a great coach and he’s a good guy, and he’s going to be my coach now,” he continued. “I’m just going to come in and play the game that I’ve played since I was 3½ (years old) and just roll from there.”
You know a player is having a great tournament at the plate when his 2-for-4 performance in the championship game actually causes his batting average to drop by 39 points. He was 2-for-4 with a game-tying home run in the fifth in the title game, and finished the tournament 14-for-21 (.667) with three doubles, one home run, four RBI and eight runs scored.
“This was my first tournament and my first live pitching since the (Perfect Game) All-American (Classic), so I’ve been with Ray and in the cages and everything ever since I finished there,” Hinojosa said. “This is my first time seeing live pitching again, but I felt good.”
Zurawik is primarily a middle-infielder who occasionally gets some work out of the bullpen, but DeLeon decided to give him the start in Monday morning’s semifinal game. On a somewhat smaller scale, that decision may rank up there with Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Madden decision to start unheralded rookie Matt Moore in Game 1 of the ALDS.
“Everything was working, and as long as I can pull open and not try to overpower people and throw my game, the game I know how to throw, I’ll do good,” Zurawik said.
It took the 5-11, 180-pound senior at Bishop Kelley High School in Bixby, Okla., a little time to realize he was throwing a no-hitter. His final line was seven innings, no hits, seven strikeouts and three walks.
“In the seventh inning, right towards the end, I realized it,” Zurawik said with a smile. “I said, all right, it’s time to focus more.”
Zurawik pitched earlier in the tournament and allowed one hit and one walk while striking out two in 1 2/3 innings.
The Banditos’ Austin Dean hit a go-ahead solo home run in the fifth inning of the championship game to cap off a nice tournament for another Texas commit. Courtney Hawkins, a PG All-American headed for the University of Oklahoma next fall, was only 1-for-4 in the championship game and finished 6-for-17 (.353), but three of his hits were home runs and he finished with 11 RBI.
Jeremy Kivel (a Houston commit), Bryce Welborn, Griffin Russell (Oklahoma State) and 2014 right-hander Jake Jarvis (Texas) combined to three-hit the Patriots.
“We played great baseball,” DeLeon said. “Our hitting really stepped up … and our pitching was phenomenal, but it was our hitting. Our leaders stepped up. The guys who were suppose to step up, stepped up today. The guys with all the hype are the ones who stepped up today.”
It was Zurawik’s no-hitter that carried the Banditos’ semifinal win and Hinojosa doubled twice, the Banditos’ only two hits.
The Patriots could never get anything going against the Banditos in the championship game, but was very impressive in their 9-4 win over the Action Baseball Club White 17u in the semis.
Left-hander Connor Reed scattered seven hits over seven innings and allowed only two earned runs, was also 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored from the plate. Trooper Reynolds and Josh DeLoach each drove in two runs.
Now both these organizations can look forward to putting teams in the field at the WWBA World Championship. It is the goal of every team that plays in the PG WWBA qualifiers, and something all the top prospects can look forward to.
“It’s good to see live pitching again right before Jupiter – the ‘big one’ – and it’s going to be my last Jupiter trip and I have gotten a chance to win the ‘big one,’” Hinojosa said. “Hopefully our team can carry through, run through our pool, have good playoff games and have our pitching look good.”
Coach DeLeon was even more emphatic.
“At the end of the day, we’re very fortunate to be able to use (the South Qualifier) as a warm-up for Jupiter,” he said. “Jupiter is what I want. If I could ever win something like a Jupiter it’ll speak millions for the program to the rest of the country.”