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Tournaments : : Story
Yak Baseball emerges victorious
Matthew Stokes        
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012

MARIETTA, Ga. – Yak Baseball West (6-0) beat the Philadelphia Whiz Kids (2-2-2) 6-2 in a Tuesday morning pool N matchup at the 2012 WWBA 17u National Championship.

On the mound, right-hander Jack Morello (2013, Notre Dame H.S., Calif.) tossed four and two-third frames, allowing three hits while striking out eight. Working with a fastball that sat consistently in the mid-80s, Morello mixed in a mid-70s changeup. A Perfect Game scout noted that Morello maintained the same arm speed with his offspeed offering as his fastball, making it that much harder for batters to differentiate between those two pitches.

Dominic Smith (2013, Junipero Serra H.S., Calif.) hit yet another home run in the tournament, this one a two-out solo shot to left-center in the top of the sixth. The left-handed Smith, who’s been on Perfect Game’s radar for some time now, assumed the number two spot on the company’s most recent high school class of 2013 prospect rankings after his performance at last month’s National Showcase in Minneapolis, Minn.

In addition to clocking in at 6.89 seconds in the 60-yard dash and firing a 91-mph throw from the outfield in drills, Smith made a name for himself with his hitting as well as with his pitching. His fastball peaked at 92 mph in the event.

One Perfect Game scout described the University of Southern California verbal commitment’s upside as tremendous and that all he needs is added reps to continue progressing. Perfect Game Scouting Coordinator Todd Gold said he believes scouts will be willing to pass on Smith’s potential as a left-handed pitcher in favor of the promise he has shown as a hitter.

For all the attention he has received, Smith is certainly not the lone standout on this summer’s Yak West Baseball roster.

Shortstop John Crawford (2013, Lakewood H.S., Calif.) also has a promising career ahead of himself, said Yak West Baseball head coach James Byers.

He’s got all five tools,” said Byers of Crawford, following the 9 a.m. game’s conclusion. “The sky’s the limit with him. He can be as good as he wants to be. A good comparison is Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.”

Crawford, who said he primarily plays short for Lakewood, has begun to also see some time as a right-hander pitcher as well as in center field.  
Like Smith, Crawford has verbally committed to Southern Cal, making his pledge in Oct. 2011.

It reminded me of my high school, and the coaches are really nice,” said Crawford of Southern Cal.

Even after deciding on his future college destination, Crawford has continued to impress on the national level.

At June’s National Showcase, Crawford threw 90 mph across the infield and ran a 6.77-second 60-yard dash. Additionally, he hit 90 mph on the gun with his fastball while pitching in game action. A Perfect Game scout noted that Crawford “has a loose arm with easy arm speed and repeats his delivery.”

When asked about how this tournament has gone for his team, Crawford said it has been smooth sailing so far.

We’ve been doing really well,” Crawford said. “We’ve been playing well together, and everybody’s contributing.”

Participating in national events this summer are significant to Crawford and his future.

They mean a lot,” said Crawford of the National Showcase and the WWBA 17u National Championship. “You got to play hard every game because you never know who’s watching.”

This summer he has learned at least one thing along the way.

Never get down on yourself no matter how bad you do,” Crawford said. “There’s always tomorrow.”

Another notable player on Yak Baseball West’s squad is third baseman Kevin Franklin (2013, Richard Gahr H.S., Calif.).  
Standing at six-foot-two, 220 pounds, Franklin is what Byers described a big teddy bear.

He goes by KJ, but his business name is Kevin,” Byers laughed. “He’s a good kid.

He’s blossomed a lot in the last year. His at bats have gotten tremendously better. He’s willing to learn.”

Franklin made enough of a name for himself that he chose his college choice nearly a year before he could sign his National Letter of Intent.

I committed to Arizona State on Nov. 15, 2011,” Franklin said. “It was a big day for me. I loved the place and the coaching staff. They treated me well. The campus is gorgeous, and they have fantastic fan support. It’s an awesome place to play baseball.”

Though he played outfield as a freshman and sophomore at Richard Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., Franklin moved to third base as a junior. He also plays the hot corner for Yak Baseball West, which he has been a member of for two years now.

I just love it,” said Franklin of the organization. “The coaches treat me well. They treat everybody well.”

This summer has been eventful for Franklin, even a whirlwind at times.

I had to leave two weeks before school ended to go to the National Showcase so I had to take finals early,” said Perfect Game’s number 19-ranked prospect for the high school class of 2013.

I think it’s worth it though. People around the country would love for opportunities like this, and to be one of those few who can do this is an awesome feeling. I’m very happy and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

After attending the National in mid-June, Franklin traveled to Cary, N.C. for the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. He characterized those back-to-back events as experiences that he’ll never forget.

In this tournament, Franklin said the team has been on fire lately.

We came out real hot, and it’s because we’ve played together for a while,” Franklin said. “Everybody’s just doing their job, and it’s awesome playing with guys who know their role. We all play together as one.”

Franklin’s future also looks good, and he hopes that will mean he will be playing professionally in the near future.

That’s my dream: to play professional baseball,” said Franklin of where he hopes to be in five years. “Since I’ve started this game, I’ve wanted to play professional baseball.”



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