Photo: Perfect Game
Tournaments : : Story
Burnett sharp on Day 2 of NHSI
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Woodlands Seeks Title, Repeat
of Team’s 2006 Success
N.C.—It’s only March and his team still has the most challenging
part of its schedule ahead of it, but The Woodlands (Texas) High
coach Ron Eastman showed no hesitation in comparing his unbeaten 2013
squad to his 2006 club, which went 38-1, won the Texas 5-A state
championship and claimed a mythical national title.
Highlanders stretched their record to 20-0 on the current season with
a hard-fought, 2-1 win over Jenks (Okla.) High Thursday morning in
the first game of the tournament for both clubs at this year’s
National High School Invitational, which has brought together 16 of
the nation’s top high-school teams, including nine in Perfect
Game’s Top 50.
Woodlands entered the event, played at USA Baseball’s national
training center, ranked anywhere from No. 1 to No. 5 in the country,
depending on which of three national polls is referenced. And their
hopes for a second national title in eight years could all hinge on
their ability to win four games in four days against a formidable
we still have a long way to go, but this team definitely compares
very favorably to our 2006 club,” said Eastman, who has compiled a
316-86 record in 12-plus seasons at the helm of the Highlanders.
“Both teams have great chemistry with no egos, and it’s been a
total team effort. We’ve also gotten great pitching again.”
this year’s Highlanders club doesn’t have a true power arm of the
order of righthander Kyle Drabek, who went 14-0, 1.00 with 155
strikeouts in 91 innings for The Woodlands in 2006 on his way to
becoming a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in that
year’s draft, it has five players committed to major Division I
colleges, and also features one of the nation’s elite high-school
sophomores in Chris Andritsos.
Woodlands has gotten strong performances to date on the mound from
its two most established arms, Oklahoma State-bound senior
righthander Carter Hope and TCU-bound senior lefthander Ryan Burnett.
Both pitchers have no-hitters to their credit this season, and Hope
hasn’t allowed a run in his first six outings.
was called on in the team’s tournament opener Thursday and nearly
spun another no-hitter against Jenks, as he held the Trojans (ranked
No. 37 nationally in PG’s latest poll) hitless through five
innings, before surrendering three straight hits to lead off the
bottom of the sixth after the Highlanders had broken a 0-0 deadlock
with two runs of their own in the top of the inning.
those were the only hits the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Burnett allowed on
the day, and he managed to wiggle his way out of trouble by allowing
only one run to score in the sixth. He then saved his best for last,
displaying his best fastball of the game in the seventh and striking
out the side. Typically topping out at 88-89 mph through the first
six innings and mixing his pitches effectively, Burnett reached back
for a little extra in his final frame and hit 91 several times.
adrenalin was really flowing in that last inning, and I threw mostly
fastballs,” Burnett said.
typically gets stronger in the sixth and seventh innings because he’s
in such good shape,” Eastman added, “and it was important that we
got a complete game out of him today because our staff isn’t really
all that deep, especially for a tournament like this, where we’ll
play four games in four days.”
Highlanders struggled to produce much offense for Burnett against
highly-touted Jenks righthander Thomas Hatch, an Oklahoma recruit who
went the distance himself and allowed just three hits (all singles),
but they were able to manufacture two runs on the strength of a
passed ball and squeeze bunt.
who topped at 92 while suffering a tough loss, did an admirable job
of holding The Woodlands slugging first baseman, Andritsos, in check,
hitting him with a pitch in his initial at-bat before inducing him to
hit into three routine ground-ball outs in his remaining plate
6-foot-3, 215-pound Andritsos is one of the elite prospects in the
2015 draft class and leads the nation with 11 home runs this season,
including several mammoth blasts.
a once in a lifetime kind of talent,” Eastman said, “but
obviously his reputation is starting to precede him. He didn’t see
some of the pitches today that he was getting earlier in the year.”
talented Andritsos is also a pitching prospect of some note and was
clocked up to 92-93 mph last summer following his freshman year at
The Woodlands. But he has typically been clocked only in the mid-80s
this spring, Eastman said, as he has focused more on hitting after
coming off high-school football in the fall and still hasn’t
progressed into peak pitching condition. Andritsos is scheduled to
get his chance on the mound on Saturday—possibly with the
championship of the NHSI on the line.
Texas high-school federation rules forbid teams from playing sports
of any kind on Wednesdays, The Woodlands was forced to delay its
first game of the tournament until Thursday, and will be required to
play a second contest this afternoon, when it hooks up against
unranked Milton (Ga.) High, which won its opening game Wednesday.
real test for the Highlanders, though, will almost certainly come
Friday and Saturday, when they will likely face the power and mite of
California, which is represented by three teams (all unbeaten when
the day started) in the tournament, including No. 2-ranked Cathedral
Catholic and No. 4 Mater Dei, the event’s defending champion.
The Woodlands can survive that hurdle, a consensus No. 1 national
ranking will assuredly be in the offing—and another national
championship will be theirs for the taking if they can continue their
Takes Down Cathedral Catholic, Thwarts
Dominance of California Schools
With an all-California final in last year’s inaugural
tournament and teams from the Golden State a collective 5-1 after two
days of play in this year’s National High School Invitational, a
case can easily be made that the best, most-competitive baseball in
the country is played in California.
Dei High is the tournament’s defending champion and stands 2-0 to
date in its return engagement, while Harvard-Westlake High, the team
that lost in the final to Mater Dei a year ago, is also undefeated
after two rounds of play. Mater Dei stayed perfect Thursday by
defeating Lexington (S.C.) High 1-0, while Harvard-Westlake blanked
Bingham (Utah) High 2-0.
Cathedral Catholic High, a third team from California in the 16-team
tournament and the highest-ranked squad from the state at No. 2 in
Perfect Game’s ranking of the nation’s top high-school teams,
failed to preserve the state’s perfect track record at the NHSI as
it unexpectedly bit the dust Thursday afternoon, losing to Florida’s
Venice High 7-3. It was also the first setback of the season for the
Venice ranked No. 3 nationally, Thursday’s Cathedral
Catholic-Venice game technically pitted the best team from California
against the top-rated club from Florida, and Florida gained the upper
hand—if only for one game—with the win.
don’t think you can read too much into one game,” said Venice
coach Craig Faulkner, whose team won the Florida state 7-A
championship a year ago and is off to 13-1 start this season. “It’s
obvious teams from California play a tough brand of baseball, but we
play some great baseball in Florida, as well.”
jumped out to an early 5-0 lead against Cathedral Catholic after
three innings, only for the Dons, who may have more pro-level talent
on its roster than any team in the tournament, to close the margin to
5-3 with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
when Faulkner went to his ace in the hole, side-arming righthander
Cooper Hammond, who went the rest of the way and retired all 12
Cathedral Catholic batters he faced to pick up the win. Hammond, a
Miami recruit who won 10 games and saved six others a year ago for
the Indians on their run to a state title, kept Dons hitters off
balance throughout with his different look and the sinking action he
got from a steady assortment of fastballs, curves and changeups.
Hammond struck out four in his four perfect innings of work, and
induced eight ground-ball outs.
comes from a low angle,” Faulkner said, “and not only is his ball
very difficult for hitters to pick up, but he throws a lot of
strikes. He gets great sinking action on his pitches and hitters just
pound the ball into the ground, which plays into the real strength of
our team, which is a very strong infield defense.”
had hoped to get a fourth inning out of his starter, righthander
Tyson Albert, but had a change of heart after Albert made just three
pitches in the fourth inning and appeared to be laboring, and went
immediately to Hammond, who stopped Cathedral Catholic in its tracks.
usually works only an inning or two, but he puts so little strain on
his arm coming from the angle he does and is so efficient at throwing
strikes that he could still give us an inning tomorrow, if we need
their win Thursday, Venice will play Harvard-Westlake, a second
California team, in one of Friday’s two semi-final games. Mater Dei
High will draw the winner of The Woodlands (Texas) High and Milton
(Ga.) High, the final game on the schedule Thursday, in the other
semi-final, and the possibility obviously exists for Venice to take
on all three California entries.
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