FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Thursday opening day schedule at the inaugural Perfect Game High School Showdown featured a much anticipated matchup between nationally-ranked Venice (Fla.) High School and Parkview High School from Lilburn, Ga. Mother Nature decided to make it a prime-time Friday night affair instead and it didn't disappoint, at least not from a Venice point of view.
Severe weather Thursday afternoon forced the game to be postponed for 24 hours, and with a dazzling display of base-running and pinpoint pitching performances, No. 3-ranked Venice beat and bedazzled No. 13 Parkview, 3-0, Friday night at City of Palms Park.
Right-handed junior Brandon Elmy and senior righty Cooper Hammond combined for an efficient three-hitter to post the Indians' second shutout of the day. Venice managed just three hits itself off a pair of Parkview pitchers but took advantage of four walks, two hit batsmen, a wild pitch, an error and six stolen bases to keep the Panthers off-balance and out of kilter.
Elmy, a Furman commit, threw the game's first four innings and allowed two hits while striking out three and walking three. Hammond, who has signed with Miami, pitched three innings of one-hit ball in relief, striking out two with no walks. The Indians were leading 2-0 when Hammond entered the game.
"It starts with Brandon Elmy coming out and throwing strikes and hitting his spots with his breaking ball and his fastball," Venice head coach Craig Faulkner said. "And then the finish by Cooper Hammond -- he does that when he comes in the game and it's over if he's got a lead."
It was an outing Elmy seemed pleased with.
"It was definitely on the plus side ... thankfully," he said. "My off-speed (stuff), every now and then it would get in and thankfully it got more in than it did out tonight. The fastball, you got to trust it, so all-and-all I thought it went well."
Venice jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when junior Dalton Guthrie led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Parkview junior left-hander Mac Marshall. Guthrie, a Florida commit, eventually scored on an RBI double off the bat of fellow Florida commit Mike Rivera.
The Indians added a second run in the bottom of the second that was the single-handed work of senior second baseman and Stetson signee Colton Lightner. He led off the inning with a walk, stole both second and third and scored on a wild pitch.
"I was real proud of Colton Lightner with his base-running and his hitting and his defensive play as our second baseman; he's just playing the game at a very high level," Faulkner praised. "And also Mike Rivera setting the tone with a double off the wall to score that first run, and the great base-running by Lightner and by Guthrie, keeping their pitcher off-balance."
Parkview is obviously a dangerous team, but with that 2-0 cushion Faulkner didn't hesitate about turning the ball over to Hammond.
"Against a team like that, it's hard to take a breath," Faulkner said, "but when Cooper Hammond comes into a baseball game and we've got a lead, we can take a little bit of a breath then."
"My arm was feeling good, but two runs is still close," Hammond said. "I had to keep my cool and concentrate on throwing my pitches."
Venice scored its insurance third run in the sixth when Lightner scored on a Hammond squeeze bunt.
"We played the game at a high level tonight," Faulkner said. "Parkview is a great baseball team and deserves a lot of credit and they played the game at a high level, too. So it was a nice win for us."
The Panthers' Marshall, a Georgia commit and the 20th-ranked national prospect in the class of 2014, flashed a fastball that reached the mid-90s and finished with a 12-strikeout, two-hitter over five innings; he also walked four, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch that led to a Venice run. Elmy and Hammond were a tad bit more in control on this night.
"We were definitely up for this game and we really wanted it," Elmy said. "I was definitely happy to face this team because it was definitely something that we needed to prove (ourselves) against another one of the (nationally) top-ranked teams."
The Indians started their Friday at the PG High School Showdown with a 5-0 blanking of Savannah (Ga.) Christian High School in a game played at Terry Park. Senior right-hander Tyler Shambora tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball with eight strikeouts and one walk. Rivera and LSU recruit Nick Longhi each doubled twice with Rivera driving in two and Longhi one.
"Having two shutouts is nice; we have that kind of pitching and we've got more pitching (Saturday), " Faulkner said. "We're excited about being in this tournament and it's good competition. Perfect Game puts on a great tournament and we're excited to be here at their first (Showdown)."
"Those are both great teams that we played today," Hammond said. "You can't take any time off or you're going to get caught sleeping and the game will get out of hand."
Parkview began play at the Showdown on Friday with a 1-0 win over Sarasota (Fla.) High School with junior lefty Christain Vann throwing a six inning three-hitter. The Panthers managed just two hits in the game but one was an RBI single from Daino Deas that plated the game's only run in the bottom of the fifth. The game took only 1 hour, 15 minutes to play.