Neb. – It was hard not to feel a little patriotic watching the
Collegiate National Team take on Team Japan at TD Ameritrade Park in
Omaha, Nebraska. The rationale frame of mind told me I was there to
see the talent on the field, a wealth of talent that will help shape
both the 2012 and 2013 draft classes.
days removed from Independence Day, like the rest of the people in
attendance, I couldn't help but feel a little excited when designated
hitter Brian Johnson clubbed a solo shot over the left field fence to
lead off the bottom of the ninth with Team USA trailing Team Japan
6-1. The excitement continued with the next hitter, Josh Elander,
who hit a sharp single up the middle, with more and more members of
the crowd chanting, 'U.S.A., U.S.A.'
the scoring would end with Johnson's home run, as Team Japan
re-grouped to complete a 6-2 victory over the the Collegiate National
the second year in a row in which the two teams had met in Omaha,
playing at Rosenblatt last summer before the new home of the College
World Series was opened earlier this year.
teams played two games on this day, finishing a game that was
postponed by rain on Wednesday in Durham, North Carolina. In what
turned out to be a rain delay that fell just shy of two days, game
one began at 3:30 in the afternoon in the bottom of the third inning
with Arizona State right-hander Brady Rodgers taking the mound to
pick up where he left off.
pitching on both sides dictated both games, as runs were hard to come
by, even when ripe opportunities presented themselves.
have ever watched any Japanese team play, something the World
Baseball Classic has given baseball fans across the world the
opportunity to do, you will know the style of baseball played doesn't
exactly mirror that we Americans are accustomed to. The rules of the
game are the same, but games are played one pitch at a time. If you
aren't prepared to grind each and every pitch, every out and every
inning out, it's unlikely you're going to find yourself on top
against an incredibly disciplined style of play.
while the Collegiate National Team's patience held true during the
first three games of the five-game series, game one in Omaha finished
in a 1-1 tie after 10 before Team Japan took the final game.
really good,” LSU right-hander Kevin Gausman said of the Team Japan
pitching staff. “All of their pitchers throw cutters. They're all
mechanically sound and they all pound the strike zone and throw the
ball wherever they need to in any situation.
did win the series, but every single game was close. There were some
big innings that we had that put them away at times, but they always
came back. They always had heart, they never laid down, and that
shows what kind of character they had. They're the best in Japan,
and we're the best in the U.S., so you expect a great matchup.”
pitchability is amazing,” added Cal State Fullerton outfielder
Michael Lorenzen. “One of their guys was throwing a 89
mile-per-hour cutter and hitting his spots.
(players) are so awesome. We've gotten to know most of them, and
they're having a good time, we're having a good time, and it's more
than baseball right now.”
year is a little different for the Collegiate National Team, since no
international travel was scheduled. After the five-game series
against Team Japan, the team's summer is over. Some players intend
to head to other summer collegiate wood bat leagues, while others
intend to head home to get some much needed rest.
going home,” Gausman said of the rest of his summer. “Coaches
order, time to rest up.”
has similar plans.
going home and I will be working out. I have some goals that I need
to accomplish for the next season. I know everyone says that you
need to get bigger, faster and stronger, but I need to get bigger,
faster and a lot stronger, so that's the goal for the rest of the
Perfect Game always likes to keep tabs on the players that we have
directly crossed paths with. From our player of the day features to
looking at how many alums are participating in the Future's Game as
part of the league's All-Star Game festivities, it's hard not to be
proud of just how much we are involved with every level of baseball.
22 players that took the field on Friday in Omaha, 17 had previously
attended one of our events. Seven of those had been at one of our
National Showcases, and two were members of the 2009 Aflac
all but two players (Kevin Gausman, Michael Wacha) participating in
the two games played in Omaha, here's a quick peak at those 17
players and what they have been up to since crossing paths with ours.
Appel, RHP, Stanford
is currently one of the top projected prospects for the 2012 draft,
and is an early candidate to go first overall. It isn't a huge
surprise that Appel's velocity, which sat in the upper-90s against
the New England Collegiate League All-Stars at Fenway Park, has
climbed as it has since throwing in the low-90s at the 2008 National
Showcase. His athleticism and projectability were evident then, and
he now serves as the Friday ace for a Stanford team that advanced to
the Super Regionals. He wasn't as electric in Omaha as he was at
Fenway two weeks ago, but threw roughly a half-dozen mid-90s
fastballs down in the zone to quickly record three straight 4-3
Elander, C/OF, TCU
sturdy athlete with a strong, compact frame, Elander has been a
promising prospect before he stepped onto Texas Christian's campus as
part of the same class that included Matt Purke. He was the Horned
Frogs' second leading hitter each of the past two springs, and has
more power potential than his seven career collegiate home runs
Ficociello, 1B/3B, Arkansas
advanced approach to hitting was on display during his freshman year
for the Razorbacks, leading the team in batting. A switch-hitter,
his approach and swing is similar to that of former Arkansas
infielder Zach Cox. Like Cox, not only does Ficociello excel at
going with pitches up the middle and the other way, but he also has
the ability to drive the ball down the lines. He is built tall and
lean with broad shoulders, a perfect recipe to add to his current
Fontana, SS, Florida
just over a week since Fontana's last appearance at TD Ameritrade
Park playing in the championship series at the College World Series.
His defensive prowess was on display at the 2008 National Showcase,
as he continues to make playing the middle infield look easy. With a
patient approach and a line drive swing, Fontana served as the
catalyst atop the lineup for both the Gators and Team USA.
Gausman, RHP, LSU
the most projectable pitchers available in the 2010 draft class,
Gausman went unsigned as the Dodgers' sixth-round pick honoring his
commitment to LSU. With a relatively unexperienced Tigers staff, he
was asked to step in immediately during his freshman year to
contribute as a weekend starter, and performed admirably. He has
flirted with triple digits since topping out at 94 at both the 2009
National Showcase and the Aflac All-American Classic the same summer,
and continues to have one of the highest upsides of any player
eligible for next year's draft as a draft-eligible sophomore.
Johnson, LHP/1B, Florida
suffering a concussion down the stretch as part of Florida's
championship series run, Johnson was relegated to designated hitter
duties, a role he continued with the Collegiate National Team. With
a tall, physically mature frame, his upside remains higher on the
mound, but he employs one of the more advanced approaches at the
plate of any college hitter. He put an easy swing on the first pitch
he saw in the bottom of the ninth inning on the home run mentioned
above to drive a ball the opposite way over the left-field fence.
Kline, RHP, Virginia
Fontana, Kline was in Omaha for the College World Series, where he
enjoyed a late inning showdown between Matt Price and the eventual
CWS champion South Carolina Gamecocks in one of the most memorable
CWS games ever played. With a tall, projectable frame and long,
strong limbs, Kline sits in the low-90s with his fastball while also
throwing a nasty low-80s slider. That combination led to 18 saves
for the Cavaliers last spring, and may put him a position to serve as
a weekend starter next year.
Lorenzen, OF, Cal State Fullerton
is the second member of this year's Collegiate National Team that had
played in the 2009 Aflac All-American Classic, and he also
participated in the National Showcase the same summer. His exciting
five-tool potential continues to be on display, as he was named to
numerous freshman all-american teams, as well as earning Big West
Freshman of the Year honors, after leading the Titans in hitting with
a .342 batting average.
Marrero, SS, Arizona State
2008 National Showcase is well represented among this group, which
includes Marrero, who continues to add strength, and subsequent power
potential, to his lean, athletic frame. He has put up big numbers at
the plate with a knack for the big hit, for both Arizona State and
Team USA, since his freshman year. It was no surprise that when
faced with a tie-breaker in the 10th inning of the first
game played in Omaha, in which runners were placed at first and
second, that Marrero was the choice of Manager Tim Jamieson to lead
off the inning. Marrero is currently considered to be among the
prospects most likely to be selected among the top 10 overall picks
in next year's draft.
Milner, LHP, Texas
with a tall and lanky yet wiry strong frame, Milner was turned to
pitch out of the bullpen in both games played in Omaha. He served as
a stalwart out of the Longhorns' bullpen during his freshman year in
2010, and assumed a more crucial swing role last spring. Milner, who
throws in the upper-80s with a big breaking curveball, may be looked
upon as a weekend starter next year for a Texas team looking to
redeem themselves after a quick exit from the College World Series
Mitchell, RHP, TCU
was thrust into a more crucial role for the Horned Frogs when
teammate Matt Purke was shut down for a few weeks with shoulder
fatigue. Mitchell continues an impressive trend of pitching wealth
that Texas Christian has been developing in recent years, with a 6-1,
2.84 ERA season as a freshman. Assuming a role out of Team USA's
bullpen, Mitchell continued to impress with an aggressive, bulldog
approach and a very good command of a upper-80s to low-90s fastball.
Murphy, C, Buffalo
natural leader, Murphy is a good fit behind the plate at a position
that is always in demand at every level of the game. Putting up big
numbers in two years while hailing from a non-traditional baseball
powerhouse, he had the opportunity to showcase his skills among the
best college players in the nation, and made the most of that
opportunity, albeit in limited duty.
Naquin, OF, Texas A&M
and former Aflac All-American Krey Bratsen formed a formidable duo
for the Aggies last spring, who like the Longhorns, were ushered out
of the College World Series much more quickly than either team
hailing from Texas would have liked to have seen. Naquin, a
left-handed hitter, has very good bat speed and easy power potential,
drilling one fastball earlier in the week the opposite way high off
the wall at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a double.
Reynolds, 3B, Arkansas
didn't enjoy the season that his teammate Dominic Ficociello did at
the University of Arkansas statistically, but he still proved to be
plenty productive at the plate. For Team USA, he showed good actions
at third base with a strong arm, and making a nice charging,
bare-handed play against Team Japan. Reynolds also showed good bat
speed at the plate, drilling a long single to right-center in the
first game played on Friday.
Rodgers, RHP, Arizona State
theme of teammates continues to grace the Collegiate National Team's
roster, with 22 players coming from only 13 different schools.
Rodgers of course plays with Deven Marrero at Arizona State, and was
part of a talented recruiting class that included current Sun Devils
Jake Barrett, Andrew Aplin and Alex Blackford. Rodgers is known more
for his command than his raw stuff, and took the mound in the first
game as mentioned above. He threw strikes and worked the bottom half
of the zone with a 88-91 fastball, a sharp 12-to-6 curveball and a
changeup that sat around 80 mph.
Stroman, RHP/IF, Duke
the day recording 16 of the 20 outs via strikeout, Stroman was
arguably the most exciting player on the Collegiate National Team.
He generates unusual 93-94 mph velocity for a 5-foot-9, 175-pound
athlete that also has served as an infielder at both the high school
and college levels. His nasty low-80s slider is also a plus pitch,
and after he was named the ACC Freshman of the Year for Duke in 2010,
he went on to be named a Cape All-Star last summer by recording 11
saves in 11 chances for the Orleans Firebirds. Stroman earned high
praise at the 2008 National Showcase for his five-tool potential and
electric arm on the mound, and received MVP honors for Team USA in
the series against Team Japan.
Weiss, IF, Texas
easy watching Weiss at the plate why he was so successful during his
freshman year for the Longhorns, leading the team with a .348 batting
average. Like many of the Collegiate National players, he employed a
very patient and disciplined approach at the plate, taking pitches
while not afraid to work from down in the count while waiting for a
good pitch to drive. A tall, projectable athlete, Weiss presented
one of the better, pro-style bodies, and joined Ficociello and Corey
Knebel on Kendall Roger's Freshman All-American team.