FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Stocked with elite talent in the same proportions a Louisiana bayou is stocked with catfish, the Marucci Elite squad that at this weekend's PG WWBA Underclass World Championship just might be one for the ages. Forget for a moment that it had to pull off a pair of great escapes to win its first two pool-play games Thursday and Friday.
Baton Rouge-based Marucci Elite, under the direction of head coach Chad Raley, boasts a roster numbering no fewer than 11 top-150 national prospects in the high school classes of 2014 and 2015. Eight others are ranked in the top-300. And this is the group that is defending the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship title Marucci Elite won here a year ago.
"On paper, this is probably our most talented underclass) team," Raley said Friday afternoon from the jetBlue Player Development Complex. "I don't really look at the rankings or anything like that but this is probably the most offensive club I've had.
"Pitchability-wise, we may not have the guys who are going to throw the hardest, but we've got the guys that know how to pitch, that throw multiple pitches with command, and that's what I look for in a pitcher."
And if all that talent isn't enough, Raley has added another weapon to the Murucci power structure. He is being assisted this weekend by former major-leaguer Terry Shumpert, the father of Marucci Elite shortstop and leadoff hitter, Nick Shumpert, the No. 9-ranked national prospect in the class of 2015.
"I just really thank God that Chad gave me the opportunity to come out here and coach with him," Terry Shumpert said Friday. "It's a great organization and they've had some great players come through here, and I'm just grateful that my son Nick is able to get on a team with this organization."
The Shumpert's call Lone Tree, Colo., home and Nick is joined on the Marucci Elite roster here by prospects from 14 other states. They include 2014 No. 9-ranked shortstop Gregory Deichmann from Metairie, La.; 2014 No. 23-ranked outfielder Justin Smith from St. John's Fla.; 2014 No. 31-ranked right-hander Alex Lange from Lee's Summit, Mo.; and 2014 No. 43-ranked right-hander Branden Kelliher from Lake Stevens, Wash., just to name a few.
"Position player-wise, these were the guys that I really wanted down here," Raley said. "We only have 10 or 11 position players and that way everybody's bat is in the lineup the entire tournament. At these big tournaments, sometimes it's hard to get into the flow of the games, and this way they're getting plenty of ABs and seeing plenty of pitches so everybody's kind of getting locked in."
Marucci Elite needed to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat SWFL 16u, 4-3, in its tournament-opener Thursday night. This despite four Marucci pitchers combining on a seven inning, 15 strikeout, six walk no-hitter, with left-hander Chase Chambers striking out nine and walking one in four hitless innings.
The Elite trailed Longshots Baseball Teal, 5-2 after 3 1/2 innings and 5-4 after five before putting up a seven-spot in the bottom of the sixth for an 11-5 win Friday afternoon. Chace Sarchet, a 2014 catcher out of Lubbock, Texas, ranked No. 168 in his class, homered and drove in three runs, and Smith had two hits and two RBI.
There are no members of this Marucci Elite underclass team that were on last year's national championship team. That doesn't mean the Marucci coaches and players don't take their role as WWBA Underclass World National Championship defending champions seriously.
"Everybody knows we won it (last year) so we kind of come in with a bulls-eye on our back, and we expect to get everybody's best game," Raley said.
And then there is the weekend addition of Terry Shumpert as an assistant coach. The Royals drafted him in the second round of the 1987 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky -- Nick Shumpert has already committed to Kentucky -- and he wore six big-league club's uniforms during his 14-year career from 1990 through 2003.
His most productive seasons came during his five-year stint (1998-2002) with the Rockies: in 1999 he hit .347/.413/.584 with 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 58 runs in just 92 games, and in 2001 at age 34, he hit .289/.337/,438 in 115 games.
This is the seventh PG event Nick Shumpert has attended since June 6, including the PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis and the PG National Games in San Diego. He will also be on the Marucci Elite roster at the prestigious PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., at the end of the month.
His dad has been there every step of the way, always offering to throw BP whenever the need arises.
"That ought to tell you what I think of (Perfect Game)," Terry Shumpert said with a laugh. "I tell Nick every night that I wish I would have had this opportunity when I was in high school. I know I went on and played in the major leagues and all, but at this age this is going to be some of the most fun that you'll ever have in your life.
"Perfect Game is awesome, it really is. I wish I would have had a Perfect Game back in 1984."
The elder Shumpert's enthusiasm for the Marucci Elite team his son plays for and the Perfect Game events Nick has been able to attend has proved contagious.
"Terry is like a big kid," Raley said with a smile. "He really enjoys being out there and he always wants to throw BP and he gets those guys rockin' and rollin'. His resume speaks for itself, and those guys know he played a long time in the big leagues and they listen to him."
Terry Shumpert said the young players are very receptive any advice or instruction he has to offer. He's also glad that his son is coming of age as a ballplayer surrounded by people like Raley and the top prospects that populate the Marucci Elite rosters.
"Not only does Chad bring in the top talent from all around, but I tell Nick that I'm glad these are the kids who are going to be influencing him with peer-pressure and all that stuff," Terry said. "They're all good kids and when I talk to them, they're looking me right in the mouth. They're waiting to hear what's going to come out of my mouth."
Terry Shumpert has also been eager to spread the word about Perfect Game. PG made its first foray into Colorado with the inaugural Rocky Mountain Showcase at Cherry Creek High School in Aurora over the Memorial Day weekend, and Shumpert is helping to build a base of support.
"I tell all the parents back in Colorado ... you have to get to a Perfect Game event because if your kid is something, he's going to get a scholarship," he said. "Nick tells his friends back home (about his PG experiences) ... and Nick is like me -- when I showed up at a game I wanted to see (the scouts) there."
In the meantime, there's a tournament to win, or perhaps more accurately, two more tournaments to win. Marucci Elite is also the defending champion at upcoming PG WWBA World Championship. Raley said about 70 percent of the guys on this roster had played for Marucci in previous tournaments and were familiar with one another; the others are working on getting acclimated in a hurry.
"These guys seem to all like each other and they all seem to have a common goal of focusing on winning this thing," Raley said. "Anytime you run into a good pitcher or somebody that's got the hot-hand, they can knockout. Hopefully we can keep things rolling and go up there with some focus and have some good ABs and have the pitchers throw strikes and play defense, and if that happens I fully expect to be here the last day."