As part of a four-part series Perfect Game will highlight the top 10 storylines from the 2013 MLB Draft (Patrick Ebert), from Perfect Game's Showcase and Tournament events (Jeff Dahn) as well as those from both College (Kendall Rogers) and High School baseball.
The 2013 high school season featured far fewer injuries to high profile prospects than the 2012 season, making up most of the difference in the depth of the senior classes. Similar to the big league level, scoring was down in many parts of the country, with a larger number of the eye-popping individual performances coming from pitchers.
With the incredibly broad scope of high school baseball, there were numerous storylines that couldn't fit into the Year in Review. Thus the ten that did make the cut were all of huge significance in their local level of competition. The list is by no means comprehensive, but rather a highlight of the biggest and most interesting storylines to emerge from the 2013 season.
Below is a look at the top 10 storylines along with Player of the Year, Game of the Year and Team of the Year selections for the 2013 High School Baseball Season.
10. The Factory continues to produce
San Diego powerhouse Rancho Bernardo has earned the nickname "the factory" for its ability to produce high-level MLB Draft picks over the years. Along the way they've also produced several championship seasons, seven under current head coach Sam Blalock, and 2013 was no exception in either regard.
The San Diego Section of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) introduced the Open Division championship for the first time in 2013. The idea is to take the top teams, regardless of school size classification and put them into one double elimination playoff to determine a champion.
After winning back-to-back Division I championships, reclassification pushed the Broncos down to Division II in 2012 due to new enrollment cutoffs. They were upset in 12 innings in the 2012 championship game, snapping their title streak. With the advent of the Open Division, Rancho Bernardo returned to the top classification of competition in San Diego.
Rancho Bernardo returned to the winner's circle by capturing the first Open Division championship, knocking off nationally ranked Granite Hills in the championship game at the University of San Diego.
On the draft prospect end of production, Rancho Bernardo shipped second baseman Gosuke Katoh to the Yankees in the second round. Katoh was a four-year starter who won three championships, batting .429/.575/.895 out of the leadoff spot this season. Now a senior, catcher Alex Jackson is expected to be selected early in the 2014 draft as well and contributed a .343/.479/.805 slash line with 14 home runs as a junior, including a homer in the championship game.
9. Owasso, Pensacola Catholic run the table
No team in any state's top classification was able to run the table in 2012. In that same season, Oklahoma powerhouse Owasso failed to reach the state championship for just the second time in 16 seasons.
Things returned to a sense of normalcy in 2013, as Owasso returned to the state championship game while going a perfect 36-0 en route to a 6A Oklahoma state championship. The Rams have been one of the most dominant programs of the past decade and a half, not only producing frequent championships, but also have sent three alumni to the Major Leagues since 2007.
Owasso was joined by Pensacola Catholic (Fla.) in the ranks of the unbeaten teams to emerge from competitive divisions, as they went 30-0 to capture the Florida 4A state championship.
8. Ascent of Bickford
Oaks Christian (Calif.) righthander Phil Bickford was considered to be one of the better pitchers in Southern California entering the 2013 season. He was selected for the 2012 Area Code Games and earned a scholarship to NCAA Division I powerhouse Cal State Fullerton. So it would be unfair to say that his dominant season came out of nowhere, but the rate at which he developed over the course of the season was a pleasant surprise.
Bickford found himself 0-1 after his first two starts and had given up five runs. Of course, it bares mention that his loss came to eventual National Champion Harvard-Westlake and his no-decision came in complete game shutout (tie). Even with the context in mind, the start of Bickford's 2013 campaign did not adequately foretell the domination that was to come.
Not only did his fastball command make significant strides throughout the season, but his breaking ball showed remarkable improvement. The results continued to improve throughout the season, and the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship game was the crescendo to his season. Bickford allowed one baserunner all night on a single and struck out 18 in a dominant shutout to deliver the first championship in the Oaks Christian program's history. Later that week Bickford was selected with the 10th overall pick in the MLB Draft.
7. Bishop Gorman (Nev.) dynasty finally comes to an end
Bishop Gorman ran off an incredible string of seven consecutive state championships from 2006-2012. Their run spanned two head coaches, two U.S. presidents and pre-dates the high school career of MLB All-Star Bryce Harper. In fact, Harper's final high school game was a playoff loss to Bishop Gorman in 2009.
Year in and year out the Gaels entered the season with the target on their back and in some years there were whispers that this could be the year that the reign ended. With this in mind, what they accomplished was all the more impressive.
The Gaels' quest for an eighth consecutive Nevada 4A state title got off to a promising start, as they knocked off Coronado in the opening round of the double elimination state championship tournament. The Gaels then cruised into the finals with a 10-1 win over Bonanza and awaited for their opponent to emerge from the loser's bracket.
Coronado emerged and took advantage of their opportunity to avenge not only the tourney opening loss, but also their loss in last year's state championship. Coronado sent their duo of future Division I righthanders Chandler Blanchard (Oregon State) and Dylan Myers (San Diego) to the mound in the championship series and each of them came through to put an end to Gorman's impressive run.
6. Lexington (S.C.) lives up to the hype
The preseason top 50 rankings put a target squarely on the back of Lexington (S.C.) in the state's largest classifcation; AAAA. The Wildcats were the only representative from South Carolina to crack the top 50, and they started the season at No. 13 in the nation.
One early slipup against Conway, whose roster boasts All-American Grant Holmes, was the only blemish the Wildcats had prior to a 1-0 loss in the second round of the National High School Invitational to nationally No. 1 ranked Mater Dei (Calif.).
They would go on to finish the regular season with a 23-4 record while playing a tough in-state schedule and competing in a national level tournament.
Led by senior catcher Nick Ciuffo, an eventual first round pick, they swept their way into the state finals, before finally losing again for the first time in three weeks when they split the first two games of the best-of-three championship series. They would rebound to capture the AAAA championship with a 4-0 win and finished the season as the No. 6 ranked team in the nation.
5. Huntington Beach (Calif.) shocks top ranked Mater Dei (Calif.) in playoff opener
The 32 team CIF
Southern Section Division I tournament is one of the most unpredictable
and difficult postseason tournaments in the nation. The single
elimination format has led to many shocking upsets and even the most
formidable teams can fall victim.
That said, Mater Dei
entered the postseason as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation with a
24-2 record having won elite national and local tournaments as well as a
tough league. They were a veteran team with senior leadership, impact
bats in the middle of the order and pitching depth. On paper, they
looked almost unbeatable.
On paper, their first
round draw of Huntington Beach looked like a mismatch. Huntington Beach
clawed their way into the playoffs with a late surge to post a 14-13
record. They had exactly one senior who saw significant playing time;
number three pitcher Robert Baker.
But games aren't played
on paper, and in spite of their youth Huntington Beach boasted a
talented roster that had learned some hard lessons over the course of
Noah Davis, a UC Santa Barbara commit, got the ball and frustrated Mater
Dei's prospect laden lineup to the tune of one run on three hits, going
the distance as the Oilers pushed across a run in the top of the
seventh to pull the upset. Davis joined the ranks of underclassmen that made a name for themselves by knocking out the No.1 ranked team in the country in the CIF playoffs. Eventual supplemental first round pick Shane Watson joined the club by taking down Edison in the second round as a junior in 2011.
Huntington Beach would
go on to lose in the second round but look to have a bright future over
the next couple of seasons as their young team grows together.
4. Mater Dei (Calif.) defends NHSI title, wins inaugural Boras Classic
The Mater Dei Monarchs entered the season as one of the top ranked teams in the nation, and the high profile Southern California powerhouse had arguably the most difficult schedule of anyone in the country. The Trinity League is typically one of the deepest in Orange County. But the pair of tournaments that the Monarchs compted in featured even more impressive competition.
In 2012 the Monarchs edged out fellow SoCal representative Harvard-Westlake in an all-SoCal championship game at the inaugural National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. Both teams returned to the 16 team field in 2013, the only two programs to do so. The Monarchs won the 2012 title game in extra innings by a final score of 3-2.
Both teams were among the favorites entering the 2013 edition, but with the level of talent and single elimination format, it seemed unlikely that the only two California representatives would meet in the championship for a second consecutive season. But that is exactly what happened, as Mater Dei escaped 1-0 against Lexington (S.C.), in the second round and cruised the rest of the way to the finals. Harvard-Westlake rode back-to-back-to-back shutouts into the championship re-match. Mater Dei would give the Wolverines a taste of their own medicine as lefty Jake Erickson threw a complete game shutout, allowing four hits while striking out eight as the Monarchs successfully defended their NHSI title.
Rather than getting complacent with the impressive tournament victory, the Monarchs carried the momentum with them after they got back to the west coast. Mater Dei went immediately from the NHSI to the inaugural Boras Classic, which featured some of the top teams in California.
Mater Dei held on to win a nail biter in the opener before winning the four remaining games of the tourney by a minimum of six runs each. Their opponents in the Boras Classic included two Division I playoff teams and the Division IV champion. They then cruised to an 8-0 victory over the champion of the northern bracket, Pleasant Grove, to take home the hardware at yet another strong tournament.
The Monarchs would go on to win the Trinity League with a 14-1 record and finished the regular season as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
3. The Woodlands (Texas) finishes what they started
The Woodlands (Texas) couldn't have scripted a better start to the season. They got back-to-back no-hitters from Ryan Burnett and Carter Hope in games four and five of the season. They carried that momentum into the National High School Invitational, where they moved their record to 20-0 before suffering their first loss of the season to No. 1 ranked Mater Dei (Calif.) in the semifinals.
The Woodlands only lost one regular season game in the state of Texas all season and dominated their way through the Region 3 playoffs, going 8-1 and sweeping three of their four series, to earn a trip to the Texas 5A state championship.
They faced a formidable opponent in perennial Dallas area powerhouse Rockwall in the semifinals. After winning the opener, Rockwall responded to win game two and force a deciding third game. The Woodlands pulled out game three to earn a trip to the championship game against fellow Houston area representative Fort Bend Dulles.
Dulles pulled out to a 2-0 early, but the Woodlands answered immediately. The offense, which was led most of the year by sophomore Chris Andritsos, piled up runs early and gave third round pick Carter Hope enough run support to capture the program's third state title of the 21st century.
2. Frazier powers Loganville past Meadows, Grayson in Georgia showdown
There is no question that the head-to-head prospect showdown between eventual top ten draft picks Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows was the biggest such matchup in the country this year. The crosstown matchup of Loganville (Ga.) vs Grayson (Ga.) drew the large and raucous crowd that such a matchup should entice.
With a heavy turnout of scouting directors and crosscheckers among the crowd on hand, it was Clint Frazier who ultimately stole the show. Frazier would break a 3-3 tie with two outs in the fourth inning by blasting a long three-run homer, and followed it up with a second home run later in the game.
Though Meadows didn't make the kind of noise that Frazier did, he had a solid day, drawing a walk and being hit by a pitch, adding a stolen base to an 0-for-1 effort.
What started as a tight game with a playoff atmosphere, ultimately got away from Grayson, as Loganville junior outfielder Logan Mattix hit a walkoff grand slam in the sixth inning to invoke the mercy rule.
1. Venice (Fla.) shuts out PG High School Showdown during dominant season
The state of Georgia has a strong baseball tradition in recent years, but their representatives were no match for Venice (Fla.) in the inaugural PG High School Showdown.
The format of the tournament pitted four teams from Georgia against four teams from Florida, with each team facing every representative from the opposing state in a round-robin format. Venice came into the tournament with a target on their back thanks to their No. 3 national ranking.
Against quality competition that included nationally ranked Parkview (Ga.), Venice threw strikes and made just two errors in four games. The end results was a comfortable 19-0 run differential in their four game run to capture the inaugural PG High School Showdown championship.
After returning to the regular season the Indians would lose for the third and final time of the season before winning their final 11 games and going on to win the Florida 7A state championship. Their run at the PG High School Showdown was preceded by a third place finish at the National High School Invitational, where they went 3-1 with their only loss coming in the semifinals to eventual national champion Harvard-Westlake. Venice would hold the No. 1 ranking in the nation late in the season before finishing the as the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.
Team of Year: Serra, Gardena (CA)
This is an extremely difficult category to choose one winner from. The obvious choice would seem to be the 2013 PG High School National Champion, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.). No. 2 ranked Venice (Fla.) had a very strong resume and had a solid case for the National Championship as well, and undefeated state champions Owasso (Okla.) and Pensacola Catholic (Fla.) would've also made suitable choices.
But ultimately, it was the Serra Cavaliers who captured honors as 2013 Team of the Year. The Cavs entered the season as the No. 11 ranked team in the nation, a ranking that was given prior to the announcement of several key transfers. Those transfers were required to sit out until April 1, their absence combined with the loss of their captain and future first round pick (11th overall) Dominic Smith to a minor shoulder injury caused them to get off to a relatively disappointing 10-5 start.
But after Smith returned to the lineup, and junior outfielder Marcus Wilson and sophomore righthander Solomon Bates joined him on April 1, the Cavs took off. They would go on to win their final 17 games of the season, including a perfect 9-0 in the Del Rey League, and capped it off with a 8-1 win in the CIF Southern Section Division III championship game at Dodger Stadium.
Compared to the overall resume of the four teams that finished the season ranked ahead of them, Serra's 27-5 record and Division III championship doesn't quite stack up on paper, thus precluding them from contention for National Champion consideration. But not only were the Cavs arguably the hottest team in the country when it counted most, but they also had one of the most talented teams in country as well.
Player of the Year (Pitcher): Tyler Danish, RHP, Durant (Fla.)
While there were many deserving candidates, Danish couldn't have done much more for Durant High School. Danish pitched 94 innings last spring, a major accomplishment in itself. But even more impressive, he didn't allow a single earned run the entire season. He struck out 156 hitters and walked 16, and was the biggest reason that Durant reached the Florida 8A state championship. He also had more hits of his own (37) than he allowed (32).
Player of the Year (Position): Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville (GA)
Frazier's 17 home runs were somehow not the most impressive stat of his season. Rather, it's the fact that 53-percent of his hits went for extra bases that stands out about most. He also went 20-for-21 on stolen base attempts and posted a final slash line of .485/.561/1.134.
Game of the Year: Harvard Westlake 1, Marina 0, CIF Southern Section Division I Championship
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) does not attempt to undertake a state championship tournament in baseball. Rather, it breaks the state into seven sections and crowns a champion in each division of each of those sections. The Southern Section, which includes Los Angeles and Orange County, is traditionally the strongest section of all. The CIF Southern Section Division I tournament is considered to be the most difficult to win in the nation, due to the parity created by the depth of quality teams crammed into a single elimination 32 team format.
Harvard-Westlake entered the championship game at Dodger Stadium with a shot at capturing not only the CIF Southern Section championship, but also with the National Championship within their grasp.
Marina had pulled out an exhilarating comeback against perennial Los Angeles powerhouse Loyola in the semifinals, after scoring two runs in the seventh pull out a 6-5 victory. The Vikings were ranked 33rd in the nation and led by senior first baseman Jake Bauers, who hit .538 on the season before being drafted in the seventh round by the Padres.
Harvard-Westlake junior third baseman/right handed pitcher Jack Flaherty had been an impact player on both sides throughout the season for the Wolverines, and he took the ball for the championship game.
While it's his offensive ability that will have pro scouts following his every move next spring, it was Flaherty the staff ace who stepped up for the Wolverines. Flaherty wiggled out of a bases loaded, one out jam in the top of the third inning, before coming through with a two-out RBI single in the bottom half of the inning. Flaherty would end the inning by getting thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on a double deep into the right field corner off the bat of C Arden Pabst, thanks to a strong relay throw by Bauers.
Flaherty would later become the beneficiary of another play at the plate, as Jackson Grayson, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in left field, cut down the potential tying run in the seventh inning, to preserve the 1-0 lead. Flaherty would cap off his complete game shutout with a ground ball to short, finishing the game with three hits allowed and one walk (of the intentional unintentional variety) and struck out eight.
The win moved Harvard-Westlake to 28-4 on the season and gave them their first ever championship in program history.