MARIETTA, Ga. - Over the course of the 2013 17u WWBA National Championship, scouts have been drawn to the Houston Banditos 17u Black, and for good reason. The Banditos already have 15 Division I commits and one junior college commit.
The Banditos Black are 3-0 in the tournament, but their latest win was a nail biter, coming down to the bottom of the seventh inning. The Banditos tied the Indiana Mustangs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a 380-foot double off the bat of Jake Jarvis that plated Justin Twine. After a walk to start the bottom of the seventh followed by a base hit bunt, Scott Manea hit a fly ball to right-center that brought in the winning run.
“It was a crazy game,” said Banditos centerfielder, Stone Garrett. “We had John Henry on the mound and he threw some pretty good innings and had a lot of good clutch strikeouts. Then we brought in Brigham Hill and he shut ‘em down pretty much. Then we had to come back again, like we did last night.”
The previous night the Banditos fell behind early to the Mountain Expos, 5-0, before rallying to score eight runs in the fifth inning to win, 11-5.
“I can’t be doing this every game,” joked Banditos coach, Ray DeLeon. “It’s a heart attack coming back for the win two games in a row. All it takes is one good pitcher to mess up your tournament. He kept us off-speed. He threw a lot of ground balls and he pitched his butt off. When you hit one day, you think you’re gonna hit the next and you don’t. It’s baseball, you don’t know.”
Watching a team full of D-1 commits gives you that strong feeling that no matter how many runs they may fall behind by, a team of this caliber always has a fighting chance to comeback. Garrett explained that playing on such a talented team brings so many benefits to everyone on that team.
“It makes you wanna be a better baseball player and better teammate,” Garrett said. “You can get better incite on things that you never learned about the game, cause you learn something new everyday.”
“It’s awesome. This is what I look forward to every year,” Jarvis added. High school’s fun and all, but this is what I look forward to is coming out here and playing with all the best players.”
“It’s great. It brings in scouts and everybody gets looked at,” added Twine, the Banditos shortstop.
DeLeon feels privileged to have been given the opportunity to coach such a talented and reputable program.
“It’s always a pleasure. It’s always good to reload every year and every year is different,” DeLeon said. “It’s just flattering for an organization like Marucci and the Evoshield Canes and us to keep reloading every year. It says a lot about our programs and how far we’ve come over the last few years.”
Since being established in 1996, the Banditos Baseball Club has won 63 National titles, including last year’s 2012 17u WWBA National Championship. Numerous players have gone on to play at the collegiate and professional level, including Kohl Stewart and Courtney Hawkins who were early first round picks in the 2013 and 2012 MLB drafts respectively.
This year’s team features future stars Stone Garrett, Jake Jarvis, and Justin Twine. All three are highly ranked nationally and were present at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis.
Twine hails from the small Texas town of Hemphill. He comes from a small AA school and DeLeon said that Twine is still learning the game, despite his incredible ability, and he was named the MVP of the inaugural Perfect Game 16u World Series in 2012. The shortstop, ranked 56th nationally for the 2014 class, looked back at the National Showcase as one of his more memorable baseball experiences of his career so far.
“There was excellent competition out there,” said Twine. “I got to face some 90-plus and I don’t really get to see too much of that in high school, so it was good to see that.”
Garrett, like Twine, also went to the National hoping to prove to scouts he is worth the consideration. The 52nd ranked prospect achieved his goals at National, dropping his 60-yard dash time from 6.77-seconds to 6.47-seconds. Garrett, who is 5-for-10 in the tournament, previously attended the Junior National Showcase, but this was a whole new ball game.
“I think I faced Dylan Cease my first at-bat and he was up to 96 mph,” recalled Garrett. “It was awesome catching up with friends that you met during the Junior National and through the summer circuit, and now you meet more friends that you see out here everyday.”
The fleet-footed outfielder wants to show scouts all summer that he is stronger and better than ever before, physically and mentally. DeLeon will back him up on that claim.
“God chiseled that guy. When God found him He chiseled him,” said DeLeon, also praising Garrett as a person. “Stone, I told him if one day he doesn’t make it in baseball he needs to move to Hollywood. That dude’s got the best personality.”
Garrett, who committed to Rice University in Houston, Texas, is excited to see what his baseball future holds.
Jake Jarvis, ranked 102nd nationally, came up with the clutch double in the win against the Indiana Mustangs, which DeLeon is accustomed to witnessing.
“He plays above his size,” said DeLeon. “He throws 90 mph and he clutches up.”
“All three of them are just great student-athletes,” DeLeon added. “They’re great kids and they’re great leaders, no question, and we feed off them.”
The three leaders stand out on a roster that is full of players committed to highly touted college baseball programs. Deleon, who for years has been a coach in the Banditos program, has seen many of his players take their game to the next level and he offers great advice.
“You go where you’re wanted,” said DeLeon. “Find the best fit for you where you’re gonna step in and play. It’s all about playing time.”
The Houston Banditos 17u Black tend to see plenty of playing time, habitually going deep into tournaments like this, impressing scouts and playing a level above everyone else. This year's 17u WWBA National Championship bodes well again for this Texas team.