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2/26/2011 4:46:17 PM

Posts: 23
Each weekend the coordinators of our High School coverage will sit down and go in-depth on 3 topics here on the HS Forum. Feel free to join the discussion below.

Leading off:
The PG National Top 50 rankings were unveiled yesterday. Obviously, every team that made the list is very talented, but what about the teams that just missed? Which one was the most difficult to leave off?

Todd Gold: Narrowing the list to 50 teams was tough, picking just one that was the hardest to leave off isn't any easier. There were several teams that I think we are going to look back on at the end of the year and wonder how we didn't find a way to get them into the top 50 to start the season.

The one that I'm most interested in is Westview (OR). On paper, they look to be the top team in their state. It’s difficult to know at this point how they would fare against some of the teams at the top of the rankings, like St. Francis (Mt. View, CA) a few hundred miles down the coast. But they are certainly a very talented team and have several guys who I am sure that MLB organizations will be watching very closely between now and June. 3B/RHP Carson Kelly is not only the best player in Oregon, but one of the top players in the class of 2012. He's got some talented teammates as well.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Wildcats play their way into the National Rankings at some point this season and they should be even better next year. I am interested to see how they fare against some quality competition from Arizona and Colorado at the Coach Bob National Invitational tournament in March.

Ben Collman: The team that I really had a tough time leaving off was Parkview Baptist (LA). The state is always loaded with talented and underrated players. Parkview has three pitchers that can match up with just anyone in the country in Russell Reynolds, Colin Rodgers, and William Bacon. Reynolds and Rogers are both juniors, and have committed to LSU and Auburn respectively. Reynolds has reportedly been up to 94 this spring, and Rogers is a lefty with great pitchability and offspeed stuff to go along with a 90 mph FB. Bacon is committed to LSU-Eunice and is another very good arm with his FB up to 87.
This is a program that is used to winning, with seven titles since 2002. Another one could be on the way in 2011. Baton Rouge Catholic is our top ranked team in the state but I could see Parkview moving up the rankings as well. How good the offense is will likely determine how far they go, a big early season test will be their game tonight vs. perennial title contender Barbe.

With two weeks of the season in the books (in warm weather states at least), what has been the biggest surprise to you thus far?
BC: My biggest surprise happened this weekend in Sumrall, MS. After going undefeated in 2009 and losing only one game in 2010 the Bobcats lost their season opener Friday when they were beaten by 5-2 by Forest Country Day School in a game that saw Sumrall commit five errors and allow only two hits, both home runs. Saturday, against rival Petal (the defending 6A champion) it looked like Sumrall might lose its second straight game, something that has never happened under head coach Larry Knight, especially after Petal SP Cody Conkle hit a three run home run in the 5th inning to give Petal a 6-4 lead.

But Sumrall came back with three runs in the bottom of the 7th, including a walk-off two-run single by Luke Lowery.

The Bobcats should be commended for an unbelievable stretch of baseball that is envied by every other school in the nation. When it is a surprise that a team loses one game in a season, it truly is a remarkable accomplishment. Saturday, Sumrall showed why they will again be the team to beat in the state, coming back to win a game against one of the top teams in the state against a pitcher that looked like he was in a groove. The outcome of Saturday’s game should make the rematch March 26th even more exciting.

TG: Well, I think the most pleasant surprise to this point has been the caliber of talent I've found out about in Arizona thus far. Coming into the year I was well aware of Hamilton and Horizon and have had a chance to watch some supremely talented players from AZ in Michael Howard (Prescott) and Scott Hoffman (Desert Ridge) at PG tournaments in the past.

As I began talking with coaches and scouts in the area I began to hear about some very good players and teams that I didn't know much about. This is my favorite part of covering high school ball for PG. finding out about prospects that I would've otherwise missed. While I knew that Mountain Pointe had a big time slugger in C/3B Kevin Cron, I didn't realize how good the rest of that team is. This is another team that I had a difficult time leaving off of the top 50. Mountain Pointe has a great website run by their booster club, and they stream their games live on it so I got a chance to catch their 10-5 victory over Boulder Creek yesterday (don’t you just love living in the future?). I came away impressed with the depth of their lineup. They have good hitters throughout the lineup with Jordan Kipper, Anthony Valderama and sophomore Brantley Bell (son of former MLB Gold Glove SS and current assistant coach Jay) to name a few. The Pride have gotten off to a 3-0 start and will have a chance to prove they are for real with road games against a pair of nationally ranked opponents Gilbert (today) and Hamilton on Friday.
I’m not surprised that Mountain Pointe is good, but I’m surprised by how good they are. I expected they would be the fourth best team in Arizona before the season. That may have been giving them too little credit.

Clutch time:
California and Florida were well represented in the pre-season top 50, with 8 and 7 teams making the list respectively. Which of these powerhouse states has better overall talent, in your opinion?

BC: While I will contend that it is very close, Florida looks to have more talent in 2011. The state has the nation’s top ranked team, Gulliver Prep, with seven Miami commits and a loaded roster. Florida also has 13 teams that I looked at closely when compiling my Top 50. American Heritage (which beat Gulliver on Thursday), has an AFLAC All-American in Brandon Sedell, a stud pitcher in Jimmy Nesselt, along with Brandon Lopez, Esteban Puerta, and Brandon Diaz. The Patriots certainly belong in the discussion for Top 5 in the state. Teams like Pace and Flanagan, who won the 5A and 6A titles last year and each return a lot of talent, both get overlooked because the state is so loaded. Every area of the state has a team that would the best team in a lot of states.
Having a top prospect in many states also means you are one of the state’s top teams, not so in Florida. Jose Fernandez, Francisco Lindor, and Javier Baez all look like first round draft picks, but none of their teams are in the state’s top 20. From Miami to Fort Myers to Palm Beach County to Orlando, Tampa, Gainseville, and Jacksonville the state has the top teams and players in the nation.

TG: I can't believe that I'm going to argue AGAINST the talent in Florida, but I simply can't overlook just how extremely good the high school ball in California is. If we were talking SoCal against Florida then I could side with the sunshine state, but when you look all of the great talent in the rest of the state as well, it has to be the top state. We included eight California teams in the National Top 50 rankings, but there are at least 20 exceptionally talented squads that I have my eye on. One team that I am very interested in seeing is El Dorado. This team has two elite prospects on it in Jr LHP Kyle Twomey and sophomore RHP/SS Chris Rivera (#1 ranked player in class of 2013). It will be interesting to see how far a team with such young talent can go. If they don’t make a deep run this year, they will be in prime position to do so next year. A great example of how deep California is would be the pitching staff of Mission Viejo. Kieran Lovegrove (62nd ranked player in class of 2012) didn’t even pitch for the varsity team as a sophomore last year, in most states he could have been the varsity ace as a freshman. This is a state where coaches leave college jobs to coach high school programs and future big leaguers actually see time on JV rosters.
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