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Tournaments | Story | 1/14/2015

West Valley to host PG MLKs

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

GLENDALE, Ariz. – For the fourth straight January the Valley of the Sun will spread its warm, welcoming arms wide and play host to Perfect Game’s first tournament events of the new calendar year.

The 4th annual 18u, 16u and 14u Perfect Game MLK Championships will be contested Friday through Monday (Jan. 16-19) with the Camelback Ranch Complex – the Cactus League spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox – serving as the base of operations. Games will also be played at six other venues in Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Tempe, Phoenix and Avondale.

With the extended forecast calling for high temperatures in the mid-70s and uninterrupted sunshine throughout the tournaments’ four-day runs, the MLK events provide a welcome winter respite for the many teams that will be coming from colder areas – including teams from Alaska, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Saskatchewan, Canada – while making squads from Hawaii and Southern California feel right home.

Last year’s champions were Team Northwest (18u), CBA Marucci (16u) and Team Phenom (14u). Teams from the elite San Diego Show organization finished as runner-up at all three tournaments.

THE 24 TEAMS COMPRISING THE 18U PG MLK CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD will arrive from 10 states – including those as far away as Hawaii, Massachusetts and Florida – with another coming from Regina, Saskatchewan.

Puyallup, Wash.-based Team Northwest won the 2014 championship and returns this weekend with two teams: Team Northwest 2015 and 2016. Catcher/third baseman and Oregon signee Parker Kelley, a 2014 PG All-American ranked No. 84 (class of 2015) leads Team Northwest 2015; third baseman/right-hander Kenyon Yovan, an Oregon commit ranked No. 124, leads Team Northwest 2016.

The 18u field is absolutely loaded with powerhouse teams, several that were put together specifically for this tournament. Handicappers identify – in no particular order – CBA Marucci (Temecula, Calif.), Dbacks Elite Scout Team (Phoenix), North East Baseball (Ayer, Mass.) and the San Diego Show (San Diego, Calif.) as early front-runners, but at least a dozen teams could realistically challenge.

CBA Marucci, returning with largely the same group that won last year’s 16u PG MLK Championship, submitted a 22-man roster that includes 14 NCAA Division I commitments from the classes of 2016 and 2017, and 10 prospects ranked in the top-73 in one of those two classes.

Leading the way is 2016 outfielder Blake Rutherford, the nation’s No. 3-ranked prospect who has committed to UCLA and was the Most Valuable Player at last year’s 16u PG MLK.

Right-hander/third baseman Reggie Lawson (No. 23, uncommitted); catcher Blake Sabol (No. 36, Southern Cal); right-hander/corner-infielder Dakota Donovan (No. 42, Oregon State); outfielder Josh Stephen (No. 50, Southern Cal); outfielder/left-hander Dominic Fletcher (No. 52, Arkansas); right-hander/first baseman Grant Gambrell (No. 68, Oregon State) and outfielder/first baseman Aaron Greenfield (No. 73, uncommitted) – all 2016s – are also on the CBA Marucci roster.

Donovan was the MV Pitcher at last year’s 16u PG MLK. Top 2017s include shortstop Nick Allen (No. 10, Southern Cal) and Garrett Mitchell (No. 41, UCLA).

The North East Baseball roster is a combination of players from the North East Baseball Rays and Chandler World groups and includes 19 class of 2015 prospects who have signed letters of intent with 17 different D-I schools.

Kansas and New Mexico are the only schools with two signeeson the roster: right-hander Jackson Goodard and shortstop/outfielder Ty Denzer have signed with the Jayhawks, and right-hander Peyton Remy and outfielder Austin Treadwell with the Lobos. PG All-American outfielder Greg Pickett, a Mississippi State signee ranked No. 26, is also with North East.

The Dbacks Elite Scout Team boasts 17 D-I recruits, including six who have committed to/signed with Arizona State in Tempe, and another three that are heading to the University of Arizona in Tucson. The top ASU recruit of the bunch is 2015 Peoria outfielder Tyler Williams, ranked No. 42 nationally; 2016 catcher Logan Boyer, a San Diego State commit ranked No. 121 nationally, should also lift the Dbacks.

The San Diego Show feature 2017 right-hander/first baseman Kyle Hurt, a Southern Cal commit ranked No. 44 in his national class who also intends to play for the Show in the 16u tournament. No. 94-ranked 2017 outfielder/left-hander Matthew Rudick is also on the 18u Show’s roster and plans to play in the 16u event, as well. A pair of Nevada recruits, 2015 outfielder Jonah Davis and 2016 right-hander Preston Price, should contribute to the Show's showing.

THIRTY-TWO TEAMS FROM 10 STATES INCLUDING HAWAII AND ALASKA will contend for the title at the 16u PG MLK Championship, although defending champion CBA Marucci isn’t among them.

There is a defending champion in the field, however. Team Phenom, based in Moreno Valley, Calif., won last year’s 14u PG MLK Championship title and 10 players from that roster are back to contend for the 16u title this weekend.

Six of those 10 were named to the 14u all-tournament team, including 2018 right-hander/corner-infielder Sean Osceola, who was the Most Valuable Pitcher. Osceola and 2017 shortstop/right-hander Diego Alarcon were named all-tournament as both pitchers and position players.

Among the other pre-tournament favorites – and much like the 18u event, there are at least a dozen serious contenders – is hometown favorite AZ T-Rex Baseball Club with its base in Scottsdale, in the East Valley.

The team, with many of the same players that won the 2013 14u PG MLK Championship, is stocked with several top 2017 national prospects, including shortstop/right-hander Boyd Vander Kool from Mesa (No. 93, Oregon commit); shortstop/catcher Jacob Gonzalez from Scottsdale (No. 112); Phoenix right-hander/corner-infielder Matt Schroer (No. 144) and outfielder/first baseman/right-hander Blake Paugh out of Scottsdale.

The Dallas-based Phenom National Team arrives in the desert with three top-140 prospects: 2017 right-hander/first baseman Stephen Keller (No. 26; Huffman, Texas; Louisiana State commit), 2017 shortstop/right-hander Donovan Langston (No. 129; Frisco, Texas) and 2016 right-hander/first baseman Connor Cannon (No. 140, Temecula, Calif.; Oregon).

No. 44-ranked Kyle Hurt and No. 94 Matthew Rudick, both of whom will also be playing in the 18u PG MLK, leads a talented group of 2017s for the San Diego Show. Another is infielder Zach Sehgal from La Jolla, Calif., ranked No. 68 nationally.

NorCal Baseball 2017 is armed with a pair of standout 2017 prospects, both from Petaluman, Calif., and both sophomores at Casa Grande High School: third baseman/shortstop Spencer Torkelson, ranked No. 145 and an Arizona State recruit, and right-hander/outfielder/first baseman Chris Joaquim, ranked No. 195 and a California commit.

Team California Baseball from Carlsbad boasts 2016 U. of San Diego commits in catcher Nathan Walker from Carlsbad (No. 205) and right-hander Jonathan Worley from Worley (top-500). 2017 outfielder Ronald Washington, the nation’s No. 1-ranked overall prospect from Houston who has committed to Texas, will be on hand playing for Corpus Christi, Texas-based Team Citius USA.

BECAUSE OF SO MANY UNKNOWNS, THE 14U PG MLK CHAMPIONSHIP presents the most challenges when it comes to offering informed speculation, and this year is no different. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are not pre-tournament favorites lurking inside the 22-team field, with squads from seven states and Canada.

One such team in the SY Titans out Santa Ynez, Calif., which will arrive in the West Valley carrying a roster that includes four high school freshmen and 10 eight-graders. Many of the players on the roster were members of the SY Titans team that won the 2013 12u NYBC National Championship in Memphis, Tenn.

Coincidentally, perhaps, the team the Titans beat in the 2013 NYBC championship game was BPA DeMarini, which has two teams entered in the 14u PG MLK Championship this weekend; both BPA DeMarini Elite and BPA DeMarini should be contenders.

Hometown favorite Sandlot Baseball Arizona out of Phoenix are expected to make a strong run, as should visitors LVR (Las Vegas Recruits) from Las Vegas, Nev., and Team Michigan out of Rochester Hills, Mich.

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