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Showcase | Story | 6/19/2015

PG National Day 3 Recap

Jeff Dahn         Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

Dillard keeps all hands on deck (Thomas Dillard feature)

The King of the PG National

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Charles King is your typical tall Texan who tends to deliver his words in the same rapid-fire succession that he launches his low-90s mph fastball, and low-80s changeup and slider.

The enthusiasm the long drink of water shows while both playing the game and talking about it is contagious, and can make the most staid bystanders realize how lucky they are to be a part of the Perfect Game National Showcase. If you can’t get excited listening to King talk about all things baseball, there isn’t anything pounding out a steady back-beat inside your chest.

King is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander from the Dallas suburb of Coppell who is the No. 1-ranked overall prospect and No. 1-ranked right-handed pitcher in Texas’ prep class of 2016 (he is ranked No. 13/No. 4 nationally). He went out on the mound at JetBlue Park Friday morning and came through with two strong innings, showing the hundreds of scouts in attendance just what they wanted to see.

With this event, especially with a ton of big arms and a ton of great bats out there, you have to be locked-in and you have to throw every pitch for a strike,” King said of his mindset coming in. “You have to go out there with the mentality that you are here for a reason and you’re just as good as anyone else. You’ve got to go out there and throw your stuff and be yourself … and throw what you throw.”

On Friday morning, King became the latest in what will be a long line of highly ranked 2016 pitchers from across the country who will throw here before the PG National Showcase concludes Monday.

No. 1 Riley Pint (RHP, Lenexa, Kan.), No. 9 Cole Ragans (LHP, Crawfordville, Fla.), No. 19 Todd Peterson (RHP, Lake Mary, Fla.) and No. 20 Kevin Gowdy (RHP, Santa Barbara, Calif.) are among those who had already thrown. No. 4 Jason Groome (LHP, Darnegat, N.J.), No. 6 Jeff Belge (LHP, Syracuse, N.Y.), No. 10 Braxton Garrett (LHP, Florence, Ala.) and No. 16 Reggie Lawson (RHP, Adelento, Calif.) are among those still warming up in the pen.

Each of these prized young prospects – all of whom have signed with a NCAA D-I school – will deal with the pressure to perform in their own way, just like King did Friday morning.

I think I’m more of a Madison Bumgarner, playoff-type pitcher because I love the pressure, I love the eyes on me,” King said, naming the San Francisco Giants’ World Series MVP and alumnus of the 2006 PG National Showcase.

It gets the adrenaline pumping and it helps me lock-in even more – you get that tunnel vision – and you just focus on hitting the mitt and making your pitches; it just makes it that much easier.”

King pitched this spring for a Coppell High School team that finished 25-6 overall after losing 2-of-3 to rival Carroll in the quarterfinals of the Texas Class 6A Region I playoffs; King was 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA and struck out 48 in 38 1/3 innings of work.

He was part of a staff that included senior right-hander Jensen Elliott, an Oklahoma State signee and senior lefty Joseph Goetz, who has signed on with Abilene Christian. Another key cog on the staff was junior right-hander Ray Gaither, a Dallas Baptist commit who is with King at the PG National Showcase this week.

We really feel short of our goal but I feel like we really came together this season; it was a lot better than our last season,” King said. “There is definitely a lot of good talent in our region and it’s tough to play in the area, but that’s the type of competition that helps you get better. There are a lot of good kids out there and you have to work to get better, and it helps you to grow and become a better baseball player.”

The baseball community and culture in and around the Coppell area is one King describes as “close-knit”, and a lot of his high school teammates are also teammates of his with the Dallas Tigers. They’ve been playing together since they were little kids and most have grown into pretty good baseball players, as the college commitments attest.

King calls the years he’s spent with Dallas Tigers “amazing” and praised the work of Tigers’ coaches Tommy Hernandez and Steve Arias. “They’re really nurturing coaches and they make sure you’re doing things the right way and that you’re happy when you’re playing,” he said. “They’ve also been great with getting eyes on their kids and making sure you have the best chance of succeeding whenever you go out on the field.”

There is something else baseball-related that King gets excited about. He has committed to Texas Christian University in nearby Fort Worth and when he wasn’t thinking about the good work that needed to be done at the PG National, he was following the Horned Frogs’ progress at the College World Series in Omaha.

I love my Frogs, but man they’re giving me a heart attack,” King said before TCU was scheduled to play an elimination game against Vanderbilt Friday night. “Hopefully they can keep it going and make something special happen, and win the College World Series. They’ve done it the whole tournament, so why not now?”

TCU was one of the first schools to start talking to King, and initially he told the Horned Frogs’ staff that he was going to look around and take his time. But once he went out and took a look around, in his mind nothing really compared to TCU and he accepted the offer.

I got a real feeling of ‘home’ at TCU,” King said. “I love the coaching staff (and) they really make me feel like I’m going to develop there as a player. I feel like I’m going to win a national championship there – that’s their goal and that’s my goal, too – and they just make me feel like I’m going to become a better baseball player once I get there.”

The 2016 MLB First-Year Draft will have a lot to say about whether or not King ever makes it to TCU. His fate will be decided over the next 11 months as he plays a full tournament schedule with the Dallas Tigers while also taking part in many of the country’s top all-star showcase events.

And every time he goes out to the mound he’ll carry with him the same contagious enthusiasm and excitement for the game he’s shown here the last two days.

You always have to have a standard you put yourself up to when you pitch,” he said. “I have a certain standard that I set for myself when I go out there and I say, ‘I’ve got to do this and this and this’. You’ve got to live up to your own expectations and you can’t worry about what other people think of you.”

Jeff Dahn

Live Streaming

For the fourth consecutive year the Perfect Game National Showcase is available for everyone to watch online. The live stream to all of the workouts, batting practice sessions and games can be accessed in real time here (archives of the events will be added at a later point in time):

PG National Scout Blogs

Read even more about the game-by-game highlights and the workout results from the 2015 Perfect Game National Showcase scout blogs:

National Impressions

Ranked No. 13 in the 2016 class rankings, Texas Christian University Charles King (as featured above) threw two strong innings for the Black team, running his fastball up to 92 mph from a lower arm slot, adding deception to an already quality fastball. Using the lower arm slot helps the 6-foot-5 King generate solid running life to his arm side while showing the ability to locate to both sides of the plate. Along with his big fastball, King has continued to develop his off-speed offerings over the last year. Showing a slider with late life up to 82 mph while down in the zone, King also showed a nice feel for a changeup in the low-80s, maintaining his slot on the pitch.

• Jaren Shelby, an uncommitted outfielder from Lexington, Kentucky, had a strong showing throughout the showcase after throwing 95 mph from the outfield. He showed a simple yet powerful swing from the right side during batting practice and brought that same swing into his in game at-bats. After flicking his wrists on a single two games ago, Shelby stayed balanced through his swing during yesterday’s game and barreled up a hard line drive off the top of the score board for a standup double.

• A very strong and physically built righthander at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, California native Grant Gambrell showed an impressive feel for each of his three pitches during his two innings on the mound. Working comfortably in the low-90s, both from the windup and stretch, peaking at 92 mph with a quick and extended arm action, the Oregon State commit also showed a nice feel for the rest of his arsenal. His changeup showed nice diving life down in the zone in the low-80s and he spun a sharp curveball in the 75-76 mph range, each replicating his arm action on his fastball.

• A two-sport star committed to the University of South Carolina, Brandon McIlwain has continued to impress during the showcase. If you didn’t notice his physically built 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, McIlwain’s tools will catch your attention, running a 4.21 down the line on a ground ball in his first at-bat of the day. In his next at-bat McIlwain squared up a hard triple off the Green Monster showing both his strength and bat speed in his righthanded swing.

• Ryan Zeferjahn has a long and athletic 6-foot-4 build with loose limbs, showing nice athleticism in his delivery. Working from an extended three-quarters arm slot the Kansas native peaked at 92 mph with his fastball multiple times throughout his outing, showing the ability to maintain his velocity throughout. The Kansas commit lived comfortably in the 89-92 mph range and showed the ability to locate well to his glove side. Showing looseness in his arm action, Zeferjahn also showed a slider in the mid-70s with late life down in the zone.

• Anthony Locey came out firing for the Royal team over his two innings of work, hitting 94 mph with his first fastball of the night. Working steadily in the low-90s and still touching 94 in the second inning, Locey showed a full arm action through the backside and did a nice job of working down in the zone very consistently with his fastball. With a strong 6-foot-3, 225-pound build, the Georgia Southern commit generated solid running life to his arm side and showed a nice feel for his curveball up to 77 mph with depth while staying balanced through his delivery.

• Heading south from New Jersey, righthander Tyler Mondile made quite the impression during his outing as he sat at 93 mph with his fastball on nearly every pitch, once climbing to 94 and once hitting 92. Showing a fast and compact arm action in the back the Florida State commit was able to steadily pound downhill at the knees while locating to both sides of the plate with short and late life on the pitch. His curveball was a quality offering up to 83 mph and showed hard, downward depth helping him strike out four in his two innings of work.

• University of Arkansas commit Tyler Benninghoff caught the attention of all the scouts in attendance from last summer’s Junior National Showcase. Back in Fort Myers, the projectable righthander once again impressed in the Sunshine State. It’s hard to turn in a performance stronger than the one turned in by the Kansas native as he struck out all six batters in his two innings of work. Working in the 89-91 mph range, topping out at 92 mph, Benninghoff showed a quick right arm and the ability to generate downhill plane on his heater. The difference maker for Benninghoff though was his big curveball, a pitch that showed big depth in the 77-79 mph range and served as a true swing-and-miss pitch.

Jheremy Brown

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