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Tournaments | Story | 6/29/2015

Scorpions prepare for greatness

Chris Garcia        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – While the 2015 18u WWBA National Championship tournament is well under way, there are some 17u teams that have made an early appearance at the LakePoint complex in Emerson to compete in the 17u PG WWBA Elite Round Robin. With the 2015 17u WWBA National Championship right around the corner, this event is the perfect opportunity to fine tune their skills before the big tournament next week.

Although this is a tune-up event, extremely talented teams have decided to make the trip early to show their stuff, and they are not disappointing.

The Orlando Scorpions Prime are one of those talented teams, carrying a roster with 17 Division I commitments. They captured the 17u WWBA National Championship in 2013 and are hoping to do the same in 2015, and this set of round robin games should prove to serve them well heading into this year’s competition.

The Scorpions hoped to have their offense and defense firing on all cylinders in their first game of the Elite Round Robin. Their first opponent would be Team Rawlings PSA, who looked to be quite formidable throughout most of the game. The offense for both teams rarely made an appearance, and the game would be won by magnificent pitching.

Both starters came out guns blazing and from the start you could tell it would be a pitcher’s duel, but the style of pitching contrasted greatly between both teams. On one side, you had the Scorpions’ Tyler Baum, a North Carolina commit, throwing in the low-90s, and even getting it up to 93 a few times. On the other, you had Team Rawlings’ starter, Jarrett Carden, who sat in the 70s, but possessed a low three-quarters arm slot that allowed added movement on his pitches to compensate for the lack of high-end velocity.

Both pitchers were extremely competitive throughout the early innings, and were very impressive. Carden did what he could with what he had, but Baum was absolutely overpowering through the three innings that he pitched, and racked up eight strikeouts, allowing zero hits. Baum had easy flowing mechanics that made his blazing fastball look effortless, but he was not the only one who could get it up in the low-90s.

The next two relievers for the Scorpions also threw absolute gas, and did their part in this game to earn the win against Team Rawlings. The three Scorpions pitchers would almost combine for a no-hitter, but it was broken up in the last inning with two outs. That would be the only hit that Team Rawlings would have on the day.

Even though the pitching was fantastic, there were a few bright moments at the dish for the Scorpions. Leading the way was talented Florida State commit, Drew Mendoza. Mendoza provided most of the offense for the Scorpions, as he came in to score two runs in this low scoring affair.

The first run came in the second inning, when he hit a scorching line drive down the first base line for a single. He then showed that he had speed to match his fantastic approach at the plate, and stole second base. He would eventually come into score on an error. Later he would draw a walk, showing great patience, and then come into score off of timely hitting by the Scorpions. There were a few spurts of offense later in the game, and the Scorpions would come out with the win by a score of 4-0.

Today I wanted to just see balls around the zone, and square the ball up,” Mendoza said after the game. “Let the ball get deep, and not get out on my front foot. In this Round Robin, we definitely want to have fun, and this is a game, and we always want to treat it as a game. But at the end of the day, its business, and we’re trying to win a national championship.”

Mendoza is one of the most elite players in the country and is ranked as the fourth best shortstop in the class of 2016. Mendoza is a very well-rounded ballplayer and can contribute from all aspects of the game; he can even get it up to 91 mph on the mound.

Mendoza had a fantastic showing at the Junior National Showcase a year ago, and was honored to be invited to the PG National Showcase for upperclassmen this summer. Unfortunately, Mendoza’s time at the National Showcase was cut short due to a wrist injury, but taking that time off was necessary to achieve the overall goal of helping his team try to win the 2015 17u WWBA National Championship here in about a week.

He is also hoping to receive an invite to the 2015 Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park in the next few weeks, and would be thrilled to match up against the best amateur baseball players in the country if given the opportunity.

Being selected to the All-American Classic would be everything,” Mendoza exclaimed. “Growing up and playing in PG events from the age of 14, that’s the No. 1 goal, to be an All-American.”

Mendoza is relishing his time here this week, and is happy to be playing summer ball on a team that he has been playing on since he was 14. He is looking forward to what the rest of this summer holds, and a bright future lies ahead of him. Mendoza is eager to help his high school team play winning baseball in his final year before shipping off to Florida State, but he can’t wait to step on campus and take part in a championship run with the university that he has been around his entire life.

I had some other schools that I was looking at, but both my parents graduated from Florida State, and I grew up around there, so that’s where I always wanted to go,” Mendoza said of his commitment. “I’ve always felt comfortable with that coaching staff, and the decision was an easy one to make.”

Head Coach of the Scorpions, Matt Gerber, has been coaching Drew Mendoza since he was 14 and they have a very close relationship. He feels that it has been a pleasure to watch Mendoza grow up and become the man and ball player that he is today.

I’ve been able to see Drew grow up, and he’s obviously a special player and very talented,” Coach Gerber said of his star infielder. “Drew is a leader on this team, and is a guy that has played up with older guys in the past, and now it’s his deal to take hold of the team. He is a quiet leader, but a great kid.”

As the 2015 WWBA Elite Round Robin continues, the Scorpions hope to keep racking up wins and build some momentum heading into the 17u WWBA National Championship that kicks off on Friday at LakePoint. Will they bring the trophy back home, and will this Round Robin provide the preparation that they need coming into one of the biggest competitions of the summer?

Follow this special Orlando Scorpions Prime team and find out.

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