Tournaments | Story | 7/8/2015

Jones shines for Bandits at 17u

Chris Garcia        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Wednesday marked the final day of pool play and the beginning of many teams’ playoff run at the 17u WWBA National Championship. Some teams will be headed home after today, but it’s not simply about winning in this tournament; it’s about the opportunity to play against the best competition with the maximum amount of exposure.

The Philly Bandits out of Bensalem, Pa., have finished pool play with a 3-3 record in the tournament, which was not good enough to earn them a spot in the playoffs, but they were able to play some meaningful baseball this week. Their final game against the Blue Chip Bulls on the final day of pool play was a good way to cap the week off, as they won convincinly 11-3.

They showed great power, as five of their 11 hits went for extra bases, and there was even a towering home run by Kenny Bergmann at the end of the game. Despite the fact that the Bandits won't advace to the playoffs Head Coach Jon Cross believes that this tournament was great for his team in terms of just gaining great experience by playing against top competition.

The kids played hard and certainly competed,” said Coach Cross after Wednesday's win. “We saw a lot of good pitching and faced D-I arms almost every game. Even the games we lost, we were right into it. Our kids fit in and did well. It’s great when you get to travel around the country to play teams from different states.

Anytime you go to LakePoint, you’re playing under the lights, and the place is buzzing and crawling with scouts; the intensity level does rise. These guys always need to play with intensity every game, but in tournaments like this, it’s easy to get it going.”

This year’s 17u WWBA National Championship has been particularly produtive for some players, as their dreams have been realized by either receiving that coveted scholarship offer or putting themselves in a good position to receive one down the road. The scouts were lurking around at each corner, whether it was at the LakePoint complex or at the local high school fields used, and every single pitch was a chance to make the impression of a lifetime.

For some players that are already committed to their respective schools, the only thing on their mind is winning. It makes things a little easier knowing where you’re going, and it gives you a chance to just play the game and have fun without all the pressure. One player who seemed to do just that is top-notch shortstop, Nolan Jones.

Jones has committed to play baseball at the University of Virginia, who is fresh off winning the College World Series just a couple of weeks ago against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy and Virginia played each other in the Finals last year, with Vandy coming away with the title; but this year Virginia was able to take care of business.

Few were watching those games closer than Jones. With a single mention of UVA Jones lights up. From the campus to the coaches to the exposure, everything about the University of Virginia seems to be a fit for him. He is looking forward to playing with his high school team in the spring to close out his high school career and is ready to do all he can to capture a state championship, but he can’t help but daydream about what it will be like when he finally steps foot on campus.

It was amazing to watch UVA win it this year,” Jones said. “After that first game, I wasn’t so sure how it would go but the guys stayed strong and ended up pulling it out. I can’t wait to get there and help contribute. This spring could be up in the air as to how it goes. We graduated 14 out of 17 guys, and seven of them went D-I, so we’re going to be a little young this year. I’m excited to play alongside those guys, but getting to UVA and starting my career though is going to be awesome.”

Nolan dealt with many offers, seeing as he is ranked among the top 10 shortstop in the country, and put a lot of thought into where he wanted to play ball. At the end of the day, he could not deny the success that Virginia has had recently and feels that going there gives him the best chance at playing winning baseball.

Obviously watching those guys on TV this summer meant a whole lot, but I really think the campus is breathtaking and Coach Mac (Kevin McMullan) and Coach O’Connor are just unreal,” Jones added. “I just couldn’t turn the offer down.”

Jones' time following the College World Series came just before his time spent in Fort Myers, Fla., at this year's National Showcase. There he continued to command the attention of onlooking scouts, displaying his exciting five-tool profile by running a 6.91 60-yard dash, throwing 92 across the infield, 90 mph off the mound while also standing out in the lefthanded batter's box.

His current coach, Coach Cross, the skipper of the Philly Bandits, was thrilled to have Nolan make the trip with them this week, and he feels that he was a huge part of their team this week. Nolan was definitely an integral part of the Bandits' offense, as he batted .500 (7-for-15), scored seven runs and had an on-base percentage of .682, serving as a catalyst atop their lineup.

Nolan had an incredible tournament,” Cross said of his star shortstop. “He’s got an incredible heart, great work ethic and a lot of talent. He had a bullseye on his back and saw a lot of tough at-bats where they would pitch him backwards, but he is a tough guy and he competed all the way through. He’s just a great talent and certainly one of the best in the country.”

Nolan was content with the way that he played as well, and hopes to continue his success as the summer continues. He is the type of player who is never truly satisfied, no matter how well he does. So you can expect him to get right back into the grind when he arrives back home in Pennsylvania.

It’s an awesome experience getting to play against the best players in the country, and it’s cool to see how our team matches up with all these other great teams,” Jones said of his time spent in Georgia. “After this, I’m really going to take it step-by-step and day-by-day to try to improve my skills. Footwork is something I’m always working on, and I’m always trying to get my speed up.

It was a nice tournament, but it’s time to get back to work.”

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