Tournaments : : Story
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Year in Review: PG Events

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

2015 Year in Review: College | MLB Draft | High School

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – If the 2015 Perfect Game event schedule could be referred to in terms of the annual grain harvest, it could only be described as a bin-buster.

There were more than 90 traditional PG tournaments nationwide – including play in PG WWBA, PG BCS and PG World Series – and another 300 in the PG Super25. Additionally, thousands of players participated in at least one of the 52 PG showcases on the calendar, including 10 national events.

Those tournaments and showcases produced more sparkling team and individual performances than there are bushels of corn in 400 acres of Iowa farmland, so suffice it to say that what follows is just very small sampling – a couple of kernels, if you will – of the highlights from 2015.

No. 10: PG Super25 crowns 7 national champions

The Perfect Game Super25 tournament series recognized seven national champions at the conclusion of its second year of operation, and will look to move steadily forward in 2016 under the guidance of new PG Super25 National Director Bob Barth.

The majority of the teams competing in the tournament series are from states east of the Rocky Mountains but that does not diminish what these national champions achieved. By age group, the champions crowned were:

16u Super25: Tri-State Arsenal (New Jersey); 15u Super25: 643 DP Cougars (Georgia); 14u Super25: East Cobb Astros 14u (Georgia); 12u Super25: Banditos 12u (Texas); 11u Super25: BC Phenom (New Jersey); 10u Super25: 643 DP Cougars (Georgia); 9u PG Super25: Elite Gamers Garner (Georgia).

A team’s performance at the 12u PG Super25 National Championship played July 16-21 at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., was key to where that team finished in PG’s Final 12u Summer Travel Team Rankings released Dec. 9.

The champion Banditos 12u (Tomball, Texas) finished No. 1 in the final rankings, the runner-up East Cobb Astros 12u were at No. 3 and third-place finishers Dulins Dodgers (Cordova, Tenn.) and Indiana Baseball Club (Westfield, Ind.) came in at Nos. 4 and 7, respectively.

No. 9: EC Astros, Warriors BCM earn top-spots in 15u, 14u

In late July, the storied East Cobb Astros program won its fourth 15u PG WWBA National Championship since 2007 and third since 2011. That championship, coupled with a runner-up finish at the 15u PG BCS Finals and a playoff berth at the 16u PG WWBA National Championship, was more than enough to allow the Astros to settle comfortably into the No. 1 spot in the final PG 15u Summer Travel Team Rankings.

It was a different story on the 14u side of things where the new-to-the-party Warriors Baseball Club of Michigan took home PG national championships at both the 14u PG BCS Finals and the 14u PG World Series. Those outcomes enabled the Warriors to wrestle the No. 1 ranking away from the traditionally strong No. 2 Houston Banditos, winners of the PG WWBA Freshmen World Championship.

The Marietta, Ga.-based East Cobb Astros, under the direction of long-time head coach Dennis Jordan, battled head-to-head with its Georgia neighbor Chain National (see below) all summer. The Astros beat the Chain Gang, 9-0, in the 15u PG WWBA championship game on July 24 in Cartersville, Ga., after losing to them, 5-4, in the championship game at the 15u PG BCS Finals in Fort Myers, Fla., a month earlier.

The Astros’ 2018 catcher/both-handed pitcher Anthony Siegler was a one-man tsunami at the 15u PG WWBA, slashing .414/.441/.655 with four doubles, a home run, nine RBI and six runs scored at the plate. He made four appearances on the mound and went 2-0 for the 11-0-0 Astros, and allowed no runs on four hits while striking out 11 and walking four in 14 2/3 innings of work.

The ambidextrous Siegler worked four innings right-handed in a semifinal round victory, and then made his way through the entire five-inning championship game using both his right and left arms. He pitched a two-hit shutout and was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI in the title game.

“Siegler’s performance was big for us today,” Jordan told PG after the championship game. “If I have one way to describe him, he is a gritty gym rat. He does everything really well – throws and hits both ways – and just competes.” Siegler and 2018 shortstop/outfielder/right-hander Hudson Haskin were named to the all-tournament team as both hitters and pitchers.

Head coach Brian Kalczynski brought an upperclass team playing under the Midwest Elite Baseball banner to Fort Myers in 2013 and 2014 and it promptly won the championships at the 17u PG BCS Finals and 18u PG BCS Finals in those back-to-back years.

In 2015, Kalczynski brought this Warriors Baseball Club of Michigan 14u team that calls Oakland County, Mich., home to Fort Myers for the 14u PG BCS Finals and then took them to Cartersville, Ga., for the 14u PG World Series. And darned if the kids didn’t return to Michigan with PG national championship trophies and rings from both events.

“This is the greatest feeling,” Kalczynski told PG after the WBCM won the 14u PGWS championship. “We won down in Fort Myers at the BCS and I didn’t think it could get any better, but you come down to (PG Park South at LakePoint) and it gets even better. ... We finished 29-3 on the season and with this win to end the summer it shows that if you play with sound baseball fundamentals, great things can happen.”

The Warriors finished 9-0-0 in Fort Myers after posting a 7-4 victory over Team Elite Prime 14u in the championship game at City of Palms Park. 2018 right-hander/outfielder Reese Trahey was named the 14u PG BCS Finals’ MV Pitcher after giving up two earned runs in 11 innings of work (1.27 ERA) in a pair of appearances, allowing eight hits while striking out 10 and walking none; he also posted a .346/.452/.462 slash-line with three doubles, three RBI and nine runs scored.

At LakePoint, the Warriors finished 6-1-0 in the 14u PGWS double-elimination format. They lost their second pool-play game and then rattled off five straight wins, including a 14-9 victory over Phenom Signature in the championship game. 2018 right-hander/outfielder/infielder Mac Menard allowed one earned run on seven hits in 10 innings of work (0.70 ERA) and was named the MV Pitcher.

No. 8: Georgia’s Chain National wins 16u, 15u PG BCS Finals

The Warner Robins, Ga.-based Chain National program opened eyes in consecutive weeks in late June with teams winning 15u and 16u PG BCS Finals national championships in Fort Myers, Fla.

Chain National 15u also finished as runner-up at the 15u PG WWBA National Championship in Cartersville, Ga., in late July and finished No. 2 in the Final 15u Summer Travel Team Rankings behind the No. 1 East Cobb Astros 15u.

The 15u BCS Finals championship game victory over the Astros was a tense, 5-4 affair and capped a perfect 9-0-0 title run for the Nationals. They were lifted to the PG national championship behind the play of 2018 switch-hitting right-handed pitcher William Bowdoin who in four appearances finished 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA (one earned run in 14 innings over six days) with 26 strikeouts and one walk, and was named the Most Valuable Pitcher; he hit .438 (7-for-16) with two doubles, a triple four RBI and three runs scored.

“This has been amazing; it’s been a great experience,” Bowdoin told PG after the championship game. “I love coming down here and playing baseball … (and) I felt confident every time I went out there. We’re hard-workers and we do the little things right; that’s what wins ballgames for us, the little things.”

Chain National 15u third baseman/outfielder Beau Walters was named the MV Player after batting 8-for-20 (.400) with three home runs, a double, nine RBI and six runs scored with a 1.471 OPS.

Anthony Locey
A month later, Chain National finished 10-1-0 at the 15u PG WWBA National Championship after its loss to the East Cobb Astros in the championship game. Bowdoin earned his second MV Pitcher award of the summer after striking out 15 without issuing a walk over 11 shutout innings in two appearances.

A week after Chain National 15u won its PG BCS Finals championship, the Chain National 16u rolled into Fort Myers and followed suit. This Chain Gang earned the 16u PG BCS Finals’ No. 1 seed and finished 9-0-0 after beating Team Elite Pride 16u, 2-0, in the championship game.

2017 left-hander D.L. Hall, a Florida State commit from Warner Robins, delivered a complete-game, four-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and one walk in the title tilt, his second win of the tournament. He threw 11 innings over his two starts and allowed one earned run (0.64 ERA) on seven hits with 17 strikeouts and five walks.

2016 right-hander Anthony Locey, a Georgia signee from Columbus, Ga., and 2017 righty Zack Brockman from Savannah, Ga., also went 2-0 in two starts during the six-day event. Locey, a Perfect Game All-American, allowed six hits over 11 shutout innings with 15 strikeouts and one walk and produced an event-record 96 mph fastball. Brockman pitched 12 shutout innings and surrendered just four hits while striking out 10 and walking two.

The three combined to finish 6-0, having allowed just one earned run in 34 innings (0.21 ERA) on 17 hits with 42 strikeouts and eight walks, and shared the MV Pitcher Award.

“This is the best experience I’ve had in a while,” Brockman said. “We always seemed to find a timely hit and we always rallied to put stuff together. When there’s pressure, you’ve just got to bear-down and find a way to do it, and I had good command with my fastball.”

Chain National 16u advanced to the playoffs at both the 16u PG WWBA National Championship and the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship and were No. 5 in the final PG 16u Summer Travel Team Rankings.

No. 7: Championship efforts set top-5 in final 16u rankings

Championships won at PG WWBA, PG World Series, PG BCS and PG/EvoShield tournaments helped determine which elite team occupied specific spots in the top-5 of the final PG 16u Summer Travel Team Rankings.

The Tri-State Arsenal out of Voorhees, N.J., rose to the No. 1 position thanks to titles won at the 16u PG WWBA National Championship and the 16u PG Super25 National Championship, along with playoff berths at the 16u PG World Series and the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship. Orlando, Fla.-based FTB Black settled-in at No. 2 thanks to a championship at the PG WWBA Underclass World.

CBA Marucci from Temecula, Calif., won championships at the both the PG/EvoShield Underclass National Championship and at the PG California Underclass World Series and reached the playoffs at the 16u PG WWBA and rose to No. 3 in the rankings. The No. 4 Dallas Tigers out of Coppell, Texas, won the 16u PG World Series championship; No. 5 Chain National from Warner Robins, Ga., was the 16u PG BCS Finals champion and earned playoff berths at the 16u PG WWBA and PG WWBA Underclass World (see above).

After outscoring seven pool-play opponents by a combined 78-5 and winning its first playoff game by an 11-0 score, Tri-State Arsenal Showcase 1 had to really work to earn the title at the 16u PG WWBA at PG Park South-LakePoint in Cartersville, Ga. It won four straight one-run playoff games the rest of the way, including a 6-5 win over 643 DP Cougars Sterling, rallying from a 5-1, seventh inning deficit; the Arsenal finished 12-0-0.

Tri-State 2016 right-hander/middle-infielder Tim Miller and 2017 third baseman Davis Schneider were named co-Most Valuable Players; 2017 righty Zachary Dreznin was a co-MV Pitcher.

“These guys are too dumb to know when they’re beat,” Tri-State head coach Joe Barth told PG when asked about the Arsenal’s nail-biting championship run. “’Moxie’ doesn’t even describe what these guys have when you come back from four runs down in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs. It’s just incredible but they’ve been that kind of team all year.”

FTB Black scored a tie-breaking run in the bottom of the sixth inning and held on for a thrilling 3-2 win over the Scorpions 2017 Prime in the championship game at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship at the JetBlue Park Player Development Complex in early October. FTB 17u outfielder Oraj Anu was named the MV Player and 2017 left-hander Logan Allen the MV Pitcher.

The CBA Marucci Underclass team was loaded with standout 2017 prospects and beat BPA DeMarini Elite in the championship game at the PG/EvoShield Underclass National Championship in Glendale, Ariz., and the Southern California Bombers Underclass in the title tilt at the PG California World Series Underclass-Pacific event in Fresno, Calif.

Top 2017s Tyler Freeman and Johnny Kuhn Jr. were the co-MV Player and co-MV Pitcher at the PG/EvoShield Underclass while fellow top 2017s Donta Williams and Sean Ross were the MV Player and MV Pitcher the PGCWS Under.

The 16u PG World Series was played at Perfect Game Park South-LakePoint the last week of July and the Dallas Tigers grabbed the championship after beating the Dirtbags twice in back-to-back semifinal games (the PGWS use a double-elimination format). 2017 left-hander/utility Elijah Davis was named the MV Player.

No. 6: Position players rule the roost at 9th Jr. National Showcase

At the conclusion of this year’s PG Junior National Showcase held June 14-16 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., a team of PG national scouting directors released a Top Prospect List that was unusually top-heavy with position players.

Five of the top-seven class of 2017 prospects named to the list were not primary pitchers: No. 1 first baseman Alejandro Toral, No. 2 outfielder Kyle Jacobson, No. 3 shortstop Mark Vientos, No. 4 outfielder Jordan Adell and No. 7 outfielder Austin Beck. Toral is also the No. 1-ranked overall prospect in the 2017 class, while Jacobson, Vientos, Adell and Beck come in at Nos. 9, 6, 10 and 19, respectively.

“I’m so excited because these Perfect Game events are so amazing,” Toral, a U. of Miami commit from Davie, Fla., said during his stay at JetBlue Park, the impressive spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. “Especially here in this stadium, I’m really excited to go out there and play with a bunch of great ballplayers from all over the country. I just like the atmosphere and the players are obviously the (most) top-notch in the country.”

Adell, who is from Louisville, Ky., and has committed to the U. of Louisville, set an event record with a 97 mph throw from the outfield and delivered a 90 mph fastball; he also ran an event-best 6.47-second 60-yard dash.

“I’ve been feeling really good and I feel like I’ve been playing really loose and I’m not really tensed up,” he said after his workout session. “I’m going out there and playing the game and that’s the way I go about it. That’s the mindset I have when I go out there.”

The Nos. 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 top 2017 prospects at the Jr. National were all pitchers: left-hander D.L. Hall and righties Kyle Hurt, Nicholas Storz, Trent Vietmeier and Joe Lancelllotti. Nationally, those players are ranked Nos. 7, 11, 29, 71 and 31, respectively.

Storz, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound right-hander from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has committed to Louisiana State, saw his fastball sit 87-90 mph and top-off at 91 at the Jr. National, and complemented it with a sharp slider; he made the most of the experience.

“It’s just the strength of the competition that comes to this and it’s really good to see where you stand in the country,” Storz said of the event’s appeal. “It’s good to see what players are out there and how they compete. It’s really great to come out here and try to get better, and this showcase can really help you do that.”

Six of the seven class of 2018 athletes named to the Top Prospect List were also position players, including No. 1 second baseman Alec Sanchez (ranked No. 9 nationally.) The only 2019 cited was third baseman Tristan Casas (ranked No. 1 nationally.)

No. 5: Scorpions, Patriots, GBG finish in top-5 of 17u Rankings

With their high level of play at 17u PG national championship tournaments throughout the summer and into the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October, the Orlando Scorpions, Dallas Patriots and GBG Marucci organizations cemented their reputations as the nation’s best.

The Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based Orlando Scorpions Prime won the 17u PG World Series and rose to No. 2 in the final 17u Summer Travel Team Rankings. The Plano, Texas-based Dallas Patriots Stout and Los Angeles, Calif.-based GBG Marucci combined for six podium finishes at PG national championship events and rose to Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in the final rankings.

The Scorpions Prime arrived at the 17u PG World Series in Goodyear, Ariz., in late July feeling like they had under-achieved at the 17u PG WWBA National Championship in Cartersville, Ga., earlier in the month when they finished 6-2-0 after a loss in the second-round of the playoffs.

With PG All-Americans Carlos A. Cortes, Drew Mendoza, Tyler Baum and Cole Ragans holding prominent places on the roster, the Scorpions rolled to the championship with a 6-1-0 record – they lost a pool-play game to the Patriots – including a 5-0 win over GBG Marucci in the championship game.

“It’s like a brotherhood. When they put on that jersey it’s like they’re putting on a service uniform,” Scorpions Prime head coach Jesse Marlo said after a championship game played at Goodyear Ballpark in 110-degree heat. “They wear it with pride and they want to represent it, they want to represent their home towns and also the name on the back of the jersey for their families.”

Carlos Cortes
The versatile Cortes, a South Carolina signee from Oviedo, Fla., turned in a slash-line of .429/.480/.952 with a team-high nine hits, including two doubles and three home runs. He also drove in a team-high 10 runs and scored five, and was named the prestigious 20-team event’s Most Valuable Player.

“Winning a championship and winning a (PG 17u) World Series with this group of guys is just phenomenal,” Cortes said. “We’re fighters; we don’t give up (and) we won’t ever give up. This was a great team effort and just a great overall experience.”

Scorpions 2016 right-hander Tobias Myers, a South Florida signee from Winter Haven, Fla., threw a two-hit, 10-strikeout, no-walk, complete-game shutout in a must-win 1-0 pool-play victory over Northwest Baseball and was named the MV Pitcher.

“It’s been great winning this championship,” he said. “We fell short (a couple of weeks ago) in Georgia and we wanted to come here and try to win us a (PG national championship) ring in the final tournament of the summer, and we got it.”

Playing under the Mets Scout Team/Scorpions banner, a beefed-up version of the Scorpions Prime finished 3-1-1 at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October after a second-round playoff loss to, yes, the Dallas Patriots.

The Patriots finished in a third-place tie with CBA Marucci at the 17u PGWS, which came on the heels of a runner-up finish at the 17u PG WWBA National Championship. Three months after the conclusion of the 17u PGWS, the Pats would set-up shop over in Jupiter and record yet another third-place finish to cap an incredible four-year run for a core group of 2016s on the roster. They were a combined 19-5-1 at the 17u PG WWBA, 17u PGWS and PG WWBA World.

The four Texas kids who had been with Dallas Patriots Founder, CEO and 17u head coach Logan Stout since they were 9 years old were premier do-everything, play-everywhere prospect Michael Neustifter, middle-infielder Ryan Cash, left-hander/first baseman/outfielder Jordan Roberts and corner-infielder/right-hander Cody Sturgeon. Neustifter and Cash have signed with Oklahoma State, Roberts and Sturgeon with Arizona State.

Neustifter completed his time with the Patriots as one of the most decorated tournament performers in recent Perfect Game history with 10 all-tournament selections and four Most Valuable Player selections, including at the 2013 15u PG World Series and the 2014 16u PG World Series.

“You see teams that have 25 guys from 25 different states and that’s great and they probably have more talent than us,” Neustifter told PG in late November. “But what sets us apart is that we practice throughout the week, we build team chemistry, and we take huge pride in that because not a lot of teams can do that.”

GBG Marucci followed up its runner-up performance at the 17u PG World Series with third-place finishes at both the PG/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship in Glendale, Ariz., and the PG WWBA World Championship at Jupiter.

The roster consists of a solid core of 2016s that were first brought together when Mike Garciaparra founded the Garciaparra Baseball Group three years ago. Among the leaders were PG All-American shortstop and U. of Washington signee Ben Baird and third baseman and Oregon signee Spencer Steer.

Steer was named to the all-tournament team at the 17u PGWS, PG/Evo Upper and PG WWBA World, while Baird was cited at the PG/Evo Upper and the PG WWBA World. Right-handers Zane Strand and Casey Legumina, and second baseman/utility Kyle Cuellar were named all-tournament at both the 17u PGWS and in Jupiter.

“The main thing with (Mike Garciaparra) is he wants us to play every single pitch like it’s our last; he wants us to be totally in the game,” Baird said during the 17u PGWS. “… It really motivates us when he says, ‘Hey, just give me all you’ve got for 2 hours out there and you can rest afterwards.’ I think that really helps us out and helps us stay in the game.”

No. 4: After early exits, Canes win record 3rd straight Jupiter title

The high bar the EvoShield Canes organization set for itself in 2013 and 2014 – Canes’ teams won three Perfect Game national championships in 2013 and two more in 2014 – proved to be out of reach in two of the most prominent 17u events on the 2015 PG summer tournament calendar.

The proud organization’s top 17u team, the one which usually had at least six PG All-Americans on its national roster at any given event, failed to reach the playoffs at both the 17u PG WWBA National Championship and the 17u PG World Series and at times looked as if it couldn’t find its rear-end with both hands.

But that all changed when it mattered most, when more eyes would be on the Canes’ performance than on any other national change, and when – most notably – the Fredericksburg, Va.-based EvoShield Canes were presented with the opportunity to make history.

On Oct. 26, at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., the EvoShield Canes overwhelmed Team EvoShield – the organization’s premier underclass team – by a 9-0 count in a championship game shortened to five innings by the PG tournament run-rule, and won their unprecedented third straight title at the prestigious PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. That title alone was enough for the Canes to finish No. 3 in the PG 17u Final Summer Travel Team Rankings.

The championship seemed to erase a little bit of the frustration EvoShield Canes President & CEO and 17u head coach Jeff Petty felt after the team failed to meet its own lofty expectations at the two summertime tournaments.

“We started to doubt ourselves a little bit but we just tried to stay focused and take it one game at a time,” Petty said after the title game at Roger Dean. “I just couldn’t be any more proud of our players.”

The Canes’ roster was built to win the Jupiter event, the country’s most heavily scouted high school baseball tournament with close to 1,000 professional scouts and college coaches in attendance.

Right-hander Matt Manning (Loyola Marymount); shortstop Nicholas Quintana (U. of Arizona); outfielder Avery Tuck (U. of San Diego); third baseman Joe Rizzo (U. of South Carolina); outfielder Khalil Lee (Liberty U.) and middle-infielder Grant Bodison (U. of South Carolina) had all played in the PG All-American Classic in San Diego in mid-August.

The preponderance of talent was what made the lack of playoff berths at the 17u PG WWBA National Championship in Cartersville, Ga., in early July and at the 17u PG World Series in Goodyear, Ariz., in late July so baffling.

The Canes came close at the 17u PG WWBA, winning their first five pool-play games before falling to the Texas Drillers, 5-2, in what amounted to the pool championship. At the 17u PGWS – they had added PG A-A Blake Rutherford to their roster for this event – they missed the playoffs after finishing 2-2 in pool-play, but rallied to win a pair of consolation games and left the desert with a 4-2 mark.

All roads then led to Jupiter and the Canes brought an unflinching “nothing left to lose” attitude to the affair. The California right-hander Manning, who joined the team just for this event, was scheduled to start the Canes’ tournament opener and spoke what was on every player’s mind:

“I don’t really have to be nervous because I have a good team around me,” he said. “This is probably one of the best – if not the best – teams in this tournament so I’m really excited. I like to play with the best and try to improve myself every day, and everyone put here is just really good.”

Led by a 12-man pitching staff that had nothing resembling a weak link, the Canes went 4-0 in pool-play by outscoring their opponents by a combined 24-0. The staff finally allowed a run in a 7-1 win over the Chicago Scouts Association in the playoff opener but followed that up with three straight shutouts in the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games.

On the way to their 8-0-0 finish, the dirty dozen combined to allow one earned run in 50 innings (0.14 ERA) on 15 hits with 68 strikeouts and 14 walks. “When we put this pitching staff together we knew that we wanted to bring 12 guys down here who could throw multiple pitches for strikes, and that’s what they did,” Petty said.

Everyone was good, but it was the 6-foot-6, 185-pound Manning who proved to be the cream of this hybrid crop. He pitched seven one-hit shutout innings in two appearances, striking out 14, walking one and hitting two batters, and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.

The Canes hit .356 as a team and featured six players with at least one plate appearance in all eight games that hit .375 or higher; they averaged more than 6.4 runs per game. 2016 catcher Brandon Martorano (Marlboro, N.J., North Carolina) – 1-for-2 with a triple and a run scored in the championship game – finished 6-for-15 (.400) with two doubles and two triples, and contributed team-highs of seven RBI and a 1.360 OPS; he was named the Most Valuable Player.

“It’s an amazing experience to be able to come down here with this kind of group and just have such a great and successful week,” he said after accepting his award. “I’ve never played with such a great group of guys … and to bring a championship home for Coach Petty and the rest of the staff is pretty special.”

The PG WWBA World runner-up Team EvoShield roster featured a half-dozen class of 2016 prospects, including all-tournament performers E.P. Reese, Phillip Sanderson, Jacob Hennessy and Rafi Vasquez.

But Petty will build the EvoShield Canes team that will shoot for its fourth straight Jupiter title in 2016 around four prospects from the class of 2017 currently ranked in the top-68 nationally: No. 10 outfielder Jordan Adell, No. 20 outfielder JeVon Ward, No. 51 shortstop Noah Campbell and No. 68 right-hander Bayden Root. And, in the EvoShield Canes tradition of excellence, more key components are certain to be added in the quest for next year’s Jupiter four-peat.

No. 3: CBA Marucci wins 17u PG WWBA, earns top spot in 17u Rankings

The seed was planted in January 2014 when a core group of top class of 2016 prospects led by Most Valuable Player Blake Rutherford took California Baseball Academy (CBA) Marucci to the championship at the 16u PG MLK Championship in the west Phoenix suburbs. Ten months later, in October 2014, CBA Marucci and co-MVPs Nick Allen (a 2017) and Cameron Jabara won the inaugural PG California Underclass World Series in Los Angeles, keeping the machine in motion.

Riding that wave of momentum into the 2015 summer and fall seasons, the Temecula, Calif.-based CBA Marucci upperclass team won championships at the 17u PG WWBA National Championship and at the PG/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship; it finished in the final four at the 17u PG World Series while also earning a playoff berth in the prestigious season-ending PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. At the end of the day, it was all good enough for CBA Marucci to finish in the No. 1 position in the PG 17u Final Summer Travel Team Rankings.

“Every time we do something like this or we’re lucky enough to go this deep in a tournament, we pinch ourselves a little bit,” CBA executive director Jon Paino said after this team won the PG/EvoShield Upper title at Goodyear (Ariz.) Ballpark in October. “But with great kids and a phenomenal staff from top-to-bottom, it’s the product of a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication by a lot of people.”

Nick Allen
This CBA Marucci 2016 roster, when intact, was stocked with no fewer than 20 NCAA Division I signees/commits. They included Perfect Game All-American Blake Sabol, a 2016 catcher/outfielder (Southern Cal signee), 2016 outfielder/first baseman Aaron Greenfield (North Carolina) and the slick-fielding, sure-footed and sweet-swinging 2017 shortstop Nick Allen (Southern Cal.)

Top arms included 2016 right-handers Tristan Duncan (Oregon), James Acuna (Oregon), Cameron Jabara (Oregon) and Jordan Chang (Point Loma Nazarene), and 2016 lefty Zack Noll (Oregon). PG All-American right-hander Reggie Lawson (Arizona State) was also on the roster but not always available.

The team’s march to the title at the 17u PG WWBA National Championship in Cartersville, Ga., was impressive by anyone’s standards. It’s 11-0-0 record included a pair of 3-1 victories over nationally respected Elite Squad Prime out of Florida and the Dallas Patriots Stout from Texas in the semifinals and championship game, respectively.

CBA 2016 catcher Nicholas Kahle (Washington) was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after slashing .448/.500/.897 with four doubles, three triples a home run, 11 RBI and five runs scored; Kahle is a U. of Washington signee from Simi Valley, Calif.

“This tournament was really fun,” he said at its conclusion. “That’s the best part, you know, with all the teammates and stuff. You really get to bond. … This tournament had a lot of good teams, and it’s always fun winning. I’m glad we got it done.”

The Maruccis left Georgia and headed to Arizona with a full head of steam and were immediately installed as the favorites at the elite, 20-team 17u PG World Series in Goodyear. They pounded their way through pool-play with four straight victories and when they got past FTB Tucci in a quarterfinal, CBA’s PG national championship tournament win streak had reached 16 games.

The streak ended in the semifinals when it dropped an 8-7 decision to the eventual champion Orlando Scorpions Prime; CBA completed the tournament with a 4-4 tie in the third-place game.

A trip back to the Arizona desert in mid-September saw CBA Marucci 2016 return to its winning ways with a title at the PG/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship. It went 7-0-0 at the event, a record that included identical 7-0 victories over Southern California rivals GBG Marucci Navy and BPA DeMarini Elite in the semifinals and championship game, respectively.

Duncan threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout – with six strikeouts and one walk – at BPA in the championship game and was named the tournament’s MV Pitcher. Allen was nothing short of amazing during an MV Player performance, slashing .450/.500/.550 with two doubles, four RBI, 10 runs scored and eight stolen bases while manning the shortstop position like a made-to-order big-leaguer.

CBA Marucci wrapped up the PG portion of its 2015 schedule by finishing 3-2-1 in Jupiter, losing a second-round playoff game and a consolation game after completing pool-play at 3-0-1.

No. 2: Power arms emerge at PG National Showcase

This year’s preeminent Perfect Game National Showcase was held at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., for the second straight year, and the hundreds of MLB scouts and front office personnel and college coaches in attendance were treated to a preponderance of powerful pitching arms from the top class of 2016 prospects from across the country.

Seven pitching prospects ranked in the top-16 overall nationally delivered fastballs of 93 mph or faster, including No. 16 right-hander Alex Speas (Auburn) with an event-best 97 mph.

“I just hope to meet a lot of great kids and great ballplayers and be able to learn a lot from a lot of different people,” Speas said when asked what he wanted to take away from the PG National experience. “I want to be able to leave with a lot of memories that I can look back on and say, ‘I went to PG National and I had a great time.’”

No. 3 right-hander Riley Pint (LSU) hit 96 mph on the gun at JetBlue (he would reach 97 at the 18u PG WWBA National Championship and 98 at the Area Code Games later in the summer) and No. 1 left-hander Jason Groome (Vanderbilt) was right behind at 95 mph (96 at both PG All-American Classic, 17u PG WWBA).

No. 4 primary third baseman/right-hander Joshua Lowe (Florida State) and No. 11 right-hander Kevin Gowdy (UCLA) both came in at 94 and No. 5 Ian Anderson (Vanderbilt) was at 93 mph (Anderson reached 95 at the PG All-American Classic.)

“I do my same routine every time I pitch,” Groome told PG while in Fort Myers. “It was fun seeing those scouts and lighting up their guns a little bit. I’ve been on the scouts’ radar since I was 13 (years old) and I’ve gotten to use to them being out there; when I’m on the mound, nothing can really distract me.”

A couple of other hard-throwers on the hill at JetBlue included No. 39 right-hander Zach Linginfelter (U. of Miami) and No. 139 righty Brendan Heiss (South Carolina), both of whom had offerings that came in at 95 mph.

The 2015 PG National wasn’t devoid of talented position players, of course, with the ultra-athletic Lowe emerging as the headliner. Not only did he deliver that 94 mph fastball, the PG All-American threw 95 mph across the infield, ran a 6.57-second 60-yard dash and recorded a bat-speed of 93.326 mph on impact with an exit velocity of 100 mph.

“I’ve come to realize that the scouts and other people come here to watch these games and see some good talent,” Lowe said in the days after the event. “So for me it’s just going out there and playing the game as hard as I can and giving it 100 percent with everything that I do. That’s what I hope to do for the rest of my life while I’m playing baseball.”

Some tremendous infield play was on display, led by No. 10-ranked third baseman Joe Rizzo (South Carolina), No. 12 Puerto Rican shortstop Delvin Perez, No. 17 shortstop/third baseman/second baseman Nicholas Quintana (Arizona) and No. 19 SS/3B/2B Cole Stobbe (Arkansas.)

“I try to approach everything the same way,” Quintana said of his National Showcase experience. “When I was younger I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so nervous; I’ve got to go out there and showoff.’ The more showcases I went to I was calmer and I wasn’t so nervous, and there wasn’t so much expectation. I can come here and be relaxed, and when I’m more relaxed I’m better.”

No. 43 infielder Grant Bodison (South Carolina) reached a national audience when he made an incredible leaping catch behind second base that was ESPN’s No. 2 “Play of the Day” on June 20, second only to a no-hitter thrown by the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer.

No. 1: East tops West at Classic; Groome earns Jackie Robinson Award

The 13th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic played out on an unusually warm but nonetheless brilliant late summer evening at beautiful Petco Park in downtown San Diego, and more than 6,100 fans, friends, family members and professional scouts watched the East all-stars snap a four game losing streak to the all-stars from the West with a thrilling 3-1 victory.

Many of those same power arms that impressed the scouts at the PG National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., two months earlier were back on display in San Diego, and nine East pitchers – including No. 1-ranked left-hander Jason Groome – combined to allow only five hits to lead the determined Easterners.

All 18 of the pitchers that threw at the nine inning high school all-star extravaganza hit at least 91 mph on the radar gun, led by Groome’s 96 mph missile; right-handers Austin Bergner and Ian Anderson both 95 mph during game action.

Terrific outfielder, catcher, second baseman and both-handed pitcher Carlos A. Cortes, a senior at The Next Level (TNXL) Baseball Academy in Altamonte Springs, Fla., was the only player on the East squad to collect two hits and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player (he also made a run-saving defensive play late in the game.) Cortes was named either the MV Player or MV Pitcher at two other events in 2015, but receiving the award at the PG All-American Classic was special.

“This is great; nothing can beat this,” he said after the game. “I got to meet such a good group of guys and I became a family with all of them. … I’m not going to lie, it’s a true honor to be here and to play with these kind of players; it’s just unbelievable.”

In the hour before the first pitch was thrown at the Classic, East team left-handed swinging outfielder Alex Kirilloff, a Liberty University signee from New Kensington, Pa., won the annual Home Run Challenge. He faced West team masher Blake Rutherford, a UCLA signee from Simi Valley, Calif., in the finals and hit six straight home runs with his final six swings to out-slug Rutherford, 12-11. Kirilloff is the No. 8-ranked national 2016 prospect and Rutherford is No. 2.

There was no shortage of long balls over the long weekend. The East Squad combined to hit 61 home runs during a batting practice session at the University of San Diego on the first full day of activities and the West team followed-up with 21 of its own. Those totals were separate from the opening rounds of the Home Run Challenge in which 84 bombs were dropped.

At the PG All-American Classic Awards Banquet held the night before the game, Groome received the coveted Jackie Robinson Award, presented each year to the Perfect Game National High School Player of the Year. He is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior at Barnegat (N.J.) High School who has signed with Vanderbilt but projects to be an early first-round pick in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft, perhaps even No. 1 overall.

“It’s an honor, knowing the background that (Robinson) had,” Groome said after receiving the award at the San Diego Hall of Champions. “Being known as one of the top players in the country, it’s a dream come true. My family never doubted me one bit and that’s what helped me the most; my work ethic is through the roof. I always try to be the best … and I always try to be the hardest working person in the room, and it pays off.”

Other 2015 PG award winners were:

Baseball America Pitcher of the Year: Ian Anderson, Rexford, N.Y.; PG Nick Adenhart Award: Jeff Belge, Syracuse, N.Y.; Web Gem Grunt Award: Carlos Cortes, Ovieda, Fla.; Zepp Labs Heart & Hustle Award: Cole Stobbe, Omaha, Neb.; TrackMan Award: Tyler Baum, Ocoee, Fla.; MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM Two-Way Player of the Year: Joshua Lowe, Marietta, Ga.; Baseball Prospectus Prospect of the Year: Avery Tuck, San Diego; Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year: Grant Bodison, Simpsonville, S.C.; EvoShield SWAG Award: Blake Rutherford, Simi Valley, Calif.; Louisville Slugger Most Outstanding Offensive Player: Mickey Moniak, Encinitas, Calif.

Since the PG All-American Game’s inception in 2003, the event has helped raise awareness and much-needed funds in the battle to eradicate childhood cancer. The Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego has been the beneficiary since 2006, and this year the players raised more than $50,000 bringing the total raised for Rady to more than $600,000 since 2006.

The annual visit to Rady and the opportunity to interact with many of its young patients has become the highlight of the PG All-American Classic weekend for the players, especially, it seems, for those who are from the San Diego area.

“It’s great, and it’s definitely humbling to see all these little kids,” standout outfielder Mickey Moniak, from nearby Encinitas, said during this year’s visit. “They’re the real heroes; they’re the ones going through all the stuff that you really can’t explain. … Just seeing these kids and what they’re going through, it’s amazing to see how strong they are.”

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