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.
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.”