EMERSON, Ga. – When Providence High School head coach Mac Mackiewitz sat down to talk with Perfect Game around mid-afternoon on Friday, his team had yet to play a game at the 5th annual PG High School Showdown at PG Park South-LakePoint.
Providence HS, located in Jacksonville, Fla., was making its first appearance at the PG HS Showdown, so there was no history to discuss, no past results to ponder, nothing, really, to talk about in terms of how Mackiewitz felt his band of Stallions would stack-up with the rest of the 24-team field.
The entire conversation involved the make-up of his roster, the expectations he had for this team and the Stallions’ first-round playoff opponent, Cartersville (Ga.) High School.
Mackiewitz was far from being in the dark, of course, and the 17-year head coach knew exactly what was going on. Because they had decided to opt out of opening bracket-play on Thursday, the Stallions were going to have to play all four of their guaranteed games on Friday and Saturday, and all within a roughly 24-hour time frame. Mackiewitz also knew he was going to learn quite a bit about his relatively young ballclub.
Twenty-four hours later, right around mid-afternoon on Saturday, there was a lot more to talk about. Not only had Providence played its four Showdown games in the time it takes the earth to circle the sun, it had won all four, including a tense 4-3 victory over Roswell, Ga.’s Blessed Trinity High School in the championship game played at cool and cloudy PG Park South-LakePoint.
“When we talked 24 hours ago, I talked about what a complete team this is,” Mackiewitz said in the moments after the PG HS Showdown championship had been secured. “We had so many different guys hit, we had five or six different pitchers who pitched great, and if you take any of those guys out of the equation then we don’t win this tournament. We’re not dependent on one or two guys so it was an absolute blast to see so many guys (contribute).”
The Stallions (4-0 at the Showdown, 9-1 2017 regular season) led the championship game 4-0 after 2½ innings and then held on for dear life as the Titans (3-1, 12-3) chipped away at their deficit.
Providence plated three runs in the top of the first on the strength of a one-out, two run double from Tyler Callihan and a two-out, RBI single from Cameron Wright. A hard, fielder’s choice groundout off Callihan’s bat scored Nathan Hickey – who had reached on an error and moved to second on a wild-pitch – with the Stallions’ fourth and final run in the top of the third.
Blessed Trinity cut into that Providence lead in the bottom of the third when Colin Davis smacked a two-out, run-scoring single; another run crossed on a Providence infield error in the same frame. The Titans’ CJ Abrams came through with a big RBI triple to right-center in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-3, and that’s how it would finish.
Callihan finished 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and a run scored. Providence senior right-handers Max Holmes and Ben Benson combined on a six-hitter, giving up two earned runs.
Abrams went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run to lead Blessed Trinity. Junior right-handers Russell Dorvee and Griffin McClure, and sophomore righty Jake Smith also combined on a six-hitter, allowing three earned runs.
Providence standout junior Alec Sanchez – a Florida State recruit PG ranks as the No. 67 national prospect in the class of 2018 – was 0-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base and a run scored in the championship game, but enjoyed a fine tournament overall, especially with his defensive efforts.
He finished 4-for-14 (.286) with a double, two home runs, three RBI and a team-high six runs scored batting in the leadoff spot and impressed enough to be named the Shootout’s Most Valuable Player.
“This group is special,” Sanchez said of his teammates. “We’re young, we’re close and we’re crazy if you could hear us in the dugout. We came in here wanting to win. We were coming down here not just for fun but to handle business, and we did.
“This one is for Coach Mac,” he said. “We scheduled this tournament and we knew we were coming and we really wanted to win it for our coach.”
Senior Elijah Gill (Florida International) and the sophomore Callihan (South Carolina) also enjoyed MVP-caliber tournaments. They both hit .385 (5-for-13) and both had a pair of doubles and four RBI (Callihan scored twice, Gill once).
On the pitching side of the street, Mackiewitz used 10 arms to work 21 innings in his team’s first three games, and they combined to surrender seven earned runs (2.33 ERA) on 20 hits. The head coach didn’t use anyone new in the championship game so those 10 arms wound up allowing nine earned runs in 28 innings (2.25 ERA) on 26 hits; they also walked 11 and plunked seven batters while striking out just 17.
“We love developing pitchers,” Mackiewitz said. “And even with the way our playoffs are in Florida – they’re really spread out and you really only need two pitchers during the playoffs in Florida – we just love developing pitchers and we find so many diamonds in the rough.
“We keep our guys on a real low pitch-count early in the year so it makes us pitch four or five guys a game that first week of the season because no one’s throwing more than two innings each,” he continued. “In a tournament that’s structured like this, everyone’s going to get a chance to pitch.”
Blessed Trinity received MVP-worthy performances from senior Ryan Davis (Wofford) and the sophomores Abrams and Ryan Davis. The senior Colin Davis finished 6-for-12 (.500) with a double, triple, a home run, six RBI and four runs scored; Abrams batted 7-for-16 (.438) with the triple, one RBI and four runs; Ryan Davis went 5-for-12 (.417) with a double, two RBI and six runs.
Titans’ head coach Andy Harlin used seven pitchers over the course of the four games and they were very good, combining to give up five earned runs in 26 innings (1.35 ERA) on 15 hits with 22 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Blessed Trinity and Providence earned entry into the championship game by winning a pair of semifinal games at PG Park South-LakePoint earlier in the day. The Titans pounced on the nationally No. 17-ranked Cullman (Ala.) HS Bearcats early and cruised to a 7-0 win, while the Stallions grabbed an early lead and held on for a 4-2 victory over defending Showdown champion Sparkman HS (Harvest, Ala.).
Eight of nine batters collected at least one hit as part of Blessed Trinity’s 12-hit attack, and the Titans scored all seven of their runs with two in the top of the first, three in the third and two more in the fourth.
Abrams had three singles and scored two runs, Ryan Davis singled twice, drove in two runs and scored three, Colin Davis doubled and drove in a run and Mitch Weidner was 2-for-4 with a double to lead the Titans.
Senior left-hander Patrick McNamara pitched first five shutout innings and allowed three singles while striking out four and walking three; five Cullman hitters accounted for one single apiece. McNamara was named the Showdown’s Most Valuable Pitcher on the strength of that one outing in a do-or-die semifinal start.
Sanchez led-off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run and senior Gill delivered a two-out, two-run double in the third and a one-out, RBI single in the fifth to account for all of Providences’ scoring in its win over Sparkman. Senior right-hander Nathan Adams allowed the two runs on five hits while walking four without a strikeout.
Both teams collected five hits and all 10 were singles. Sparkman’s Garrett Bodine and McKinley Erves both singled and drove in runs.
2017 PG High School Showdown runner-up: Blessed Trinity
2017 PG High School Showdown MVP: Alec Sanchez
2017 PG High School Showdown MV-Pitcher: Patrick McNamara