Tournaments : : Story
Monday, July 10, 2017

Scott, Scorps arrive at 17u BCS

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – After a couple of early morning conversations held just outside the first base dugout inside Terry Park’s main stadium on Monday, it was interesting to see how MLB, MiLB, the 2017 MLB Futures Game, the Perfect Game All-American Classic, Perfect Game national championship tournaments, Scorpions travel-ball baseball and Tampa Plant High School baseball could all become inter-twined.

The occasion was opening day at this week’s 12th annual 17u Perfect Game BCS National Championship and, more specifically, the Longwood, Fla.-based Scorpions 2018 Prime’s tournament opener against Fort Myers’ own Canes Baseball.

The Scorpions 2018 Prime’s roster features seven prospects from the class of 2018 ranked in the top 299 nationally, and a total of 10 2018s that have made commitments to NCAA Division-I baseball universities.

The team is coached by Dennis Braun, who is also the head coach at Plant High School up in Tampa, and he’s guiding an outfit that is considered one of the favorites to take the championship trophy back to Central Florida with them when they leave early next week.

“It’s awesome being here, just because of all the (high level) competition that is here with all these other teams,” No. 21-ranked top outfield/left-handed pitcher prospect Connor Scott told PG Monday morning. “You get to see all kinds of good players and you get to meet new people, and you get to play with and against some really good guys.”

Scott is a 6-foot-4, 180-pound rising senior at Plant High School who in addition to being ranked No. 21 overall by PG, is also ranked the No. 4 outfield prospect in his class; he has committed to the University of Florida.

Braun just completed his 12th season as Plant’s head coach and he’s had the pleasure of coaching current professional ballplayers Mychal Givens – a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles – the brothers Preston and Kyle Tucker and Jake Wofford. And that is how all those subjects mentioned above were broached during a pair of conversations.

Kyle Tucker – a 2014 PG All-American – was a first-round pick (5th overall) of the Houston Astros in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft, the same year Wofford was selected as a first-round compensation pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Orioles selected Givens – a 2008 PG All-American – in the second-round of the 2009 draft; all three were drafted right out of Plant HS.

Preston Tucker was made a seventh-round pick by the Astros in 2009, and reached the big leagues in both 2015 and 2016; he is currently at Triple-A Fresno in the Pacific Coast League. Kyle Tucker – who played in Sunday night’s MLB Futures Game as part of the All-Star break festivities in Miami – is at Double-A Corpus Christi in the Texas League; Wofford is at high-A Palm Beach in the Florida State League.

Those players were the first four Braun allowed to play on the Plant HS varsity as freshmen in the time he has been the head coach; Scott was the fifth.

“Givens is in the big leagues, Preston was in the big leagues and I just went down to the Futures Game and saw Kyle Tucker last night, so he’s well on the right track,” Braun said of Scott. “He’s got all the same abilities that those guys have and the sky’s the limit for him. At the plate and on the mound – and he really runs the bases well – there aren’t many things out here he can’t do.”

Scott, like every other elite rising senior prospect in the county, has been at it non-stop since his high school season wrapped-up in May, playing at the PGBA 17u/18u Florida Burn Invitational in early June before performing at the Perfect Game National Showcase in mid-June.

Next came the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars before he joined his Scorpions 2018 Prime teammates in the north Atlanta suburbs for the 17u PG WWBA National Championship. The Scorps finished 4-0-0 in pool-play – outscoring their four opponents by a combined 32-3 – but then lost their playoff-opener, 1-0, in a game shortened to five innings because weather delays forced tournament officials to condense the schedule just to get all the games in.

The Scorpions 2018 Prime finally escaped Georgia and made their way to Southwest Florida for Monday’s opening day of play at the 17u PG BCS National Championship. With his busy schedule, Scott has not been able to enjoy a home-cooked meal in three weeks.

“It’s important to not focus on it and just go out and try to win some games,” he said. “And I really wouldn’t want to be doing anything else – no chance.”

The Scorpions 2018 Prime blew out Canes Baseball 14-0 in four innings Friday morning, with 2018 left-hander Julian Bosnic (No. 143, Wake Forest) and 2018 righty Steven Colon (No. 268) combining on a five-strikeout perfect game. Scott tripled, walked, reached on an error, drove in two runs, scored a run and stole a base but he wasn’t the biggest offensive force.

Giovanni DiGiacoma (No. 299, Louisiana State) and Nic Nolan both singled twice, drove in two runs and scored two runs; Brock Fagler smacked a three-run double and Jordan Lala (No. 495, Miami) singled, drove in two runs and scored another.

This is the second straight summer Braun has coached this Scorpions 2018 Prime team, and the only players added to the roster were Scott and Bosnic. It’s been a bit of a grind – that’s the nature of summertime travel baseball – but this group doesn’t seem any worse for the wear.

 “I think they’re in good shape – they’ve had a few days off – and it’s kind of part of what we do in the summer,” Braun said. “We’re kind of winding it up, so hopefully they can bring what they were doing (in Atlanta) down here and we can have a good tournament.”

Braun’s association with the Scorpions organization led to Scott joining the program when he was 15 years old, and it’s been a great relationship. Scott said he loves playing for Braun at Plant HS and he loves being a proud member of the Scorpions 2018 Prime.

He is joined on the Scorps’ roster by his Plant HS teammate Fagler, but some of the other guys are new to him because he spent the summer and fall of 2016 playing up with the Scorpions 2017 Prime group; he was the only 2018 on that roster.

“The first weekend with a summer team is always the hardest just because you don’t really know a lot of the guys; they come from all around the state,” Scott said. “But after that first weekend we all became really good friends. We like to stay loose out there and we like to joke around and have fun, and that’s the key to playing (well).”

A well-decorated veteran of 15 previous PG events, Scott has been named to four all-tournament teams and received Top Prospect List recognition at both the 2015 and ’16 PG Junior National Showcase and at the PG National Showcase last month.

The Plant Panthers finished the 2017 season with a 21-6 record after a loss in a FHSAA Class 8A regional semifinal game. Scott went 28-for-77 (.364) with 11 extra-base hits (4 HRs), 16 RBI and 19 runs scored at the plate; he was 5-3 with a 1.28 ERA and 65 strikeouts and 12 walks in 49 1/3 innings pitched.

Scott said that he loves being a part of the Plant Panthers’ baseball program, but was quick to add – with a proud smile splashed across his face – that, “Everybody hates us.” Really?

“Everyone hates us and we always have that target on our back, but it’s fun to deal with it,” he said. “We get everyone’s best pitchers, but we work real hard in practice and all that; I think we practice more than any other team.”

In the spring of 2015, when Scott was a freshman at Plant, the Panthers were led by then-seniors Kyle Tucker and Wofford. Both had signed to play at the University of Florida, but both were drafted – Tucker in the first--round round (5th overall) by the Astros; Woodford was a first-round compensation pick by the St. Cardinals – and signed professional contracts.

But despite being three years younger than Tucker and Woodford, Scott had forged friendships with both, and he figured if Kevin O’Sullivan’s Florida Gators’ program was good enough for them, then it certainly must be good enough for him.

And it didn’t hurt that he loved everything about the school, anyway, including its stellar academic reputation, something that is very important to a young man who carries a 4.2 grade-point average. But make no mistake, his two former Plant teammates – and the fact that Preston Tucker was drafted out of Florida in 2012 – played huge roles in his college decision, especially the younger Tucker.

“Kyle Tucker has made the biggest impact (on my baseball career),” Scott said. “We’re pretty similar when it comes to our abilities, and he really helped me out when I was a freshman and he was a senior.”

Braun acknowledged that every kid playing at this week’s 17u PG BCS National Championship is carrying around the same dream that Scott has, the one that foretells a future playing in the major leagues. He also acknowledges that only a tiny, tiny fraction of them realize that dream. Many will go on to play college baseball, however, and Scott may ultimately decide to go that route for three years himself.

As the No. 21-ranked national prospect in his class – No. 6-ranked 2018 right-hander Slade Cecconi is on the Scorpions 2018 Prime’s roster – there is a sense of certainty that Scott will hear his named called when the rosters for this year’s Perfect Game All-American Classic are announced Tuesday morning. The PGAA Classic Selection Show will be streamed live on MLB.com – with links provided on perfectgame.org and pgallamerican.com – beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET.

“When I was a freshman and started playing in my first summer-ball games as a high-schooler, I would always watch the (PG All-American Classic) and I’d always think that would be a cool experience,” Scott said. “I remember hoping that I would be able to do that someday.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of long weekends, but I’ve always been able to keep it fun; that’s the most important thing and it always pays off.”

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