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Tournaments | Story | 7/24/2017

Tri-State's wide-spread Arsenal

Tiffany Seal        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga.—The Tri-State Arsenal squad sports an arsenal of players, spanning from coast-to-coast, with the best of the East, West and everywhere in between coming together in East Cobb this week for the 2017 14u Perfect Game World Series. Arsenal opened its play at LakePoint settling for a come-from-behind 4-4 tie with Iowa Select.

In a back-and-forth battle, Arsenal showed its resiliency and pitching depth by throwing five arms. Lefty Isaac Mitchell started the game, tossing four innings of six-hit baseball before Mason Ampe came in relief for a short third-of-an-inning, giving up one hit.

Two-way righthanded pitcher and utility Connor Throneberry shouldered most of the later innings, giving up one hit, one walk and striking out two in two innings.

“I felt like I was hitting my spots with my fastball, and keeping them off-balance,” said Throneberry, who showed versatility by having a 2-for-2 day at the plate with a RBI. “Keep it simple and just square the ball up,” was his approach, which included two singles up the middle, with a fly in the sixth to close the deficit to 4-3.

At the plate, catcher Chandler Hicks was another top contributor in run production, going 1-for-3 with a RBI single in the second.

“I was trying to just look for a good pitch in the count early and try to stay in the middle of the field, pick [the ball] up out of his hand pretty early and put a good swing on it,” said Hicks.

As for his day behind the plate, Hicks showed off not only impressive defense but also the ability to keep his pitchers’ emotions in check.

Chandler Hicks may be one of the better catchers around,” said head coach Ajay Vulimiri. “You can see it in his blocking and receiving, for a kid that’s never seen this pitching staff or handled them, and the way he settled the guys down. We were coming together for the first time, and a lot of pressure on everyone, and for him to do a great job back there to settle things down early for us is huge.”

As the game came down to the last out, two-way standout Jonathan Cymrot, who had a quiet bat on the day, showed off his ability to dominate on the mound under pressure, by sealing the last out of the game in swing-and-miss fashion.

“My fastball was moving a bit and I was hitting my spots,” said Cymrot. “Just trying to do what I can.”

As for his profile as a position player, the San Jose native is ranked the national No.1 third baseman in the 2021 and 15-overall top prospect.

Jonathan Cymrot is a special player,” said Vulimiri. “He’s a USA guy and he came all the way to here from California to come play with us. I saw him in March, and he’s gotten better. I think we saw an 86.9 on the gun, and just his ability to come in in that spot, with first and second, two outs on a whim and get a strikeout to get us that tie is huge.”

As for most of the Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based Arsenal team, most players are from everywhere but the Tri-State area, with only one player on this week’s roster from New Jersey.

“All these kids from one point or another have played for us, or they know of me,” said Vulimiri. “A lot of these kids are friends-of-friends-of-friends of each other, and we kind of just put it together and go."

But the potential challenges of a widespread team do not seem to affect the dynamics on Arsenal.

“We all get along well,” said Hicks. “It’s not a big deal for us. Some of us just met each other today at the batting cages, but we gel pretty well together so it works out for us.”

Hicks is from Covington, Georgia, while Throneberry hails from outside St. Louis, Missouri and a handful from Michigan are just a few of the 11 states represented.

“What it’s about is, it’s not only about putting the best kids together, but it’s also that experience of playing with kids from different areas,” said Vulimiri. “Knowing that whether you are from California, Florida, Maine, New England, wherever, you are still competing for scholarships down the road with all those kids. You can be from California and want to go to Vanderbilt, or you could be from Florida and want to go to Vanderbilt. I’m just trying to get them out there saying, ‘hey, as good as you guys are, there’s better out there,’ and that’s why I bring them here.”

The most notable Tri-State alumnus is Millville, New Jersey’s Mike Trout, who played for the Arsenal program from age 14 to 17, for Bob Barth, whose father founded the organization in 1998.

“Tri-State Arsenal and Mr. Barth have a great reputation with colleges across the country,” said Vulimiri. “He’s done a great job of when he gets a roster like this, making sure that the right people are here for these kids so they can get the exposure they need.”

Tri-State has given hundreds of players the opportunity for visibility to go onto both collegiate and professional careers, with around 300 players coming through the program committing to top Power Five programs like Vanderbilt, UNC, Virginia and Louisville to name a few, like No. 5 overall 2021 prospect Ethan Wood, who already has a verbal with the Cardinals.

As for Arsenal’s recruiting process, most players are picked up through tournaments and by word of mouth.

“Ajay saw me in a Perfect Game tournament in April and we just talked and went from there,” said Throneberry, who is showing Vulimiri exactly why he recruited him in the first place.

“I’ve had him since May. He’s a guy you can bring in and be a bulldog on the mound, he doesn’t throw the hardest, but he pounds the zone and does what you ask him and gives it his all.”

Throneberry is just one of the pieces in what is the most echoed strength of this team.

“We are probably a good nine, 10 deep that throw 80 to 90 [mph],” said Vulimiri. “I can roll them out there one-by-one and go left-on-left and right-on-right and get the outs that we need to win baseball games.”

As for the team’s run in the 14u World Series, it is just another chance to develop, as they are on the cusp of catching eyes of scouts and college recruiters going into their freshmen year high school.

“You get to play the best competition,” said Hicks. “You get to play at a high level, and you get good exposure here as well, so you’re winning both ways. Just playing the best over and over, you can only get better, that’s just helping me, as well as my teammates.”


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