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Tournaments | Story | 7/4/2018

CBA Cavs move on to playoffs

Nate Schweers        
Photo: Mahki Backstrom (Perfect Game)

ROSWELL, Ga. – The CBA Cavs took care of business in Pool AA on Wednesday with a 5-2 win over Tri-State Arsenal 17u Prime. The win concludes the gauntlet this CBA team went through to win Pool AA, and they will play their first playoff game of the 17u WWBA National Championship Wednesday night.

Saivion Mohammed turned in a great start on the mound for the CBA Cavs, tossing four innings and allowing just one unearned run. The righty struck out two Tri-State batters and allowed just three hits. At the plate, Dylan O’Leary and Tyresse Turner each turned in multi-hit games and combined for three runs scored.

For those that don't know, CBA stands for California Baseball Academy. CBA aims to attend the top events in the nation to provide their players with the maximum amount of exposure possible.

The CBA program is no stranger to Perfect Game events, and in fact claimed the title at the 17u WWBA National Championship just three years ago in 2015. Over 350 players in the CBA program have committed to playing college baseball, and two CBA alumni were taken in the first round of this June’s MLB Draft in Nick Madrigal (Oregon State) and Cole Winn. In total, 19 CBA alumni were taken in this year’s draft, making CBA one of the premier programs for development in the country.

Two players that have seen their stock rise throughout their years in the CBA program are Damone Hale and Mahki Backstrom. These two players have been working on their game for a long time, and they really got the chance to burst on to the scene at the Perfect Game National Showcase last month.

“I’m not going to lie I was pretty nervous at first,” said Backstrom, who is a native of Los Angeles, California. “It was a very opening experience. Just being around so many great players, I kept telling myself that I wanted to stand out as the best player there. I wanted to make sure I was at 100 percent all the time.”

Backstrom used an impressive National Showcase to secure himself as one of the top players in the 2019 class. The uncommitted rising senior is currently ranked as the 31st-best player in the country, and the fifth-best player in the state of California. Though he is uncommitted, Backstrom has an idea of where he wants to end next fall.

“For me, I have to have a good business school I can go to. That is definitely going to be the major piece for me. I really like the big school feel because I want the all around experience in college. At the end of the day, it just has to be the right fit for me.”

For Damone Hale, he was a little more familiar to the Perfect Game events than Backstrom was. Hale is currently ranked as the 37th-best player in the class of 2019, and he was very impressive during the National Showcase.

“I’ve been out here a couple of times. I really like this because the competition level is just so high,” said Hale, who is from Inglewood, California. “It’s obviously intense because we have the top guys in the country coming in and playing hard and having fun. Being able to compete is one of the biggest things for me, and it was really fun.”

Similar to Backstrom, Damone Hale just hasn't found the right fit to commit somewhere yet. Hale is definitely a hot commodity, and most wouldn’t expect a player with his talent level to be available for much longer.

“The main thing for me is that I just want to go where I can play. A lot of people are happy going to a big name school, but its not really about that for me. The development and being able to play right away right when you get there is the way to go for me.”

This CBA Cavs team has certainly faced their fair share of solid teams in this tournament. Hale and Backstrom had the opportunity to face the hard throwing Daniel Espino earlier in the tournament, and they along with their teammates haven’t backed down from the challenge.

A large factor to the CBA Cavs’ success has been the familiarity of the team. Hale and Backstrom are two of the four players from Junipero Serra High School on this team, and they believe that chemistry has been huge for their team.

“Because of this team, we have the four guys going to the same high school. We already have that chemistry, along with the other players we have known because of all the travel ball years,” said Hale. “I think the team chemistry is the thing that really separates a lot of teams from others.”

While these tournaments are a great chance to showcase yourself for college and professional scouts, this dynamic duo knows the work that is done in the dark is just as important for their development.

“A lot of people will come out here and think that it’s just all said and done,” said Hale. “It takes a lot of work. My story has been a little bit different. I have had my ups and downs, but I want to come out here and show that I can get better every single time.”

The life of a talented high school prospect can absolutely be demanding. Mahki Backstrom hits 400 balls in the cage with his dad every single day, but he definitely finds time to enjoy his time as a teenager while he can.

“I like to go fishing. I just started last year, and it is something that has really stuck with me. I like long talks and prayers with my mom, and I like to play pickup basketball and dunk on people. Then there is video games and all that stuff too that I enjoy.”

After what has been a long week of baseball at the 17u WWBA National Championship, you can be sure that Hale and Backstrom will continue to make the most out of every opportunity that comes their way. This Southern California duo is looking to continue making strides through hard work and a little bit of fun.



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