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Tournaments | Story | 10/21/2018

Jupiter field pared to a final 4

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Tyson Heaton (Perfect Game)

JUPITER, Fla. – Before his East Coast Sox Select team had played its quarterfinal game at the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship early Sunday evening, head coach Joe Caruso took stock of what the EC Sox Select had already accomplished.

“It’s a noteworthy accomplishment to get the final-eight at this prestigious event with all the great teams and organizations out there,” Caruso said while standing just outside of Marlins Field 7 at the Roger Dean Stadium Complex.

“For us to be here, it takes more than just a little bit of talent, it takes a lot of character plus that talent. This group has been by far one of the most high-level character teams that we’ve ever had.”

And now, the Sox Select are in even more select company.


The quarterfinal round of bracket-play at this event most often referred to simply as “Jupiter” reached its conclusion Sunday night, which also meant that Monday’s semifinal pairings – Jupiter’s final-four – had been set.

And those semifinal pairings – the two games will be played on back-fields on the Marlins’ side of the complex beginning at 8 a.m. – are as follows: No. 8-seeded GBG Marucci (6-0-0) vs. the No. 5 Canes National (6-0-0) and the No. 18 East Coast Sox Select (5-0-1) vs. the No. 3 Florida Burn Platinum (6-0-0).

GBG got past the No. 1 Giants Scout Team/FTB (5-1-0), 5-3; the Canes National escaped No. 4 CBA Marucci (5-1-0, 2-1; the Burn Platinum squeaked past the No. 22 Chicago Scouts Association (4-2-0), 4-3, and the Sox Select pounded the No. 10 DBacks Langley Blaze (5-1-0), 12-0, in the quarterfinals.

Canes Baseball, based in Virginia, has now had at least one team reach the semifinals at Jupiter in six of the last seven years and won championships in four of the last five years. GBG has now advanced to the final-four in three of the last six years.

The Mississippi-based EC Sox Select obviously handled the No. 10 British Columbia-based DBacks Langley Blaze (5-0-0) rather easily in the two teams’ quarterfinal matchup.

The Sox Select lineup features top 2019s and PG All-Americans Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 1-ranked, Oklahoma commit) and Rece Hinds (No. 7, Louisiana State), along with Hayden Dunhurst (No. 57, Mississippi) and Jake Holland (No. 82, Georgia Tech).

In the shellacking of the Blaze, Holland was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and finished with five RBI and three runs scored; Dunhurst hit a solo home run and also scored three times. 2020 right-hander Jackson Fristoe (No. 113, Kentucky) threw a six-inning, two-hit shutout, striking out four and walking two.

“(There’s been) a lot of selfless play with a lot of guys that are so good, you look at them and say, ‘Wow, what a great team leader,’” Caruso said. “Guys that are doing well will still be up on the fence cheering for their teammates.”

It’s important to keep in mind that long-time Langley Blaze manager Doug Mathieson didn’t exactly bring a knife to this gunfight. This Blaze roster is not only strong but young, with about a 50-50 balance of 2019s and 2020s.

He specifically mentioned 2020 left-hander Justin Thorsteinson (No. 229, Oregon State) and 2020 righty Theo Millas as guys to keep an eye on the future. And then there is what he affectionately called his “Puerto Rican connection” with 2019 shortstop Landy Pena  and outfielder Jean Gorge Rivera Navarro.

But he saved most of his praise for Shane Sasaki, a 2019 outfielder from Mililani, Hawaii, who is ranked No. 147 nationally and has committed to Cal Poly. Sasaki went 8-for-17 (.471) with three doubles, a triple, two RBI and four stolen bases in six games.

“He’s probably the best player in this tournament right now; he’s just been going off,” Mathieson said. “A lot of guys are opening up to how high he might go in the draft. … He’s been a little sheltered out there, (the scouts) don’t see him as much and he plays a little lesser competition, but he’s just been great.”

But it is the East Coast Sox Select who are playing on into Monday and Caruso knows his team will be ready to play.

“I think we’ve prepared them well,” he said. “Each day is a gift, each day is an opportunity and we say all the time … ‘Whatever you do you do it enthusiastically, and it’s something done for the Lord and not for man. … Go out and play the game and enjoy playing the game at this great event that Perfect Game has put on. And when it is all said and done, the draft, the colleges, they all take care of themselves.”

Another breakthrough for the MLB Breakthrough Series

The MLB Breakthrough Series team, a squad put together by Major League Baseball to provide opportunities for budding prospects from across the country, qualified for the playoffs as the No. 17 seed with a 2-0-1 pool-play record.

It smoked the No. 16 Dallas Patriots Stout, 13-4, in a first-round contest before taking the No. 1 Giants Scout Team/FTB to the limit in the second round, losing 2-1.

The 3-1-1 record against the WWBA World Championship field is more than respectable. The MLB Breakthrough Series team debuted at last year’s PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., and made quite an impression, finishing 7-1-0 after a loss in the semifinals. Many of these same players were at that event last October.

“We did really good there and that’s when we started building our camaraderie,” 2020 outfielder Chase Davis told PG Sunday afternoon; Davis is ranked No. 47 nationally and has committed to Arizona. “Ever since then we’ve all been talking on the phone … we have a group chat, we stay in touch, and then we come back here and we’re back at it again.”

Davis, from Elk Grove, Calif., counted a home run among his three hits this week and drove in three runs. 2019 catcher Darius Perry (No. 45, UCLA) out of La Mirada, Calif., drove the bus from the batter’s box, hitting .538 (7-for-13) with two doubles, a home run and four RBI.

PG All-American shortstop Nasim Nunez (No. 21, Clemson) from Lawrenceville, Ga., singled three times, doubled and drove in six runs. 2019 first baseman Daylen Xavier Carter (No. 140, uncommitted) out of Sacramento, Calif., also had three singles and added a double and a triple to the count; he drove in three.

MLB Breakthrough Series coaches used 11 pitchers in the five games; 2019 left-hander Campbell Holt (No. 415, Southern California) was the workhorse, giving up two earned runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings (2.50 ERA), striking out nine and walking five.

2019 left-hander Kelvin Bender (t-500, UC Santa Barbara), 2020 right-hander Marquis Grissom Jr. (No. 95, uncommitted) and 2019 righty Aaron Roberts (No. 125, California) combined to allow two earned runs on four hits and struck-out 11 without issuing a walk in the one-run loss to the Giants Scout Team/FTB.

“We’ve just got good chemistry on this team; we’re all getting along,” Perry said before adding that becoming friends with his teammates just came naturally.

“It hasn’t been a challenge at all,” he said. “it’s been easy to gel together and get used to playing with each other, and it feels like we’ve been together for a while now, playing with all these guys.”

Performing in front of hundreds of scouts sitting in golf carts parked all around a particular field is Jupiter’s trademark feature for these young prospects, and the MLB Breakthrough Series players handled it with aplomb. They have been tutored and mentored by several former big-league players, coaches and managers during their time with the Series.

“It’s there and you see it, and you just kind of have to draw a line and separate the fact that you just have to go out and play,” Davis said. “People will see what they see and take away from it whatever they want to take away from it. Nothing changes, the game’s the same, and sometimes you need to be able to slow things down. We did a pretty good job of that and it showed.”

Four So Cal teams reach the playoffs

Four programs that have their base of operations in Southern California advanced to the 32-team playoffs at this event, being played more than 2,300 from the cities they’re based in. And, ultimately, two advanced all the way to Sunday evening’s quarterfinals.

No. 4-seeded CBA Marucci (Temecula), No. 7 BPA (Laguna Niguel), No. 8 GBG Marucci (Los Angeles) and No. 15 San Diego Show all made the 32-team playoff field and played in first-round games Sunday morning.

The fact that three of those four teams were seeded in the top quarter of the bracket-play field speaks volumes about the talent-level of the prospects that crowd those West Coast rosters.

One such top gun is GBG’s Kevin Parada, a 2020 catcher from Pasadena who is ranked No. 133 nationally, has committed to Georgia Tech and was the Most Valuable Player at the PG WWBA Underclass Fall Championship Protected by G-Form this summer out in Phoenix. He was 6-for-8 (.750) with a double, two home runs and nine RBI in GBG’s three pool-play wins and deferred to his teammates.

“If you don’t get guys on then how the heck are you supposed to score people,” Parada said before GBG had played its playoff opener. “It’s been great that they’ve given me opportunities to come up and make something happen. … One-through-nine (in the order) has been solid at different times with different getting on and different guys producing; that’s how it’s always been and it’s been doing us well so far.

“We were pitching with strikes, we were able to string hits together when it mattered and ultimately keep people from scoring; that was the biggest part.”

GBG beat No. 25 Blackhawk National 6-2 in its first-round game to move on through the bracket; 2019 right-hander Tyson Heaton (No. 368, Brigham Young) allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out four in six innings to pick up the win.

CBA’s roster is loaded with top-500 2019s, including corner-infielder Jake Skipworth from Mira Loma. Skipworth (No. 266, Cal) smacked four doubles and drove in three runs during pool-play and was a big reason CBA earned the No. 4 seed; it beat the No. 24 Texas Rangers Scout Team 4-1 in a first-rounder.

“We’ve just been working on our team chemistry and seeing the fastball and hitting it early in the count,” Skipworth said Sunday morning. “We’re getting ahead early, pitching, hitting, taking the extra bases when we can.”

BPA outscored its three pool-play opponents 17-3, with 2019 catcher Ethan Cloyd (t-500, Cal) hitting in the middle of the order; Cloyd was 4-for-8 (.500) with a double and four RBI during pool-play.

“We have really good pitching and we’ve been keeping the runs down, so there’s (not much pressure) on our bats,” he told PG Sunday morning. “We need to start hitting more. We’ve been hitting but it would be better to hit more and put less pressure on our hitters.

“We’ve got ‘Coop’ going today and he’s probably our number-one guy, so we don’t want to throw him seven in the first game so maybe he can come back tomorrow.”

“Coop” is Cooper Benson, a 2019 left-hander and an Arizona State recruit ranked No. 95 nationally. He threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout, striking out three, in BPA’s 3-0 first-round victory over the Dallas Tigers.

The Show won their pool with a 2-0-1 record and needed some late-inning heroics in their final pool-play game to get it done. With the time-limit rule in effect, Nathan Nankil led-off the bottom of the six with a double and then came home on a walk-off single from Jordan Thompson.

San Diego’s stay in the playoffs was short-lived. The Show committed five errors, allowed four unearned runs and blew a three-run sixth-inning lead in a 7-6 first-round loss to the Scorpions Baseball Club.

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