Showcase | Story | 12/24/2018

Year in Review: PG Events

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: 2018 PGAAC (Perfect Game)

2019 Year in Review: High School | MLB Draft | College

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The 2018 Perfect Game tournament and showcase seasons will officially add their names to the history books when the PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event, PG 14u Showcase-Main Event and PG Uncommitted Showcase-Main Event in Fort Myers, Fla., conclude their three-day runs on Dec. 30.

Thousands of teenaged prospects attended PG showcases, participated in PG Series events and played in PG tournaments. Those included PG World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) – including seven PG World Series –  Baseball Championship Series (BCS), Super25, PG Youth and the PG Baseball Association (PGBA) tournaments.

It all added up to another successful year for PG in its efforts to create opportunities for young players while continuing to grow the game both nationally and internationally. Subscribers can click here to view PG’s Final 2018 PG Travel Team Rankings and click here to see the most updated National Prospect Rankings.

What follows is a recap of many noteworthy happenings in 2018, highlighting both team and individual accomplishments:

BCS, Super25 champions crowned in nine age-groups

The BCS and Super25 national championships are the only PG tournaments that use metal bats, giving prospects an opportunity to swing the same BBCOR bats during the summer that they swing during their youth or high school seasons (and what they will be swinging in college).

Nine teams representing five states were crowned BCS National Champions in the 10u-18u age divisions: 10: SoCal Panthers Black (Calif.); 11u: ESP Matrix (Fla.); 12u: Team Elite South (Fla.); 13u: Florida Hurricanes 2023 Platinum (Fla.); 14u: 5 Star National 14u King (Fla.); 15u: Molina Stars (Va.); 16u: MWE Bombers 16u (Texas); 17u: Elite Squad 17u American (Fla.); 18u: Top Tier Hoffman.

Elite Squad 17u American used the BCS championship to land at No. 8 in 17u Final Travel Rankings.

“I’m very proud to wear the Elite Squad uniform. We talk to the boys a lot about that; they just love playing for Elite Squad,” ES 17u American head coach Onel Garcia told PG. “This American squad has done great, and it basically shows how deep the organization is when (this team) can be doing so well.”

The BCS championship helped 5 Star National settle into the No. 1 slot in the 2018 14u Final Travel Team Rankings.

“They’ve gotten a lot better,” 5 Star National-King head coach Eric Hurley told PG after his team beat the East Cobb Astros 14u, 4-2, in the championship game played at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. “They’ve put a lot of hours in everywhere from the gym to the field. … It’s a special group; it’s fun to be a part of.”

“It’s the best,” 5 Star MVPlayer Nick Wrubluski added. “This is so much fun playing against everyone and getting all the wins; (5 Star) is the best thing ever.”

Eight teams from six states took home PG Super25 national championships in the 10u-17u age divisions, with many of the championships played at the BOOMBAH Sports Complex in Sanford, Fla., for the first time: 10u: Mid-Atlantic Show (NJ); 11u: Big Stix Gamers (Ga.); 12u: Hitmen Ultra 12u (Fla.); 13u: Motor City Hitdogs 13u (Mich.); 14u: Bronx Bombers 14u (NY); 15u: Steelsharks Baseball (Pa.); 16u: East Cobb Astros 16u; 17u: TNXL Academy (Fla.).

Cream rises to the top at WWBA, Fall National Championships

Many of the top names in travel team baseball found themselves wearing PG National Championship crowns by the time these elite, wood bat tournament series concluded in mid-September.

Six teams were champions in the five WWBA age-groups (14u-18u) – played in the north Atlanta suburbs in June and July – with CBA Marucci National (Calif.) and Team GA/MBA 14u Gold (Ga.) crowned as co-champions in the 17u division. The other champions were Georgia’s East Cobb Astros (18u) and Team Elite Prime 16u (16u), the Louisiana Knights Black (15u) and the Virginia-based Canes National 14u (14u).

CBA Marucci and Team GA/MBA were declared co-champs at the 17u WWBA National Championship after heavy rain halted the action in the third inning of the championship game.

“Regardless of everything, at the end of the day I am really proud of these guys and the way they fought all week,” CBA head coach Jon Paino told PG. “This tournament is not only a test of baseball and your ability to play the game but it’s also a test of endurance. This is good for us and good for the program so we are pretty excited.”

Team GA/MBA head coach Chris McRaney was equally proud of his guys.

“Most importantly, this is such a great group of kids and families,” he said. “If you look at these guys’ results over the last 18 to 24 months, they have really earned it on the field. I think this WWBA event is the toughest age group to win, so just to be in the event and being around these families is an honor.”

Team Elite Prime used its WWBA championship to climb to No. 2 in the 16u Travel Team Rankings, with an MVP performance from nationally No.3-ranked outfielder and Vanderbilt commit Trejyn Fletcher.

“We’ve done a great job of assembling a  good group here,” TE Prime 16u head coach Jeremy Brotherton told PG. “The energy that they continued to bring out was just phenomenal. We fed off that, we scored runs early and the pitching did everything we asked.”

The Louisiana Knights’ 15u WWBA championship also elevated them to No. 2 in the rankings while the Canes National 14u settled in at No. 4 in the final 14u rankings.

Three teams – all based in California – also took home titles from the PG Upperclass, Underclass and Freshman Fall National Championships Protected by G-Form, played in the west Phoenix suburbs on consecutive weekends in September. And one of those, not surprisingly, was 17u No. 1-ranked CBA Marucci National, armed with many of the same players that led it to the 17u WWBA championship.

CBA won the Upperclass Fall National behind the play of MVPlayer Cameron Repetti and MVPitcher Joseph Naranjo; Repetti, a 2019 third baseman and Cal State Fullerton signee, was also the MVP at the 17u WWBA.

“It’s everybody together, just doing the right things,” he said after CBA topped the Canyon Thunder Black (Ariz.) 6-0 in the championship game played at Goodyear Ballpark. “… We’re here to win and we have the right mindset, we’re business; it’s just a great group of guys.”

Naranjo, a 2019 left-hander/first baseman and another Fullerton recruit, agreed: “These guys are my brothers,” he said. “It’s always a blast playing with them, coming out every day and playing in the 100-degree heat. It can’t get any better than that.”

GBG Marucci Navy 2020 won the PG Underclass Fall National Championship behind the play of MVPlayer Kevin Parada, a 2020 catcher/outfielder and a Georgia Tech commit.

“Not everybody was on at one time but everybody found a way and guys picked each other up when other guys were down,” he said, “and that’s how you’ve got to win ballgames.”

Dykstra Baseball 2022, another SoCal-based outfit, won the PG Freshman Fall National Championship Protected by G-Form.

Six teams claim PG World Series national championships

Ten teams competed for the championship at the inaugural 18u PG World Series held in mid-June at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex in Fort Myers, and when the Englewood, Colo.-based Slammers-Martin captured the crown, they became the first of six teams to win PGWS championships in 2018.

California-based NorCal 2019 took home the title at the 17u PGWS, with Georgia’s East Cobb Astros (16u), Tennessee’s Dulins Dodgers (15u, 14u) and the Banditos Scout Team (13u) out of Texas also winning their respective championships.

NorCal 2019 entered the 17u PGWS as the No. 8 seed and staged come-from-behind victories in both the semifinals and again in the championship game – against USA Prime Elite 17u-Gowins – during the final day of play at the Peoria (Ariz.) Sports Complex the third weekend in July.

“Every time we got down, we just knew we’d bounce right back,” said NorCal’s Ethan Cloyd, a 2019 Cal Berkeley signee and the co-MVPlayer with USA Prime’s Caeden Trenkle. “There was never any doubt; we knew the entire time we were going to win this tournament.”

NorCal Baseball general manager/manager Rob Bruno never doubted either: “These guys showed great character, great camaraderie and great teamwork,” he told PG. “I don’t want to slight any teams out there but I expected to win this tournament. I knew that we were talented but I also knew that we were the tightest group here. When it comes right down to it, in tough situations they can always count on each other.”

NorCal 2019 left-hander Peter Hansen, a Texas signee, was named the MVPitcher.

The championship at the 16u PGWS help vault the EC Astros into the top-spot in the final 16u rankings. They were led at the event by MVPs Spencer Keefe (2019 INF/Georgia signee) and Blake Money (2020 RHP/LSU commit.

“This is just a great way to end the summer, and all of this actually started last fall,” Astros head coach Tim Lemons told PG. “It was good that they ended up winning this one. I think this is our fifth championship of the summer and to end it this way is great.”

The Dulins Dodgers 15u Prime – with No. 1-ranked 2021 prospect Blaze Jordan in the lead – and Dulins Dodgers-Wright won the 15u and 14u PGWS, respectively; the Dodgers Prime finished No. 1 in the final 15u rankings and the Dodgers-Wright No. 2 in 14u.

“I love those two age groups because they’re still very eager to learn,” Dodgers founder/general manager/manager Tim Dulin told PG in November. “They’ve got a lot of things they’re going through ta those ages … (but) they’re all about learning and understanding more about the game.”

Underclass, Sophomore, Freshman WWBA Worlds contested

These younger-player versions of the PG WWBA World Championship held annually in Jupiter, Fla., were played in October, with the WWBA Underclass World and the WWBA Sophomore World being held in Fort Myers, Fla., and the WWBA Freshman World in West Palm Beach, Fla.

A heavy rain shower visited jetBlue Park early in the afternoon of Oct. 8 with the Under World championship game between the Scorpions 2020 Founders Club (Fla.) and the East Cobb Astros 17u (Ga.) about to head into extra innings. Following a short delay, the two talented teams were declared co-champions.

The Scorpions 2020 FC were the playoffs’ No. 1 seed and the Astros 17u the No. 2 seed, so sharing the championship was not necessarily a bitter pill to swallow. The Scorps’ Zac Veen was named the MVPlayer and the Astros 17u’s Will Sanders the MVPitcher.

“It was a good week all-in-all, and obviously we would have like to complete this game,” the Scorpions 2020 FC’s Matt Gerber said, “but it’s raining pretty hard so it probably wouldn’t have worked out. … Our guys played really, really hard and had a great week; we played some really quality opponents.”

EC Astros head coach Josh Burrus was also pleased: “We played well all weekend and it was all of our guys,” he said. “We kind of came here short-handed … but I’ve got to give all our guys credit. Everybody played well; we had somebody different every game that stepped-up and performed.”

Florida-based Elite Squad won its second straight WWBA Sophomore World Championship title, topping Illinois’ Cangelosi Sparks 2021 Black in the championship game, also played at jetBlue Park; the Squad’s Marcus Franco and the Sparks’ CJ Byrdak were the MVPs.

The WWBA Freshman World Championship, played at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Oct. 19-22, was won by the South Charlotte Panthers 2022 (N.C.); they beat 5 Star National Black 15u (Ga.) in the championship game. SCP 2022’s Xavier Isaac and Cameron Padgett were the MVPs.

Florida Burn marches to 1st title at 20th WWBA World Championship

The PG WWBA World Championship celebrated its 20th birthday at the Roger Dean Stadium Complex in Jupiter, Fla., in October, and the Sarasota-based Florida Burn program claimed its first  championship at the prestigious, heavily scouted 88-team tournament.

The Florida Burn Platinum, under the direction of coaches Mark Guthrie and Craig Faulkner, outlasted the perennial title contender Canes National based in Fredericksburg, Va., 2-0 in the championship game to complete an 8-0-0 run to the title. It was the lone loss for the Canes National, under the direction of head coach Jeff Petty; the Canes program had won four of the previous five Jupiter titles.

“You just always come here and do the best you can,” Guthrie told PG during postgame comments. “Every year you get a tough draw, and some years you come here and it doesn’t work out if you’re not on your game. That’s just the way baseball is.”

The title game was a well-played affair, a true pitchers’ battle that left batters on both sides stymied; the Burn Platinum scored their two runs on four hits while the Canes National were shutout on two hits.

Platinum pitchers Braden Halladay, Cameron Wademan and Mac Guscette combined on the two-hitter, allowing the Canes to put the ball in play while relying on the guys behind them to do their jobs; only one Canes batter struck-out.

William Bartlett had an RBI single in the first inning and Guscette delivered another one in the sixth to account for the Burn’s two runs. The Canes used a pair of 2019 right-handers – Casey Green and Will Smith – who worked three innings apiece and gave up an earned run while combining for seven strikeouts; the 6½-inning game took only about 90 minutes to play. The Burn’s Joshua Rivera was named the co-MVPlayer, sharing the award with Kevin Parada from third-place GBG Marucci; the Canes’ Tyler Nesbitt earned MVPitcher honors.

“This has been amazing, experiencing this as a team,” Rivera said after receiving his award. “We’ve always played together since we were about 13, and with a couple new additions every guy stepped up. We all played as a team in the biggest tournament in the fall (and) we all took everything serious. Everybody played a big role every game, so this whole experience has been amazing for us.”

Finally, Guthrie looked back on what his program had accomplished, having last played for the Jupiter championship in 2013: “This is good for all the guys that have come before them and have developed a reputation for what we call ‘Burn Baseball’ and these guys followed suit and bought in,” he said. “I’m just unbelievably happy for this group of guys. What a way to go out.”

14u regional showcases enhance 14u National’s prominence

Perfect Game included six 14u regional showcases on its schedule for the first time in 2018, events that attracted more than 420 age-eligible prospects from coast-to-coast. Dozens of players from those regional shows were then invited to the 2nd annual 14u National Showcase later in the summer and many of them were, in turn, invited to the 4th annual 14u Select Baseball Festival held over the Labor Day Weekend.

“Things have really changed over the last decade when it comes to scouting and college recruiting,” PG President Jerry Ford said when the addition of the six 14u regional showcases was announced in January. “Fourteen-year-old players are being identified and colleges are recruiting them more than ever. Major League Baseball’s analytic departments are also tracking the younger players’ information.”

The six regional showcases were held from mid-March through early May, depending on location, and identified by region: Florida (West Palm Beach), Midwest (St. Charles, Ill.), Northeast (Staten Island, NY), South (Tomball, Texas), Southeast (Emerson, Ga.) and West (Compton, Calif.). The PG 14u National Showcase was again held at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., in early August.

“Implementing the 14u regional showcases … allowed us to segment kids according to their region and invite them to the (14u) National Showcase a couple of months down the road,” PG National Crosschecker Jheremy Brown said in August. “By doing that, we first see these players and identify them to get to know a little bit about them, and then see them (at the National) and see that they took that jump … which earns them an invite to the Festival.”

Sixteen players were invited to the Select Baseball Fest immediately after the 14u National, including six prospects currently ranked in the top-13 from the national class of 2022: No. 2 right-hander Dylan Lesko (Buford, Ga.), No. 4 outfielder Elijah Green (Windermere, Fla.), No. 9 third baseman Sal Stewart (Miami), No. 10 outfielder Andruw Jones (Suwanee, Ga.), No. 11 shortstop Cole Young (Westford, Pa.) and No. 13 outfielder Riley Stanford (Gainesville, Ga.).

Junior National Showcase puts top underclass prospects’ talents on display

The 13th annual PG Junior National Showcase was held at PG Park-LakePoint in Emerson, Ga., from June 9-12, and 260 highly regarded prospects from the national prep classes of 2020 and 2021 were on hand to perform.

PG National Crosschecker Jheremy Brown was at the Jr. National for the fifth straight year in 2018 and was among those impressed by what he saw over the event’s four-day run.

“The level of talent, obviously, just keeps progressing,” Brown said on the last day of the Jr. National. “Everybody’s getting bigger, faster, stronger at a younger age, and we see it from the Festival game. You see the kids come through the Festival, you see them here and now you’re starting to see these kids throwing 90-something miles an hour regularly.”

The “Festival” that Brown referred to is the 14u PG Select Baseball Festival, an event that has brought 44 of the top 14u age-group prospects together in Fort Myers, Fla., over the Labor Day holiday weekend each of the last three years. Many of the top 2020s at LakePoint in June were at the inaugural Select Festival in 2016 and most of the top 2021s were at the event in 2017.

Top 25-ranked 2020 prospects that are 2016 Festival alumni and earned Top Prospect List recognition at the Jr. National were outfielder Dylan Crews from Longwood, Fla. (No. 1, LSU commit); shortstop Robert Moore, Leawood, Kan. (No. 14, Arkansas); left-hander Liam Norris, Cary, N.C. (No. 17, North Carolina) and left-hander Jackson Phipps, Dallas, Ga. (No. 21, South Carolina).

“This is a great opportunity to play with the best; the competition is just great,” Phipps told PG in June. “It’s always a big learning experience, especially when you’re playing against the best of the best, and it’s good to get everyone together and have a good time; that’s the most important thing.”

Eight other 2020 top-25s were named to the Jr. National TPL as well: shortstop Yohandy Morales, Miami (No. 5, U. Miami); third baseman Cayden Wallace, Greenbrier, Ark. (No 6, Arkansas); shortstop Masyn Winn, Kingwood, Texas (No. 11, Arkansas); right-hander Carson Montgomery, Windermere, Fla. (No. 12, Florida St.).

Also, outfielder Brandon Fields, Orlando (No. 22, South Carolina); left-hander Nate Savino, Sterling, Va. (No. 23, Virginia); outfielder Alex Greene, Edgewater, Md. (No. 24, Virginia) and first baseman Kellum Clark, Brandon, Miss. (No. 25 Mississippi St.).

“I just think that this is a great event because it gets your name out there,” Greene said. “… I think this turns me into a better competitor, and it keeps my head level. It shows me that there are other guys out there that are just as good as I am and are working just as hard. … One of my goals is to play in the (PG) All-American Classic, and this, I think, is all part of the process.”

TPL 2021s currently ranked in the top-25 in their class were: first baseman Blaze Jordan, Southaven, Miss. (No. 1, Mississippi St.); right-hander Irving Carter, Boynton Beach, Fla. (No. 8, U. Miami); outfielder Thomas Dilandri, Las Vegas, Nev. (No. 9, TCU); outfielder Braylon Bishop, Texarkana, Ark. (No. 10, Arkansas).

Also, shortstop Noah Smith, Chicago (No. 12, Louisville); shortstop Michael Braswell, Mableton, Ga. (No. 15, South Carolina); catcher Jayden Melendez, Palmetto Bay, Fla. (No. 19, Fla. International) and catcher Jackson Baumeister, Jacksonville, Fla. (No. 25, Florida St.). Carter, Jordan, Melendez and Smith were all at the 2017 PG Select Baseball Festival.

Many of the players that were at the PG Jr. National Showcase will be at the PG National Showcase in 2019. “You can look and say, ‘I like that kid a lot and it looks like he could be a future (PG) All-American just by knowing what the kids in the prior Classics have looked like at the Junior National level and then what they became,” Brown said.

Top 2021, 2022 prospects celebrated at PG Select Baseball Festival

The 3rd annual PG 14u Select Baseball Festival was held over the Labor Day Weekend in Southwest Florida, where 44 of the very best age-eligible 14-and-under players put both their baseball and philanthropic talents on display.

All baseball-related activities took place at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers while the players and their families were housed at the royal Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs. The players were divided into two teams for the Festival game itself and were coached by former big-league pitchers Scott Erickson and Tom “Flash” Gordon.

“This is actually a great opportunity; I really look forward to working with the youth,” Erickson told PG that weekend. “… I think it’s really important and great for the game of baseball to have such a good following and a dedicated system to try to promote the best players in the country at an early age to really get them focused on playing baseball.”

Added Gordon: “When I get a chance to be around kids – it doesn’t matter what age – I’m trying to see what I can do to help them and give them some words of encouragement. They ask a lot of questions, and that’s what you always want,” he added. “I’ve always told them that no question is a bad question … so just ask all the questions that you want.”

One of the highlights of the Festival experience is the annual visit to the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Proceeds from the event are donated to the hospital and it is also the beneficiary of the players’ fund-raising efforts.

They combined to collect right around $33,000 in donations in 2018, bringing the three-year total to more than $80,000. Cole Young (2022, Wexford, Pa.) from Team Erickson was the top overall fund-raiser, having collected just over $3,000 in donations. Aeden Finateri (2021, Watertown, Conn.) led the Team Gordon contingent by collecting just over $1,700.

“This is a very special part of the weekend,” Lorenzo Carrier, a 2021 outfielder from Bear, Del., who was on the Team Erickson roster for the event told PG when asked about the hospital visit. “Just to see these kids happy and coloring and stuff, I think it’s really good that we’re doing this with them.”

The Festival Awards Banquet was held at the host hotel the night before the game was played, and several players were honored. Sal Stewart, a 2022 middle-infielder from Miami, and Dylan Lesko, a right-handed pitcher from Buford, Ga., were named the PG 14u Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Both players enjoyed phenomenal tournament seasons during the summer and both were included on the Top Prospect List at the PG 14u National Showcase.

“I had a great experience and I learned from the other players,” Stewart said. “I always learn from my peers. I take a little bit from everyone and apply it to my own game; I had a great time and I learned a lot.”

Added Lesko: “Playing against better competition, I think it pushes me just as good if not better than most of (the other players). You don’t want to look bad; you want to show them what you’ve got, compete and be better than them.”

Andruw Jones received the DiamondKast Offensive Player of the Year Award; Termarr Johnson (2022, Atlanta, Ga.) was the recipient of the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award; and Ryan Clifford (2022, Raleigh, N.C.) earned the G-Form Unstoppable Player of the Year Award.

The game itself was slowed by a three-hour weather delay but the players grinded through it, and Team Erickson eventually emerged with a 7-4 victory. Team Gordon right-hander/shortstop Riley Stanford, a 2022 out of Gainesville, Ga., went 2-for-2 with a double and a triple at the plate and threw one hitless, shutout inning, striking out one without a walk, and was named the Most Valuable Player.

“That’s my game right there and hopefully I can continue to do it in the future,” Stanford told PG postgame. “This has been amazing. I’m with the best players, and not only are they the best players but they’re the best people. And the best coaches are here, also. Not only have they taught me to be a better baseball player but they’ve also taught me how to be a better person in general.”

PG National Showcase makes triumphant return to The Trop

The 18th annual PG National Showcase was staged in the air-conditioned comfort of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the first time since 2010, and the heavily scouted premier showcase event was nothing short of a smashing success.

The players were truly the best of the best from the national class of 2019, with 147 of the top 150-ranked prospects in attendance, including 19 of the top 20. By the time the event completed its four-day run June 14-17, many of the hundreds of scouts who had taken in the show were collectively picking up their jaws off The Trop’s artificial turf field.

“It’s just a really athletic class,” PG National Scouting Supervisor Brian Sakowski said on the National’s final day. “There are guys with tools, guys with power. It’s not easy to hit a ball out of here because you’re indoors – the ball’s not flying as much as it would be – and, obviously, it’s a major league ballpark, but there are guys that have made this place look small. There’s a lot of tools and a lot of athleticism.”

As proof, all 52 players that filled the two rosters at the PG All-American Classic in August performed at the PG National Showcase in June; that, in itself, makes for a pretty impressive Top Prospect List.

Running on turf in perfect, windless, air-conditioned comfort, 27 athletes ran the 60-yard dash in 6.59 seconds or faster; 13 ran it in 6.48 or better and an elite eight got it done in under 6.33 seconds.

The fastest of the fast was Carthage, Miss., outfielder Jerrion Ealy, who set an event record when he crossed the line in a sizzling 6.13-seconds. Niceville, Fla., shortstop Connor Walsh (6.25), Orlando outfielder Justin Tejeda (6.27), Lawrenceville, Ga., shortstop Nasim Nunez (6.28) and Alpharetta, Ga., shortstop CJ Abrams (6.29) were all especially speedy when it was their time to run.

“To come here to the PG National, it’s awesome, man,” Ealy said. “You just have to come out here and compete and that’s what I looked to do.”

Strong infield and outfield arms were also on display, with five prospects throwing 92 mph or better across the infield and five others delivering throws of 94 mph from the outfield.

Rece Hinds, a shortstop from Niceville, Fla., and an LSU commit, threw 98 mph during the infield workout to lead that charge. Nasim Nunez wasn’t far behind at 95, and Orlando’s Isaac Nunez, Woodstock, Ga.’s Brandon Smith and Colleyville, Texas’s Bobby Witt Jr. – the No. 1-ranked overall prospect in the class – all whipped the ball over to first at 92 mph.

Tyler Williams from Lilburn, Ga., led the outfielders with a throw of 98 mph, Logan Britt from Benbrock, Ga., and Ealy were right behind at 96 and Hylan Hall (Ococee, Fla.) and Nathaniel LaRue (Mobile, Ala.) each flung it in at 94 mph.

Twelve pitchers delivered their fastballs home at 94 mph or better, with Statesboro, Ga., and native Panamanian right-hander Daniel Espino topping the charts at 98 mph; he found that velo three times in his two innings of work.

“This is definitely something I was looking forward to,” Espino said of the PG National experience. “First, you get to play on a major league field. Second, you’ve got all the scouts watching you, and to be around all these (elite) players, it’s amazing. … Yes, the adrenaline kicks in but you just have to go out and have fun; baseball is all about having fun.”

PG scouts and officials seemed to agree that Oviedo, Fla., outfielder and Florida signee Riley Greene was the best pure hitter of the bunch.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that, honestly,” Sakowski said of the left-handed hitting Greene. “There are guys with maybe louder tools but I think he’s the best bat-to-ball hitter here, and he does it in games, too.”

Eight players were officially recognized for their standout play at the National:

Top Offensive Prospect: CJ Abrams (Georgia); Top Hitting Prospect: Riley Greene (Florida); Top Defensive Prospect: Nasim Nunez (Georgia); Fastest Man: Jerrion Ealy (Mississippi); Top Power Hitter: Rece Hinds (Florida); Top Pitching Prospect: Daniel Espino (Georgia); Top Two-Way Prospect: Logan Tanner (Mississippi); Top Overall Prospect: Bobby Witt Jr. (Texas).

West wins 3rd straight PGAAC at Petco; Witt Jr. receives Jackie Robinson Award

Standing out on the field at Petco Park in downtown San Diego – the home of the Padres – on Aug. 11, the day before the 16th annual PG All-American Classic all-star game would be played on the same field, right-handed pitcher Jack Leiter from Summit, N.J., expressed a thought that was probably on the mind of all 52 PGAAs:

“This has been, so far, one of the coolest – if not the coolest – things I’ve done in baseball,” he said. “It’s all the best kids in the country playing together, having fun. … Once I get out there, of course it’s going to be about competing, but basically the whole day and night is just going to be trying to enjoy it and have fun with some of the guys.”

And so the stage was set for the 2018 PGAAC, which for the first time was a part of day-night double-header that featured the Padres hosting the Phillies early in the afternoon with the Classic to follow. The West Squad kept momentum on its side by winning the high school all-star dual for the third straight time and the seventh time in eight years, this time by a final count of 4-2.

The West’s Corbin Carroll – a dynamic outfield prospect out of Lakeside, Wash., and a UCLA signee ranked No. 5 nationally in the 2019 class – was named the MVPlayer after lining a triple, walking twice, scoring a pair of runs and driving in another one.

“We were fired up coming into this,” he told PG postgame. “There were some awards (given out) a few days in advance, so we were fired up and we wanted this one to be ours.”

All 19 pitchers who threw had their fastballs gunned at least 92 mph, with Georgia (by way of Panama) right-hander Daniel Espino tying the event record with a 99-mph heater; North Carolina righty Brennan Malone hit 97. With every power pitcher going out and showing they were just as good as advertised, there were a combined 18 strikeouts.

Among the many noteworthy pitching performances were those turned in by Florida right-hander Matthew Allan, Texas righties JJ Goss and Matthew Thompson and fan favorite Spencer Jones, a left-hander from nearby Encinitas.

At the PGAAC Awards Banquet held the night before the Classic at the Bayfront Hilton Hotel near Petco Park, it was announced that Colleyville, Texas, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., was the 2018 recipient of the Jackie Robinson Award, given annually to PG’s High School Player of the Year.

“It’s truly a blessing and an honor to represent Jackie Robinson, who went through all those hard times,” Witt Jr. said at the conclusion of the banquet. “He played the game the right way and loved the game of baseball. It’s just truly awesome being around all my buddies and having my family here; it’s amazing.”

Other All-Americans recognized for their accomplishments in 2018 were:

Baseball America Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Espino (Georgia); PG Nick Adenhart Award: Wesley Scott (California);  Trackman Award: Brennan Malone (North Carolina); MLB/SiriusXM Two-Way Player Award: Spencer Jones (California); G-Form HBP (Heart, Bravery & Passion) Fearless Player Award: Rece Hinds (Florida); Nike 5-Tool Award: Jerrion Ealy (Mississippi); Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award: CJ Abrams (Georgia); Diamond Kinetics Offensive Player of the Year Award: Riley Greene (Florida); Jackie Robinson PG Player of the Year Award: Bobby Witt Jr. (Texas).

Classic raises funds for Rady Children’s Hospital, fight against pediatric cancer

This marked the 10th straight year the PGAAC was played at Petco Park, and for the 13th time all proceeds from the event were donated to the Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Well over $1 million has been raised during that time, and for the last several years the players have been involved in fund-raising efforts of their own; it was announced at the Awards Banquet that year’s players had combined to bring in nearly $60,000 for the Peckham Center.

West Squad member Logan Britt from Texas was the top fund-raiser at $8,950 while Florida’s Hunter Barco from the East was close behind at $8,900.

The highlight of the evening came when the gathering of players, their families, sponsors and PG personnel – including the company’s entire ownership group – heard from 16-year-old Kacey Harvey, a remarkable young woman who courageously battled and beat Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer that normally develops in skeletal muscles; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Kacey was named an honorary member of the PGAAC West team.

“It’s something that I’ll never forget,” Bobby Witt Jr. said. “Listening to Kasey talk about her experiences showed me how hard it was with the things she went through, and it really shows me that whenever I think something’s wrong it’s really not that bad. You just fight through it … and live life to its fullest and have fun, and (treat) every breath like it’s your last; just have fun and be yourself."

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