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Tournaments | Story | 1/17/2019

West, East MLKs jump-start '19

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Hayden Travinski (Perfect Game)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ball fields stationed on opposite ends of the country will be busy places over the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. memorial weekend, when the annual PG West and East MLK Championships are contested in the Phoenix, Ariz., and Fort Myers, Fla., metropolitan areas Friday through Monday (Jan. 18-21). They are the first major events on PG’s 2019 tournament schedule.

This marks the eighth year the Upperclass, Underclass and Freshman West MLK Championships will be played in Phoenix’s West Valley, with the Camelback Ranch spring training complex in Glendale serving as the host venue; seven high school fields in close proximity to Camelback will also be used.

One top travel team organization really looking to make some noise in the desert this weekend is Little Rock, Ark.-based Sticks Baseball Academy (SBA), with strong entrants in all three tournaments. The Sticks are the Underclass West MLK defending champions.

SBA is one of 34 teams from 14 states and Canada (one each from British Columbia and Saskatchewan) rolling the dice in the Upperclass West MLK. The Las Vegas-based Recruits won the 2018 Upperclass championship and another LVR team is in the field this weekend.

The Sticks come in with a roster anchored by 2019 catchers Hayden Travinski (PG All-American, No. 37-ranked, LSU signee) and Kurtis Byrne (No. 56, TCU). It also includes top 2020 outfielder Nicholas Griffin (No. 34, Arkansas commit), 2020 third baseman Ethan Long (No. 41, Arkansas) and 2021 outfielder Braylon Bishop (No. 10, Arkansas). Griffin and Bishop are also rostered with the Sticks’ entrant in the Underclass West MLK.

2019 outfielder Cole Hinkelman, a Stanford signee ranked No. 45 nationally, is expected to be suited up for the University Place, Wash.-based Pacific Northwest Regional Baseball Upperclass Royal.

Thirty-two teams from nine states and Canada will be in pursuit of the Underclass West MLK crown, and dozens of highly regarded prospects fill their rosters. If Griffin and Bishop play for the Sticks’ underclass team – they could play in both events if the schedule permits – they will be joining 2020 right-hander Markevian Hence (No. 160, Arkansas), 2021 left-hander Hunter Elliott (No. 33, Ole Miss), 2021 righty Samuel Dutton (No. 61, LSU) and 2022 outfielder Josh Pearson (No. 28, LSU).

GBG NW Marucci, also out of University Place, Wash., features four 2020s ranked in the top-434 nationally, including the left-hander Ronan Kopp (No. 198, Arizona State). Menifee, Calif.-based Dykstra Baseball has several highly ranked 2021s and 2022s on its roster with 2021 shortstop Isaac Rodriguez (No. 42, USC) and 2022 outfielder Mason Neville (No. 43) leading the way.

Another 24 teams from nine states and Canada comprised the Freshman West MLK field, and last year’s under-the-radar champion, Elite Squad 15u Texas, is not among them. Keeping with the theme of this year’s West MLKs, Sticks Baseball Academy has two of the highest ranked 2022 prospects with Pearson and shortstop Colton Sims (No. 71, Arkansas) both rostered.

The New Jersey-based Tri-State Arsenal Scout Team carries a roster with four 2022s ranked in the top 100: right-hander Brock Porter (No. 58), righty Drew Lafferty (No. 70, Kentucky), left-hander Dylan Dreiling (No. 73, Tennessee) and catcher Ike Irish (No. 100).

Nearly 80 teams will be competing at the five PG East MLK Championships – the 2nd annual Underclass, 4th annual Freshman, 3rd annual 14u, 4th annual 13u and 3rd annual 12u – with play taking place at the Lee County Player Development 5-Plex, Terry Park, City of Palms Park, the CenturyLink Sports Complex and various high schools.

The Underclass East MLK Championship features 24 teams, 20 of which are based in Florida; the other four are from Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico. The Elite Squad Underclass Prime took home the title a year ago, and the Pembroke Pines, Fla., program returns with another strong club this weekend.

First baseman CJ Kayfus (No. 49, Miami) and outfielder Enrique A. Bradfield Jr. (No. 51, Vanderbilt) are the top 2020s rostered; 2021 right-hander Nick Anello (No. 28, Miami) is also in the Elite Squad fold. 2021 outfielder Bryant Colon (No. 49, Miami) is another high-profile prospect expected to be on-hand, and he’ll be suiting up with the Banditos Prospects 2020.

Hit Factory PRO out of Tampa comes in with seven 2021s that are ranked in the top-499, including catcher Satchell Norman (No. 76, Florida State) and right-hander Austin Grause (No. 114).

Six teams – five from Florida and Turn 2 Baseball out of Fremont, Calif. – are in the PG Freshman East MLK field, and 2022 shortstop Nazier Mule (No. 26) is rostered with the Gamblers Elite (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.).

Eighteen teams are entered in the 14u East MLK, 15 in the 13u and another 14 in the 12u. Fifteen of the 18 14u teams are from Florida (two from Texas, one from Ohio), 14 of the 15 13u squads are Florida-based (one from Pennsylvania) and 11 of the 14 12u squads are playing in their home state (Georgia, Ohio, Puerto Rico are also represented).

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