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Tournaments | Story | 6/1/2019

PG 16u European Classic: Days 2-3

David Rawnsley        

PG 16u European Classic: Day 1 Notes

For six members of the Czech Baseball Academy Blue team, this European Classic is just a continuation of what is already an established Perfect Game baseball experience. Outfielder David Bauer (2022, Ceske Budejovice, CZE), third baseman Martin Jiranek (2022, Ceske Budejovice, CZE), righthanded pitcher Michal Kovala (2023, Ostrava, CZE), shortstop Milan Prokop (2024, Bucovice, CZE), righthanded pitcher Boris Vecerka (2022, Brno, CZE) and catcher Matej Vlach (2022, Hluboká Nad Vltavou, CZE) all traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, in 2017 for the Perfect Game Freshman Series Classic in addition to playing in last year’s inaugural PG European Classic.

Perhaps coincidently, perhaps not, those players and their Czech Baseball Academy Blue teammates are among the most skilled at the 2019 PG European Classic. Bauer, who hasn’t been able to play due to a broken finger on his left hand, is the most physically talented of the group at present and plans on attending high school in Fort Lauderdale next fall and train at the Elev8 Academy. Jiranek is a big and plus strong righthanded hitter with outstanding raw bat speed and an aggressive approach at the plate who is looking to damage a baseball. Kovala struck out nine hitters in five plus innings on Thursday, working up to 78 mph with feel for a curveball and changeup and has a silky smooth arm action that is extremely projectable.

Prokop is a live-bodied middle infielder with solid actions defensively and nice righthanded bat speed. Vecerka is a projectable 6-foot-3, 160-pound athlete who is already up to 81 mph to go with a solid 70 mph slider. Vlach has been the offensive star of the Classic, going 4-for-4 in one game and 7-for-9 overall with a pair of walks during his first three games, and is also a versatile defensive player.

Two other Czech Baseball Academy Blue players stood out for their builds and righthanded power potential.

Lukas Smejkal (2022, Trebic, CZE) is listed as a primary lefthanded pitcher but has a much higher ceiling as a first baseman. Smejkal is a 6-foot-5, 175-pound 16-year old who has plenty of raw bat speed and is a few swing adjustments away from really being able to tap into his leverage and power.

Fifteen-year old Tadeas Zavadil (2023, Praha, CZE) is a versatile defensive player capable of playing all over the field and has a very projectable 6-foot-3, 160-pound build. Zavadil’s swing is perfectly designed for power and he has consistently put the ball in the air, including a 6.37 hang time on a fly ball to left field on Friday. With a year or two of physical maturity and 20 or so pounds of muscle he’s going to be launching balls from pole to pole.

The National Cadets team from Germany is another advanced and physical team at this European Classic. Their two top position prospects, shortstop Merlin-Tyrus Bendlin (2022, DEU) and catcher Luca Rammelmann (2022, DEU), are the types of talent that should eventually be able to play at least at the US collegiate level.

Bendlin is a quick-twitch athlete who has some present strength to his 5-foot-7, 150-pound frame. He showed a very advanced ability to work through the ball aggressively on defense and make difficult plays look easy with his quick release and overall athleticism. He posted one of the fastest times in the 30 yard testing, running a 3.81, and is close to an average runner home to first on the pro grading scale.

Rammelmann is a different kind of athlete, with a present strong prototypical catcher’s body that looks to be about 5-foot-11, 195-pounds. He had three hits in Friday’s game, a 6-0 National Cadets win, showing a short and very strong swing that got the ball to jump hard. Rammelmann’s most impressive moment, however, came when he back picked a runner at second base with a quick snap throw right on the bag that any catcher at any level would have been proud of.

National Cadets righthander Marius Wolf (2022, DEU) threw a complete game three-hit shutout in that 6-0 win, working in the 76-78 mph range the entire game and showing very good command of both his fastball and a mid- to upper-60s sharp curveball. Wolf struck out nine hitters and walked only one while throwing 95 pitches in seven innings, 64 percent for strikes.

In the most thrilling game of the Classic through three days, the two teams above, Czech Baseball Academy Blue and National Cadet, matched up in the same bracket Saturday morning, both sporting undefeated records. Czech Baseball won the game 6-5 with a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth and final inning, with a run-scoring on a single by Vlach and will advance to the championship game on Sunday to face the Czech Baseball Academy Red.

Hrosi Brno 16u third baseman Tomas Ricny (2021, Brno, CZE) has been one of the most impressive hitters at the event. The righthanded hitter looks to be about 6-foot, 170-pounds and has a strong swing with plenty of lift and bat speed. In a slugfest 12-11 loss to Lithuania Baseball, Ricny hit a towering triple deep up the right-center field gap and followed that up with an inside-the-park grand slam (it was ruled a double and an error on the relay throw) that went off left-center field wall near the 111 meter sign. The two extra-base hits were the two longest balls hit at the City Stadium the first three days of the Classic.

Ricny’s teammate, shortstop Jan Pospisil (2021, CZE) is another nice player on the Hrosi Brno team. He’s made a couple of outstanding plays at shortstop, including a sliding stop of a ground ball in the hole with a quick, accurate throw to first base to get a runner. A lefthanded hitter, the 15-year old Pospisil doesn’t have the present strength to drive the ball like Ricny but he has a nice swing that moves the ball around the field and consistently squares it up.

Bonus Game

While the PG 16u European Classic has been using the City Stadium during the day, the Draci Brno Dragons have been playing each night in their home stadium in Czech Professional League games against the Cardion Hippos Brno. The Friday night game featured a treat for Czech baseball fans, as Draci’s starter was 12-year Major League veteran pitcher Peter Moylan, who threw five innings and picked up the win in a 4-1 Dragons victory.

It was believed to be the first time a Major League pitcher, future, past or present, has thrown in the Czech Republic. Moylan, 40, last pitched in the big leagues during the 2018 season and is throwing for Draci as he looks to stay in shape to potentially pitch for the Australian National Team later in the year. His connection with the team is through the Dragons pitching coach, who is also from Moylan’s native Australia. Moylan worked up to 87 mph from a deceptive mid three-quarters arm slot, changing speeds and hitting corners consistently and not walking a hitter while striking out three.

For the Perfect Game staff, it was also a chance to see Hippos righthander Nathan Kuchta on the mound. Kuchta played for and attended the University of San Diego and had worked on the grounds crew at USD field during PG events surrounding the PG All-American Classic and the PG Underclass All-American Games. Kuchta has also been working DiamondKast for PG at this event. He went six innings this game and took the loss while working in the mid- to upper-80s.



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