Tournaments | Story | 7/13/2019

Dodgers boast tough 1-2 punch

Jack Nelson     
Photo: William Ross (Perfect Game)

ATLANTA, Ga. – In a poker game, holding a pair of aces gives you the best chance to win. The same principle applies to baseball. On Saturday, the Florida Dodgers Scout Team rode the right arms of William Ross and Jordan Taylor to cruise to an 8-0 victory over the Ironmen 15u Osting.

The win improves the Dodgers to 2-0 at the WWBA 15u National Championship. More impressively, they have defeated their opponents by a combined score of 19-0.

“We’re blessed with really good pitching,” Dodgers coach Tom Lucas said. “Will could probably pitch in college right now. He sits mid 80s and has three pitches that he throws for strikes. And Jordan is just a phenomenal athlete. He fills that closer role for us, but he could also be a starter. But he’s such an asset in centerfield.”

Ross was Saturday’s starter, and the 6-foot-6, 235-pound righthander attacked from the first pitch. He poured in 70 percent strikes, pounding his heavy mid 80s fastball down in the zone to generate a lot of weak contact. He worked four shutout innings, striking out five and allowing just two hits. He worked quickly, too. Ross’s tempo was a major reason Saturday’s game only lasted a little over an hour.

“My mentality is to just get ahead,” Ross said. “If I throw a ball, then I know I need to throw a strike on the next one. I pride myself on having a good pace out there.”

Ranked 107th overall in Perfect Game’s high school class of 2022, Ross has already committed to coach Kevin O’Sullivan and the University of Florida. The Gators won the national championship in 2017, and have recently produced numerous pitchers selected in the first round of the MLB Draft including Brady Singer, Alex Faedo, Jackson Kowar, A.J Puk, and Dane Dunning. Ross hopes to be next in the line of great players to come through Gainesville.

“I’ve always liked the Gators,” Ross said. “I knew that if I ever had a chance to go there, that was going to be my choice. My parents are actually UCF fans, but they were happy I chose Florida.”

Jordan Taylor came on to pitch the fifth and final inning. Needing only nine pitches, the Florida State commit simply overpowered the Ironmen with his upper 80s fastball to get a strikeout and two ground outs to close out the win.

“I knew we were up by eight,” Taylor said. “I wanted to let my defense work. I was really just trying to throw the ball in the strike zone.”

Taylor is ranked 104th overall in the class of 2022. A standout on the mound and in the outfield, the Jacksonville, Fl. native plans on being a two-way player when he gets to Tallahassee. Taylor has quite a role model in J.C. Flowers, who served as the Seminoles centerfielder and closer in 2019, earning ACC reliever of the year honors.

“They saw me back in October,” Taylor said of the Noles. “We started talking, and I went to one of their camps. I really like their coaching staff, and it all felt like a family. Plus, they gave me a great offer. It was a no brainer.”

The Dodgers try to take the business side of travel baseball out of the equation. They are selective in building their rosters, and keep the program small on purpose. It’s not a factory with a handful of teams per age group. If you make a Dodger team it’s because they see a spark and want to help you realize that potential.

“Our motto is all about development,” Lucas said. “We are an organization that only has one team per age group, so we’re not trying to build a huge brand with multiple teams. We just want the best of the best, and you know that when you make our team that you are a national caliber player.”

“The manager of the (Dodgers minor league affiliate) Tulsa Drillers, Scott Hennessey, founded the program,” he continued. “He came up with the idea, and stresses development above everything else. So we probably do more practices than your typical national team that just shows up at these big tournaments.”

The main objective this week is to win the pool. But being the developmentally focused organization that they are, the Dodgers see an opportunity for growth in every tournament and every game. The fierce competition at the WWBA 15u National Championship provides the ultimate stage for players to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses.

“We want them to see where they stack up,” Lucas said. “We think we have some of the best of the best in this class. So we come to big events like this to let them compare themselves to the rest of the country. That helps them make a checklist of things they need to work on in the fall to further their skills.”

The hoards of scouts that are patrolling the backstops is enticing, too. Ross and Taylor are the only two currently committed on the roster, but that will soon change. Guys like outfielder Mason Steel and shortstop Finn Howell are making a splash as they continue to bash the ball around the fields of Georgia.

“And the other side of the coin is exposure,” Lucas said. “Up in Atlanta, you are going to get more coaches from different areas. We get a lot of Florida and Florida State at our games, but yesterday we had South Carolina. It’s things like that. We have some guys that we think are ready to be seen, and this allows them to be in front of coaches from all across the country.”

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