Tournaments | Story | 10/28/2019

PG Fall Battle of the South Notes

Greg Gerard         Drew Wesolowski         Matthew Arietta        
Photo: Andruw Jones (Perfect Game)

In a weekend filled with rain and tough playing conditions, baseball was managed to be played thanks to outstanding and tireless work done to the fields at the East Cobb Complex on Friday night. A trio of players from 643 really stood out in their doubleheader starting with two-hole hitter and second baseman Kai Cunningham (2022, Atlanta, Ga.). The lefthanded hitting middle infielder is a quick and twitchy player with good barrel skills and nice hands up the middle. His swing is compact and direct with a knack for hitting the baseball on the barrel. Friday night Cunningham displayed good plate discipline in the box while also getting the bat to a pitch on the outer half of the plate to rip it to the opposite field for a well-barreled single. Cunningham has seen his statistics this calendar year really stand out with a batting average up near .400 and power potential that stands out, especially for his size. The uncommitted prospect bats at the top of a loaded 643 team with future Division I hitters throughout. Unranked currently, Cunningham has really done a nice job improving and showcasing his swing and contact approach this fall season.

One of those future Division I hitters is the next man in the 643 order, Andruw Jones (2022, Suwanee, Ga.), who is already committed to Vanderbilt University. The loudest hit of the evening belonged to him in his first at-bat as he kept the barrel through the hitting zone creating extension and ultimately smoking a single back up the middle of the field. His next at-bat was not much different as he laced a double down the opposite field line meeting the ball out in front and still working the ball to the right field corner. Jones is a tall and lean player who just makes the game look so easy. The frame projects very well and the swing is a bit raw, but he has done nothing since first coming onto the scene except show that he can flat out rake. He sets up at the plate with a unique upright stance and takes a big stride into contact. He will leak onto his front side but he does a really nice job of keeping his hands back with plenty of quickness to impact the ball for high exit velocities and power potential. Defensively the glove stands out for the routes he takes and quickness in tracking the ball with his excellent closing speed.

Listed as a primary pitcher, it was what Jason May (2022, Dunwoody, Ga.) did with the bat on Friday that allowed him to stand out. Sitting back on an outer-half pitch, May put a really good swing on a ball and drove it deep into the opposite field gap. May’s swing is very easy and the ball jumps off of his barrel when on time to contact. His lefthanded stroke is compact with hands that work well into contact and a lower half that shifts well to impact. May has strength to his stroke as well and will continue to unlock more as he adds additional strength to his frame. Standing at 5-foot-9, 175-pounds, May has plenty of room to fill out to his build and with that the power potential is going to really grow.

Following suit on Sunday were a pair of 643 batters in the sophomore age group of the Fall Battle of the South in Zeke Kimbrell (2023, Atlanta, Ga.) and Barrett Eldridge (2022, Marietta, Ga.). Kimbrell and Eldridge are teammates on the 643 DP Cougars 15u squad with varying skillsets at the plate.

Kimbrell is a lefthanded hitting primary middle infielder with elusive quickness on the basepaths and overall is a high energy player at the top of the order. He uses a short stroke to work the ball to any part of the field and uses his speed to get down the line quickly and take extra bases when opportunities present themselves. During playoff action at East Cobb, Kimbrell opened up the game with a productive at-bat seeing pitches before leading the game off with an opposite field double. With heads up baserunning, Kimbrell took second base on the play where not many other runners could have beaten the throw in from left field. On the next pitch he stole third base with ease helping create the first run of the game for 643 as he would later score on a sacrifice fly.

Eldridge is a physically advanced righthanded hitting catcher. With power that is going to continue to come as he fills out, Eldridge struck a deep double over the center fielder’s head before trying to stretch the double into a triple. The ball really jumps off of Eldridge’s bat even though the swing is not extremely fast. His hands are loose and efficient to the ball with ease getting the bat head out in front and meeting the baseball. The swing is a bit long but the bat head stays level through the hitting zone and he times the ball well as it travels to the plate.

– Greg Gerard

East Tennessee State commit Andrew Ronne (2021 Athens, Tenn.) took the mound Saturday for eXposure and flashed signs of dominance. The lean, lanky righthanded pitcher showed a projectable frame with much more in the tank down the road when he fills out physically. He worked downhill and utilized his frame gaining ground down the hill. It proved to be easy out of the hand as he showed repeatable mechanics as well. Ronne also flashed a gamer mentality as he mixed up his rhythm to keep hitters off balance. He went on to work both sides of the plate with his fastball that he ran up to 89 mph. What was even more impressive is that he held his velocity throughout the duration of his five-inning outing as he went on to strike out 11 batters. His curveball was nothing short of impressive either as it showed tight spin and late break. With slurvy actions, he relied on the hook as a swing-and-miss pitch. He will be someone to keep up with going forward as he projects and a big arm in the near future.

A teammate of Ronne, Andrew Kribbs (2021 Knoxville, Tenn.) also proved himself in a big way this weekend both at the plate and on the mound as the Tennessee commit showcased next-level power at the dish. During Saturday’s action, he got ahead in the count and drove a fastball well over the left field fence for a two-run shot to put his team on the board. With his frame and physical presence, he poses as a huge power threat at the plate. He would later go on to hammer a double into the left-center gap. His swing showed natural lift to it combined with bat speed proving his hit tool is his biggest asset. He would later go on to hop on the mound and showed a fast arm. He worked downhill with an over-the-top arm action as he ran his fastball up to 90 mph. His curveball showed depth as well and late bite with 11-to-5 movement. Kribbs went on to strike out four batters in two innings pitched as he closed out the game and got the win for eXposure.

Lipscomb commit Hayden Frank (2021 Riceville, Tenn.), who also played for eXposure, provided an interesting look in his outing. The long, wiry lefthanded pitcher showed raw mechanics with a fast arm. He worked consistently around the zone with good feel for a three-pitch mix. The southpaw ran his fastball up to 88 mph before settling down into the mid-80s. His curveball flashed signs of advanced feel as he wasn’t afraid to double it up. It showed 1-to-7 movement with depth. He also flashed a changeup that showed late fade to it that he utilized against righthanded batters. He went on to strike out five batters in four innings of work. Late in his outing he left a few pitches up in the zone that were barreled up. Frank has an ultra-projectable frame and struck out five batters in four innings.

Caleb Parmele (2022 Roswell, Ga.) showed as one of the premier outfielders at the event this weekend. He roamed center field with great instincts taking clean routes to the baseball. Early in the action on Saturday he made a big league catch to his glove side in the outfield laying completely out. That catch would go on to save a run as his Georgia Jackets team eventually wound up winning by just a run. He was no slouch at the dish as he showed he could swing it as well. The righthanded hitter was in the leadoff spot and he projects well there as he has no issues going deep into a count. He squared the baseball up in each at-bat and the swing projects well. In a late at-bat in a close game, he hammered a double over the left fielder’s head as he knocked in a run and then went on to score himself. He also proved to be a plus baserunner with great reads off the bat and stealing bases with ease. Parmele is currently uncommitted.

Parmele’s teammate on the Georgia Jackets, Cody McGill (2022 Roswell, Ga.), also showed well at the plate. The righthanded hitter did a great job utilizing his legs while he flashed plus bat speed. He also crushed a big double over the left fielder’s head to open up the scoring as he knocked in a run. He flashed big-time strength throughout the frame as he hammered baseballs. He also displayed a clean glove over at first base as he made a nice play on a foul ball on the fence line. McGill projects well as he is still young but is showing signs of next-level play already.

– Drew Wesolowski

Pitching was dominant at Brook Run on Friday night during the start of the Underclass bracket play. Getting things going was Connor Touchstone (2022, McDonough, Ga.), who is 5-foot-10, 173-pounds and has good size and strength to his current frame with plenty of room to fill. Touchstone really displayed his pitchability for Bullpen Redstitch 108 16u as he filled up the strike zone at nearly a 70 percent clip. He pitched to contact throughout his five-inning start allowing one hit while inducing weak contact, effectively using a two-pitch mix of an upper-60s fastball and an upper-50s curveball. Touchstone worked with good pace and good mechanics allowing him to keep his pitches down in the zone. He left the game after five complete in a tie ballgame that his team would later go on to win.

Coming on in relief of Touchstone, was righthanded pitcher Brinson Burdette (2022, McDonough, Ga.). Similar to Touchstone, Burdette has good size to his current frame as he stands 5-foot-10 and 167-pounds. Brinson used a two-pitch mix of a fastball in the low070s, and a curveball in the low-60s to keep his opponents off balance and induce weak contact throughout his two-innings. The most impressive attribute to Burdette on the night was his control, filling up the zone by throwing 94 percent strikes, allowing just one hit. Burdette would enter his second inning of work in the top of the seventh asked to secure a two-run lead and he did just that, earning the save and getting his club an early tournament win.

Zachary Turner (2022, Atlanta, Ga.) is a 5-foot-10, 220-pound first baseman from North Atlanta High School playing for the 643 DP Tigers 17u and he was on fire at the plate Friday night at Brook Run in his team’s first two games of the tournament. He went 3-for-4 in game one against the Smartense Angels with two runs and two RBIs. In game two against Bullpen Redstitch 108 16u Turner continued to display his hitability, going 1-for-3, with a single in an 8-0 win. Turner swings from the right side and attacks the ball with no fear. He trusts his hands and wrists and turns it loose with excellent bat speed which he pairs with good hand-eye coordination and power to the gaps. Turner’s size, strength and consistent hard barreled contact make it easy to project future power projection as he heads into his sophomore season. He’s is a good athlete for his size and showed a clean glove and good fielding actions at first.

Henry Collins (2021, Sandy Springs, Ga.) is a 6-foot-3, 175-pound righthanded pitcher from Riverwood High School who got the start for the 643 DP Tigers 17u in their second game of the night Friday against Bullpen Redstitch 108 16u. Collins was lights out all game long as he went the distance in a six-inning affair, tossing a one-hitter and he was masterful filling up the zone at nearly a 65 percent clip. He is mechanically sound and uses his size and long arms to create good deception and extension out front upon release. Collins used a three-pitch mix of a 76-78 mph fastball with some arm-side run and sink, a 63-65 mph curveball with good depth and shape and a 67-69 mph changeup with some fade and good arm speed. Collins displays good pitchability and feel for his repertoire as he mixed in all counts as he kept his opponents off balance and induced a lot of swing-and-miss on his way to recording 10 strikeouts with no walks.

Patrick Johnson (2022, Chattanooga, Tenn.) is a 6-foot, 155-pound, tall and lanky righthanded pitcher from Baylor High School, and despite only turning 16 a month ago, he already has good size and strength to his current frame with plenty of room to fill. Johnson used his size well on the mound and worked it into his mechanics with good tempo and extension out front adding life to his fastball and deception to his off-speed pitches. Over the course of the six-inning, run-rule ending win, he allowed one earned run and scattered seven hits with three strikeouts without issuing a walk. He filled up the zone all morning on Saturday leading to an effective, 80 percent strike percentage. Johnson used a two-pitch mix of a fastball touching the low 80s with some run and a curveball in the low-70s with good shape at times and occasional depth. Johnson is a solid competitor as a high upside talent with plenty of time left to develop.

Max Gault (2021, Buford, Ga.) is a 5-foot-10, 190-pound strong and physically mature corner infielder and righthanded pitcher from Mountain View High School. Gault helped his club, Devine Baseball 17u in all phases of the game Saturday morning at St. Pius X High School. He started the game and went the first three innings where he allowed a hit and struck out three. Gault has good mechanics on the mound with a solid two-pitch mix of a fastball (80-82 mph) with sink and a curveball (64-67) with good depth and feel. Gault went right at hitters on the mound, often getting ahead in the count, giving him the opportunity to keep his opponents guessing. He also hit in the cleanup spot where he went 1-for-2 with a triple. A good athlete, Gault displays a swing path that has power to all fields with obvious strength that generates bat speed and current pop to the gaps and with further strength gain one can predict there is more leverage and future power in the tank. Gault is a fun prospect to watch as he knows how to play the game and plays hard in all phases.

Rhett Wells (2022, Berkeley Lake, Ga.) is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound, outfielder and southpaw from Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross, Ga. Wells showed those in attendance on Saturday at St. Pius X High School that he has the present ability to help his team win in all phases of the game. At the plate he went 2-for-4 with a run scored using a quick, level bat path with good hand-eye coordination that produces some hard-hit, barreled contact. Wells is a good athlete with awareness on the bases and used it to his advanced as he scored a run during the contest. More impressive than his bat was the way Rhett carried himself on the mound. Wells set the tone from his first pitch, using a two-pitch mix of a fastball in the upper-70s, touching 80 mph, and a curveball in the upper-60s with good shape and sharp bite on occasion. Wells battled his opponents on the mound collecting a lot of swing-and-miss on the day leading to a total of eight strikeouts. Rhett was dominant and after four innings he left the contest without allowing a hit.

Both Ben Fox (2021, Atlanta, Ga.) and teammate Austin Emener (2020, Lizella, Ga.) pitched their club, 643 DP Cougars 17u, to a 4-to-1 victory Saturday afternoon at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta.

Fox got the start and followed suit to his performances this summer as the lefthanded pitcher used a three-pitch mix of a fastball (75-76 mph) with life and some run, a curveball (61-64) with good depth and some bite when down and a changeup with good deception and some feel. Fox was impressive as he continually filled up the zone to nearly a 75 percent clip. He challenged hitters and produced a lot of weak contact as he also scattered two strikeouts in the win. Throwing 38 pitches to finish his assignment, we definitely saw him take some strides from where he left off this summer. Fox pitched with confidence all afternoon and went about his business throwing strikes and keeping the pressure on his opponents, ultimately keeping his club in the game long enough for them to break out in the fifth and win the contest.

Austin Emener came on in relief of Fox in the top of the fifth and the highly-ranked lefthanded pitcher did not disappoint as he went 2 2/3 innings allowing one hit and racking up six strikeouts, two-thirds of his outs recorded. Austin stands at an impressive 6-foot-3, 190-pounds and uses a simple approach on the mound creating good rhythm and timing with his body and arm to stay in-sync, causing the ball to release out of his hand with a lot of force. Emener’s fastball has life with he gets it down and continually clocked in the low- to mid-80s. Austin complemented his fastball with a 2-to-8 curveball with good depth and feel. Emener also flashed an above average changeup in the low-70s with good arm-side fade. Emener mixed in all counts yet really led with his fastball, garnering a lot of swings-and-misses, often getting himself in the driver’s seat early in the count. He also helped himself with his bat as he went 1-for-2 in the nine-hole with a run scored.

Brick Conway (2022, Marietta, Ga.) had an excellent weekend for his club, 643 DP Tigers 16u Hawkins. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound righthanded pitcher and utility player went crazy with the bat at Brook Run Sunday morning as he went 3-for-3 with a run scored, a double and an RBI. At the plate Conway keeps his approach simple and shot line drives mostly to the pull-side gap. He does a nice job staying balanced in the box and makes hard barreled contact with more power to come with further growth and development. He also took the mound in a relief appearance Sunday morning and closed the door, finishing the remaining 2 1/3 innings allowing two hits and striking out two. Conway used a fastball in the mid-70s with some dive and run in the zone and a curveball in the mid-60s with slurvy, loose break to effectively change the eye level of the hitter and induce a lot of weak contact. Only a sophomore, Conway made great strides this tournament season.

Ethan Pooler (2022, Salem, Ala.) came into this weekend ranked by PG inside the top 200 nationally. He earned the start for his club, Brigade Colt .45s Gray, on Sunday morning at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody, Ga. and continued his dominance. While using a mechanically sound windup, Pooler filled the zone to a nearly 65 percent clip. He fanned seven Georgia Jackets 16u National batters while not allowing an earned run in the win. It was apparent on Sunday that Pooler trusts his abilities on the mound and really battles opponents, not shying away from anything a lineup might challenge him with. Pooler used a repertoire of a fastball which reached as high as 82 mph and a curveball with good shape in the mid- to upper-60s. As Pooler went along he began to lead with his curveball making him even more effective in the later innings. Pooler also hit and went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. Currently uncommitted, Pooler is a player to look out for as he heads into his sophomore season.

Virginia Tech commit Keaton Ray (2021, Evensville, Tenn.) stands at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds and swings a lefthanded bat while playing a corner outfield spot for his eXposure Underclass White Fall team. He had a nice game at the plate helping his club advance further in the playoffs at Brook Run on Sunday as he went 2-for-2 with a single and a home run that traveled way over the fence to his pull side and finished the game with four RBIs. At the plate Ray sets up with a square stance and hands low near his chest. He creates good rhythm and timing as he has a deliberate rock with his hips into his load pre-pitch. He employs a large leg kick as he really does a nice job keeping his weight back through hip fire while keeping his hands still. He uses a quick, level bat path that creates a lot of leverage and hard barreled contact with backspin. Ray demonstrates good vision in the box which helps him stay patient and unload on pitches he knows he can do damage to. A good athlete, Ray moves well on the bases and gets good jumps on plays his way in the outfield. A very high upside talent, it will be exciting to watch him develop further in the ACC in the spring of 2022.

Will Grimmett (2021, Athens, Tenn.) is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound righthanded pitcher from McMinn High School. Grimmett picked right up where he left off at PG events this year on Sunday morning at Brook Run as he spun a complete game no-hitter while his teammates gave him plenty of run support leading to an 8-0 win at the beginning of Gold bracket play. Grimmett was in the zone all start long, as he pounded the strike-zone at nearly a 65 percent clip. He used a crippling fastball (83-86 mph) with plenty of life and occasional run, making it very difficult to square up. To complement his fastball, Grimmett used a curveball in the mid-70s with good shape and feel. He threw his curve for strikes and began to introduce it earlier in the count as the lineup turned over, making his opponents very uncomfortable in the box. He put on a pitchability clinic on Sunday, needing only 72 pitches to complete his assignment. With sound mechanics and a good arm action, Grimmett is definitely a player to monitor as he heads into his junior season this spring.

A teammate to both Ray and Grimmett, Ashton Simmons (2021, Cleveland, Tenn.) also put things together in a big way this weekend in Atlanta. Simmons came on in relief for teammate Cooper Casteel after Casteel allowed only two hits over the first four innings in the Gold quarterfinal bout Sunday morning against the Georgia Jackets 16u American. In the low scoring 1-0 win, Simmons was pivotal keeping the Jackets off the basepaths as he allowed just one hit over the final three innings allowing a hit and striking out three hitters, needing 26 pitches to complete his assignment. Simmons was effective as he filled up the strike zone to nearly a 75 percent clip, using both a fastball in the mid-70s and a curveball in the low-60s. Simmons kept up the pace set by Casteel, and with a run in the fifth, earned the win in the 12:30 p.m. time slot, sending eXposure Underclass White Fall into the Gold semifinal later in the day at East Cobb. The 5-foot-11, 140-pound middle infielder also hit .400 at the event heading into the semifinal with a single, double, RBI and a stolen base.

JD Rediger (2023, Woodstock, Ga.) is a 5-foot-11, 140-pound shortstop and righthanded pitcher from River Ridge High School. Only a freshman, Rediger shined on the mound in two appearances early on this weekend, and during a start in the Gold semifinal at East Cobb on Sunday night. Rediger went the distance over five innings of the run-ruled shortened affair which ended in a 9-1 win. Rediger was lights out from the first pitch as he used a three-pitch mix of a fastball that peaked at 80 mph, a changeup in the low-70s with fade and feel and a curveball with good bite to stay ahead of hitters. Rediger allowed an earned run on two hits and two walks while punching out seven. He really jumped on the scene in 2019, moving to 9-1 on the year with a 2.00 ERA and just over a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate spanning 72 innings of work.

– Matt Arietta

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