Tournaments | Story | 12/9/2019

Ostingers climbs 17u rankings

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Cole Stallings (Amy Mcguire, OBA)

Final 2019 17u Travel Team Rankings

When Jim Osting decided to spend last Wednesday afternoon on a golf course somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, he did so secure in the knowledge that the Ostingers Baseball Academy travel team organization he founded more than a decade ago was sitting in a pretty good place just as another decade is set to dawn.

He could look back with satisfaction on a 2019 season in which the Ostingers Baseball Academy 2020 squad set the pace for the entire program. It’s a top 17u team that won the Perfect Game Super25 17u National Championship title and compiled an overall record of 22-9-3 at five major PG championships this past summer and fall.

Now, those accomplishments have been officially recognized. OBA 2020 landed in the No. 13 spot in the PG 17u National Travel Team Rankings that were released today, quite an achievement for a relatively small program that has found a comfortable home in a neighborhood crowded with some of the country’s most prominent and most respected organizations.

The Ostingers Baseball Academy is located in Lithia, Fla., about 30 miles southeast of Tampa. Osting founded OBA in 2008 in an effort to provide prospects in south-central Florida with top-notch instructional opportunities while also being able to play on nationally competitive travel ball teams during the summer and fall.

“My program is small; we keep it small for a reason,” Osting told PG during a recent telephone conversation, while speaking from the aforementioned golf course. “We have really good players from a 15 to 20-mile radius of Tampa, and it’s just a bunch of good players that want to play baseball the right way. … We narrow it down to one team per age-group because we feel like that’s what’s manageable and that’s what gets the kids better.”

The complete Ostingers BA 2020 team roster featured six prospects ranked as top-500s or better, all of whom attend high schools within the Tampa area. Osting told PG that eight or nine of them have been together in the program since they were middle-schoolers.

“Those guys have kind of played together for a while now, and then we added some pitchers and a few position players here and there,” Osting said, mentioning Cole Stallings, Zachary Devito and Cade Afeld as players that have been with the program since they were 9 or 10 years old.

The centerpiece of the team in 2019 was 2020 corner-infielder/catcher Brock Wilken, a Wake Forest commit PG ranked as the No. 127 overall prospect in his class.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Wilken was named the MV Player at the PG Super25 17u National (he was also the MVP at the 2018 PG WWBA Upperclass East Labor Day Classic playing for Ostingers 18u) and was all-tournament at three events this year.

“Brock is a special kid. He came to me when he was in eighth-grade … and as an eighth-grader he was just a gangly kid trying to learn his body,” Osting said. “Now he’s a big, strong kid and he’s worked hard in the weight room to get to where he is today. …

“He’s a really good player and a really good kid who plays the game the right way,” he added. “If you have a team full of Brock Wilkens you don’t really have to coach a whole lot.”

Stallings, a 2020 right-hander/outfielder, is also special. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Stallings is a Stetson commit ranked No. 416 nationally who was the MV Pitcher at the PG Super25 17u NC and an all-tournament selection five times in 2019.

There was a three-week stretch in July that defined the Ostingers BA 2020’s summer season. They were at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship in the north Atlanta suburbs from June 28-July 5 where they finished 9-1-1 after a loss in the semifinals to the eventual champion Canes National 17.

After that impressive showing, the ‘Stingers arrived in Fort Myers, Fla., on July 15 to compete at the PG Super25 17u National Championship, and they won the title with a 6-1-0 mark, beating LIB 2020 Prime out of Bellmore, NY, in the championship game.

The air kind of went out their sails at the end of the month when the OSB 2020s traveled to the Arizona desert to play at the prestigious, invitation-only PG 17u World Series, where they finished 0-4-1 in five games.

“It was very special,” Osting said, speaking of the combined 15-2-1 showing at the WWBA 17u and Super25 17u national championships. “We ran out of gas when we went to Arizona and played at the 17u World Series, but if you make it to that last day in Atlanta (at the WWBA 17u), that’s a pretty special tournament and a pretty special week for the kids.

“I think the kids realized the importance of those events,” he continued. “We kind of focused our summer around those three weeks in a row there, and they came out and played great.”

OBA 2020 rebounded from the downer in the desert by winning its first six games before losing in the championship game at the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier in Fort Myers in mid-September. It wrapped-up the season with a 1-2-1 showing at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in mid-October.

The success the group enjoyed was a total team effort throughout the summer and fall with 12 2020 prospects earning all-tournament recognition multiple times; it’s a list that includes Wilken, Stallings and the right-hander Devito (Tulane, t-500).

Other multiple honorees – all 2020s – were left-hander Luis Tyler Misla (Coll. of Cent. Florida, No. 459); outfielder Tyler Castelli (Embry-Riddle, t-500); middle-infielder Sean (Grady) Maguire (Fla. Southern, t-500); left-hander Ethan Jones (West Virginia, t-500); right-hander Trevor Finan (Army, t-500); middle-infielder Macallister Jorgensen (Tampa, t-500); left-hander Tommy Turkett (Fla. Southern, HF); infielder Malachi Woodside (t-1000) and right-hander Tyler Donay.

Top-1000 prospects Ryan Bradarich (Nova Southeastern) and Ahmad Fitts (Fla. Southern) are among other OBA 2020 prospects to have already signed with schools of their choice. Colby Shelton, a 2022 infielder and Clemson commit ranked No. 86 overall in his class, was brought up to play the combined 10 games at the Florida Q and in Jupiter.

Osting fully understands that his players are coming into the OBA program from multiple backgrounds as far as their high school programs are concerned.

Once they get to him, Osting emphasizes playing the game the right way, which means winning with class and losing with class, with the expectation that there will be a lot more of the former than the latter. These PG tournaments aren’t showcase events, he reminds his players, because there are team championships to be won.

Molding a team of teenagers into a consistent title threat often requires a tough-love approach, and Osting isn’t the type of coach that is going to coddle his players. He believes college coaches like his players as much as they do because those coaches know that high expectations have been placed on these prep prospects and they’ve proven they can live up to those expectations.

“The message that I send is, look, I’m going to expect a lot of you but it’s because I think you can play,” Osting said. “I’m going to expect maybe more of you than you’ve ever expected of yourself, but that’s how it’s going to be. This group (the 2020s) especially really kind of took that and ran with it.

“Before the summer started they knew they were going to be good, and then they showed up and quietly went about their business and beat some really good teams throughout the summer.”

The OBA teams don’t just show up at PG tournaments and play games over the course of five or six days. They hold regular practice sessions and they run set situational plays, and the coaches feel they have an obligation to teach the players the correct way to play in terms of their approach to the game. And, as evidenced by the successes that has been achieved, the players respond.

“It’s a good group of kids, good program, good coaching,” Osting said. “We focus on winning but we also focus on development.”

Osting knows of what he speaks. A left-handed pitcher, he was a fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Louisville (Ky.) Trinity High School and played in all or part of 10 minor league seasons (1995-2004). He also pitched in six big-league games: three for the Padres in 2001 and three more for the Brewers in 2002.

Based on those experiences, Osting senses his players respect him for having reached the game’s highest level. But he also likes to look at it as a mutual respect.

“I think that they realize that I respect them on the first side of things – where they come from, who they are as a player and those types of things,” he said. “In return, I feel like they respect me back because I am going to push them, I am going to make them work hard (and) I am going to make them do it the right way.”

Even while preparing to spend a warm and sunny December afternoon on a south-central Florida golf course, Osting allowed himself a moment to look ahead to the summer and fall of 2020 when Ostingers Baseball Academy 2021 will assume the role of the program’s top 17u team.

“Our 21s are a special group of guys that have kind of been under the radar, as well, just because our program as a whole is kind of under the radar,” he said. “They realize that OBA might be small but when (we) show up you’re going to be in a dogfight. This group of 21s is a blue-collar team.”

Osting also had good things to say about his top 2022 and 2023 teams in 2020: “I just feel like we reload every year. The guys from this area that want to come play with us know that Ostingers is a program that if your goal is to win, that’s a program that you want to go checkout.”

While the younger teams in the program prepare to leave their mark on the national travel team scene, it’s clear that the players who made up the Ostingers Baseball Academy 2020 roster have already left theirs.

OBA 2020 wound-up at No. 19 in the final 2018 16u PG National Travel Team Rankings, and after winning 73 percent of its games and PG Super25 national championship in 2019, was able to move up six spots to No. 13 in this year’s final 17u rankings. That noteworthy ascent comes as no surprise to the program founder and head coach.

“They want to win; they’re winners. They get down and it doesn’t bother them, they just want to win,” Osting said. “They’re super competitive. If one pitcher goes out and has a really good outing, the next guy comes out and wants to do better, and they’re holding themselves accountable for getting better.

“These guys have worked together in the off-seasons to get stronger and faster as a collective group and that’s just kind of how it’s worked.”

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