Tournaments | Rankings | 12/11/2019

Tri State Hoarding Top Talent

Blake Dowson        
Photo: Jack O'Connor (Perfect Game)

Final 2019 15u Travel Team Rankings

Perfect Game tournaments can have a close-knit vibe to them. A lot of the players know each other from other tournaments and showcases they have played in previously, whether that was against each other and with each other.

Coaches are familiar with each other for the same reasons, travelling and competing with their guys against many of the same groups they see at other Perfect Game events. For that reason, teams typically know what they are going to get out of the team in the dugout opposite of them.

When teams play against Tri State Arsenal, they know exactly what they are going to get – a team stacked full of high-end talent from all over the country that rivals any other roster at just about any tournament they play in.

“They’re wide-spread and scattered,” Tri State Arsenal Coach Ajay Vulimiri said. “Usually what it’s been, it started with that 2021 team about three years ago. They helped me get 2022 kids, and the 2022s helped me get 2023s and it keeps building from there. I try to tell them, ‘Hey, bring a couple more stud friends you’ve got.’ And we roll from there.

“I’m looking for highly-recruitable athletes. Kids who may not necessarily be the best baseball players, but they’re definitely kids who project out and show tools that high-end schools are going to like.”

The 15u Tri State Arsenal Scout Team from this past season was no different. In fact, it was the embodiment of that statement. The team checks in at No. 11 in the final 2019 Perfect Game 15u Travel Team rankings.

The roster at times boasted five top-50 players in their respective classes; Jack O'Connor (No. 16 overall), James Triantos (No. 17), Jacob Miller (No. 33), and Andrew Dutkanych IV (No. 34) in the 2022 class, and Blake Grimmer (No. 18) in the 2023 class.

Expand it out further, and the roster had 15 top-100 prospects. That includes the five prospects mentioned, plus 2022s Michael Gupton, Blaise Grove, Blaydon Plain, Gavin Miller, Korbyn Dickerson, Kyle Larsen, Bauer Brittain, Brock Porter, Dylan Dreiling, and Ike Irish.

Keep going, and there were five other top-200 prospects.

Vulimiri finds them from all over. Sometimes it’s word of mouth, sometimes it’s recruitment. A lot of them grew up the same, he said, and that’s why they enjoy playing for Tri State as much as they do.

“To be honest, I think a lot of the guys come here because they don’t want to be the only guy,” he said. “They want to be a part of a group of kids who all come from a similar background, from northern states in random areas. Whether it’s western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Kansas. So it’s easy to manage them because they all want to play together as much as they can.”

Tri State Arsenal Scout Team went 5-2 at the 2019 WWBA 15u National Championship, with seven hitters and one pitcher named to the All-Tournament Team. O’Connor, Dickerson, Dreiling, Irish, and Gavin Miller were among them, along with Jack Crighton, Grant Richars, and Henry Smith, who was the one pitcher selected.

Each of the hitters selected batted at least .333 over the course of the National Championship.

Overall, Tri State had 11 players rostered for the 15u National Championship that were already or have since become committed to Division I programs, with other highly sought-after prospects on the roster who have yet to commit.

That has become the norm for the Tri State Arsenal organization, but it didn’t come easy, according to Vulimiri. He’s been at this for five years with Tri State, and he’s spent the past three putting together his scout teams.

In those years, he’s narrowed in on a formula to build success on top of success and to continue to get high-level athletes to put the Tri State Arsenal jersey on at big-time tournaments.

“One, it takes putting a winning product out onto the field,” he said. “Two, it takes great coaches in the background. And three, it takes the consistent ability to place kids in schools where the kids want to go.”

That last point is the one Vulimiri focused on the most. Tri State has a large number of players on each of their rosters who have lofty goals about their future in the game of baseball. Guys that want to go play Division I baseball. Some guys that don’t need to bother with college baseball and can turn pro right after they graduate high school.

In Vulimiri’s eyes, his role isn’t to hoist trophies with his players. He wants to sit down with them, find out what their goals are, and do whatever he needs to do to get them to those goals.

“Our goal is to help these kids achieve whatever they want out of travel baseball,” he said. “What that means is, obviously there are some kids who are content with going to school and playing baseball at school. There are some kids who may never want to play college baseball and they want to go the draft route, and we’re going to help them explore that route. That’s the biggest thing, just doing whatever the kids need.”

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