Tournaments | Story | 10/15/2020

Deeper Dive into the WWBA Freshman

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Jack Frankel (Perfect Game)
WWBA Freshmen WC Scout Notes: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

The 8th annual WWBA Freshman World Championship just wrapped up this past Monday in Fort Myers, Florida, returning to where it all began in 2013. Over its eight years the tournament has grown exponentially while the talent pool continues to take off, providing a platform for some of the best eighth graders and newly minted freshmen from around the country to put their talents on display. Of course, with the twist that 2020 presented, Division 1 college coaches weren’t permitted to attend by the NCAA but that’s another area of the tournament that has continued to grow as recruiters have made the event a priority on their calendar as it’s paired alongside the WWBA World Championship. Quite the far cry from it’s inaugural year when only one coach was in the stands which also speaks to the expediting of the recruiting process. 

Speaking of college commitments, back in 2013 the WWBA Freshman World Championships didn’t have a single listed commitment amongst the teams in attendance. But what about in 2020? When the final pitch of the tournament was thrown and the Canes FL 2024 club was crowned champion, 36 players had already given their verbal commitments to college programs around the country while right-hander Tag Andrews, who threw a no-hitter in the playoffs for the Louisiana Knights, announced his commitment to the University of Arkansas just following the conclusion of the tournament. 

The Canes FL 2024 went a perfect 8-0 in route to bringing home the title, the seventh organization to do so as the Banditos Elite won it in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016. An offensive juggernaut throughout the summer, the Canes continued to score runs by the handful as they crossed the plate 32 times in just 3 pool play games before scoring another 26 across the playoffs. Both the MVP and MVPitcher came off their roster as Niko Benestad finished with a .571 average, one home run and 14 RBI helping to pace the offense while Maddix Simpson logged 10.2 innings across four appearances in which he struck out 12 and pounded the strike zone, issuing just a single walk. And for good measure he also hit .364 with 4 doubles and a triple. 

Now that we have some history of the tournament and talked about the Canes FL impressive run, lets take a closer look at some of the numbers and performances from players across the tournament.

Here’s a number to let sink in. At a tournament comprised exclusively of eighth graders and freshmen in high school, 72 different arms touched at least 84 mph on the radar gun. While the 90 mph record set by Brandon Jenkins back in the first years has only been made in subsequent seasons, 88 mph was the top in this year’s event, a three-way tie between Jack Frankel, Brooks Wright, and Carson Messina

Statistically through the Top Performers, the top three pitching performances of the tournament belonged to Nicholas Rovitti, Tag Andrews, and Jack Frankel as all three recorded at least 21 outs over the tournament and had a strikeout total in the double digits with Rovitti’s 17 leading the tournament. Not far behind, unsurprisingly, was MVPitcher Maddix Simpson

While it may seem as though the pitching was dominant, plenty of bats stood out in a loud way including a two home run showing from both Thomas Bly and Drew Rogers whose right-handed strength is certainly something to make note of. Both Niko Benestad and Rowan Kelly led the tournament with 12 hits apiece while Everett Johnson, Daquan Cox, and Daniel Arambula all finished the week with 10 hits and PJ Morlando and Jason Bello were close behind with 9 of their own. Of the performances listed above, Kelly’s may have been the most impressive as his Meta Prime team lost in the second round of the playoffs, leaving him with three less games than every other 9+ hit performer. 

In a tournament that provides a glimpse at the next wave of talent, you don’t have to squint to see that the future is bright for the game of baseball. Congrats to the Canes FL 2024 team for taking down the title among the field of 84 and being named champions of the 8th annual WWBA Freshman World Championship. 
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