Tournaments | Story | 6/19/2021

Stars Baseball Relishes Big Stage

Matthew Welsh        
Photo: Nicholas Morabito (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. -- The 30th-ranked Stars Baseball team made the trip from Haymarket, Va. this weekend as one of the most talented teams, looking to make a deep run in the National Select Championship. Despite dropping two of their three pool play games, ending their bracket play bid, this budding squad is confident their abilities will shine in later tournaments. 
Notably, this week was Stars’ first Perfect Game event of the summer, due to a school year schedule different from many states in the South that prevented many players from premature appearances.
After tying their first game of the tournament, Stars fell to the East Cobb Astros 11-1 on Friday morning in a performance characterized by inconsistent pitching and defensive plays early on. 
“I think we just had balls get away from us, and baserunners got on, and free bases really hurt us,” said outfielder Griffin Stieg.
But for a roster that features 15 Division-I commits, the team’s best baseball is surely still to come. Stieg (ranked No. 218) is one of the team’s three Virginia Tech commits, the other two being infielders Carter Newman (top-500) and Nicholas Morabito (top-500). 
Other top players include Virginia’s Jack O’Connor (ranked No. 69) and Kevin Jaxel (No. 95), North Carolina State’s William Burgess (top-500) and Middle Tennessee State’s Mason Balsis (top-500). Only three players on the 21-man roster lie outside of the class’ top-1000 players. 
With such an array of prospects, don’t expect this team to falter for long, especially given the relatively recent dawn of their summer season. 
“I think we can play a lot better defense,” Newman said. “The score didn’t really show how the game could have gone, and we could have easily done better. We were finding barrels, but just couldn’t put a run together, We just need to string hits together, play clean defense overall, and then we’ll have a better outcome.”
Beyond responding to this tournament’s shortcomings, the team is ultimately grateful for the opportunity to begin their summer on such a competitive note. They were still one of the only 32 17u teams invited to the event. Take that reality and their ultimate result, and you have room for improvement.
“This is the best [travel] baseball you can get pretty much,” Stieg said of the latest tournament. “We come out here, and want to play against the best teams, and want to see how much your hard work paid off in the off-season. We’re trying to work hard and win games down here, and it’s the best baseball so it’s fun.”
Not only are they competing against the nation’s best, but the team is proud to play in front of scouts at one of the country’s largest recruiting hotbeds. Regardless of the team’s majority committed players, Newman knows there is value to delivering on the highest stage for every player on the team.
“I think [these games] make our uncommitted players want to go as hard as possible,” Newman said. “Even though [some players] are still committed, we are also trying to earn something in a way, to get there and earn a spot on the teams we’re committed to. So, we’re all just grinding.”
And grind they will. Following the Select Championship, Stars Baseball will travel to Hoover, Ala. to take part in the 17u National Elite Championship which begins July 30, another tournament filled with the best clubs around.  
Even later contests include the 17u WWBA National Championship back in Atlanta and the 17u World Series in Surprise, Arizona. By that time, Stars will be well into their schedule, and having implemented some of the aforementioned shifts in strategy, will be legitimate contenders for both crowns. 
“We just need to hit the ball and play some good defense,” Stieg said. “I mean we definitely have the talent to win our upcoming games, and if we do what we’re capable of, I think we’ll do just fine.” 
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