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Tournaments  | Story  | 11/2/2021

Jupiter challenged; Huesman delivered

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Levi Huesman (Perfect Game)

The day of Friday, Oct. 8 started out just like so many before it on what was the second full day of play at the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. The excitement in the air on such a day is palpable from the moment the sun rises over the Roger Dean Complex right through the time the lights go out on the final night game.

The Virginia-based Richmond Braves 18u Platinum started their Jupiter experience playing to a 9-9 tie with the Vancouver, B.C.-based Brewers Langley Blaze in an early time slot that morning. They left disappointed in having to settle for a tie but certainly not deterred.



Amongst the players in the Braves’ dugout for that game was Levi Huesman, a 6-foot, 185-pound 2022 left-hander out of Hanover, Va. The kid was eagerly offering encouragement to his teammates and staying as relaxed as possible knowing he would be handed the ball to make the start in the Braves late afternoon game against the always-solid Dallas Tigers.

“Leading up to the game I was just trying to treat it like a normal game and not think about the surroundings or the environment and just focus on staying locked-in on pitching and not what was going on around me,” Huesman told PG during a telephone conversation last weekend when asked to look back on that day and recall how he was able to block out all the outside noise.

He had pitched at the 2020 PG WWBA World Championship, an event that was moved across the state to Fort Myers due to Covid-19 restrictions, but this scene was different. There were literally hundreds of scout-laden golf carts zipping around throughout the complex the entire weekend, each one impossible to ignore, and the spotlight glared on every field for every game, even every pitch.

“Obviously you’re thinking about that stuff but I tried to treat it like a normal game, talking to your catcher and talking about how you’re going to approach it and everything,” Huesman said. “You’re focusing on your normal routine and trying not to worry about everything that’s going on.”

What transpired over the next two hours was anything but routine, even by Jupiter standards. The Braves 18u Platinum took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on the strength of a leadoff walk to Ethan Barnes, a steal of second and an RBI single from Jacob Kendro.

Perhaps given a boost by the early 1-0 cushion, Huesman walked out to the mound with a confident air and went about the business of keeping the Tigers’ would-be hitters off the basepaths – he retired 14 straight to start the game. Huesman finished with a seven inning complete-game two-hitter, striking out 18 without walking a single batter (there was one HBP). The performance was good enough to earn Huesman Co-MV-Pitcher designation despite the Braves not reaching the playoffs.

PG National Scouting Director Brian Sakowski summed it up nicely in a subsequent report, writing that Huesman “was sensational, not to mince any words about it, and the combination of athleticism, deception, strike and power stuff makes him an early candidate to jump all the way into the top-50 picks or so on early (draft) boards.”

It’s a worn-out cliché that in order to be the best you’ve got to beat the best and Huesman – who went into Jupiter ranked the No. 82 overall prospect (No. 9 LHP) in the class of 2022 –  certainly came out on top against the formidable Dallas Tigers’ lineup.

The Tigers' 2-though-4 hitters were (all 2022s) the left-handed swinging Jared Thomas, a Texas commit ranked No. 382 nationally; right-handed Jayson Jones, a PG All-American and Arkansas commit ranked No. 5; and right-handed Travis Sanders, a Texas Tech recruit ranked No. 89. Huesman fanned all three of those elite hitters each of the three times they came to the plate, accounting for nine of his 18 Ks.

“You kind of have to know where you’re at in the lineup but when they walk up I’m not thinking about who it is,” Huesman said. “Before I go out my coach will always tell me (who’s coming up) just so you know how to pitch different people. So it’s always in the back of your mind but not all the time when you’re out there.”

For the record, the Tigers’ No. 6 hitter, uncommitted top-500 center fielder Owen Peck, was the only batter in the lineup Huesman didn’t strike out, Peck and leadoff hitter Jacob Byrd were the only two Tigers to collect a hit, with seventh and sixth inning singles, respectively.

As noted, Huesman retired the first 14 batters he faced and allowed only four baserunners the entire game. He struck-out the side in the first and sixth innings and two each in the second, third, fourth and seventh.  At the end of the day he had thrown 102 pitches (71 percent for strikes) with a fastball that averaged 92 mph and topped-out at 95 while mixing in a solid variety of secondary pitches.

“It kind of just felt like all my pitches were really working for me,” Huesman said looking back. “I would have liked to locate my changeup a little bit better but I threw it pretty well. The biggest thing was just keeping the hitters off-balance, mixing speeds, being able to throw different pitches in different counts and keep them uncomfortable.

“My catcher (Holy Cross commit Lucas Manning) did a great job of calling the game and keeping the hitters off-balance so I just had to go out and execute what he called.”

He went on to say that he’s feeling really comfortable with his slider right now believing it’s a pitch he can throw for a strike in any count. He spent the summer trying to develop the slider and then started throwing it with added authority in September and October.

A Coastal Carolina commit, Huesman really had enjoyed a standout summer season leading up to Jupiter, having thrown 14 1/3 innings of five-hit, shutout ball with 19 strikeouts and four walks. He was named the MV-Pitcher at the PG 17u Coastal World Series in late July and also earned all-tournament recognition at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship in early July.

“I felt good all summer,” Huesman said. “I just felt comfortable being with my teammates and that helped with me just going out and throwing my game...Going into the fall I had a lot of momentum (from) the summer and it carried into the fall.”

It’s apparent he really did find a great fit playing with the Richmond Braves, who he first hooked up with in the Covid summer of 2020; he was with them at the PG 16u World Series, the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship and the PG WWBA World Championship (Jupiter).

His PG history prior to the 2020 seasons was a little hit-and-miss. He was at some 11u, 12u and 13u events from 2015-17 but was not rostered again until he played with MPH 101 Grimes at the 2019 PG WWBA 15u National Championship, where he was named all-tournament; there was nothing at all in 2018.

That was a time for reflection. Huesman said he went into his freshman year lacking confidence because he didn’t feel like he was throwing all that hard or was where he wanted to be both physically and mentally, so he decided it was time to change the narrative.

“I started my freshman year kind of working my butt off to get to where I’m at,” he said. “I was kind of a slow development and it worked.”

Since that electric performance at the Roger Dean Complex Huesman hasn’t done any pitching from the mound, instead just spending as much time as possible in the weight room. He plans to start throwing again sometime later this month as he works himself back into playing shape for his senior season at Hanover (Va.) High School.

The Hawks are coming off a 2021 season during which they finished as the Virginia Class 4A state runner-up. Huesman can count top-350 national prospects Seth Keller (Old Dominion), Cannon Peebles (NC State) and Anthony Gabello (James Madison) among his senior teammates at HHS this spring.

“We’ve got a really good team,” Huesman said. “We lost in the state championship so I’m excited to get back and try to win it this year.”

He’s also excited to get back to work with his coaches at Hanover, including head coach Tyler Kane and pitching coach Hunter Hoy, whom he credits a lot for his development. He also cited Richmond Braves coach Eric Mayers for his contributions and, of course, his parents Russ and Amy Huesman.

“My parents have been a huge part of it,” Huesman said. “They were at all my games when I was little and they supported me in every decision and everything I’ve done; they’re a huge part of my career.”

In making Coastal Carolina his school of his choice, Levi Huesman explained that he was really just looking for a place where he’d feel the most comfortable in every aspect of college life when the discussion turned to both baseball and academics (he carries a 3.6 GPA at HHS).

He feels like he’s already developed strong relationships with head coach Gary Gilmore and the rest of the staff and that they’ll give him every opportunity to succeed and have a great time while he’s enjoying that success.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that it’s largely the same staff that led the Chanticleers to the 2016 NCAA D-I and College World Series championships, an accomplishment that still resonates.

“That wasn’t the deciding factor,” Huesman said, “but it’s good to know that I’m going to be going into a program that knows how to win.”

His outing in Jupiter on that mid-October afternoon certainly brought a lot of attention Huesman’s way but hasn’t dramatically changed the path he’s charted – at least not for now.

“I’m definitely getting some scouts reaching out and I’m getting a lot of questionnaires and things like that, but I wouldn’t say it was like a drastic change,” he said. “People are talking about the draft and everything but I try not to worry about that. I’m just trying to hang out with my friends and enjoy my senior year with them, and once my senior (season) comes around just go out and throw my game and see what happens after that...

“There’s obviously still a ton of work to do but I’m very happy with the way I’ve developed so far; I’m trending upwards.”